The Ford F-150 Lightning works as a Farm Truck | Daily News Byte


For a while, I was the fastest farmer in Washington County. No one can hold me. Kids in their raised, soupy Tacomas? Forget it. Guys in tuned diesel Rams and Silverados? Nah. I am the man.

This decision of green lights and passing lanes is unusual. Our regular farm truck is a 2022 F-150 crew cab with a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 that’s silky but hardly muscle-bound. But recently, I had the opportunity to trade internal combustion for battery-electric power, in the form of a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Extended Range. It’s a Lariat, just like my truck. Unlike my F-150, this one offers 580 horsepower, 775 pound-feet of torque, and a 4.0-second 60-mph time.

But can it work as a farm truck? That’s the question I want to answer because I want to have a work truck that can cosplay as a Porsche 911 Turbo S when it’s time to pass a dawdler on the back road. In fact, the Lightning is 0.2 seconds faster than the Turbo S from 50 mph to 70 mph. That will earn the respect of the feed store.

ford lightning with a front full of feed bags

The frunk keeps the feed dry on the run to Tractor Supply.

Neil Dunlop|Car and Driver

However, the feed store is far from home. Around here, everyone is. Our 200-acre farm is two miles down a dirt road, about 20 minutes outside of Montpelier (the smallest state capital in America!) so everything is at least 15 miles away. Combine those geographic facts with farm business (getting feed; delivering cattle and pigs to the slaughterhouse or to other farms; towing mowers, log splitters, and various trailers), and we get 40,000 miles per year. Even the Ford dealership is 25 miles away.

I feel bad about this massive burning of non-renewable resources and its impact on the environment, not to mention the impact on our farm’s bottom line. So I can’t wait to get Lightning out on the farm and put it through its paces.

On my first day in the truck, it was raining buckets, but the animals needed food. Go to Tractor Supply. I couldn’t put the five 50-pound sacks on the open bed because the rain would soak the bags and spoil the feed. Frunk to the rescue: The Lightning’s spacious front trunk serves up 14 cubic feet of cargo capacity where my truck hid its V-6. The feed bags are safely in place, I don’t have anything else to jam in there, but I’m still under the 400-pound weight limit.

I watched while loading. The sight of someone placing feed bags in front of a pickup raised eyebrows, and a man smiled as if to say, “You idiot. Your engine will break.”

two cats in the open front of a ford lightning

“It’s not common where we find it.”

Neil Dunlop|Car and Driver

As part of the changes Ford made to prepare the F-150 for EV duty, the Lightning gets an independent rear suspension (IRS), making it the only F-150 with such a setup. The extra weight of the battery and the IRS combine to create a planted and creamy ride that’s almost as satisfying as a tire bark launch. I thought our F-150 rides great, but the Lighting is noticeably better.

Because it has the IRS, the Lightning doesn’t have that low-hanging solid-axle diff out back, so I’m hoping it might have better ground clearance than our ICE version and better handle the deep ruts put in by the our tractors on some of our farm roads. Incapable. There are still parts of the powertrain, which are well protected by a skid plate, which is down at the rear. In fact, our F-150 has 9.4 inches of clearance compared to the Lightning’s 8.4 inches.

Unimportant. After a few days at Lightning, I knew I wanted it. However, some critical issues remained: billing, towing coverage, and price.

Charging is the First Big Issue

Charging at home without a Level 2 charging station (ideally, Ford’s 80-amp Charge Station Pro) is unreliable. During the time I had the truck, I could only use a regular wall outlet, so when I plugged in the Lightning on Friday, the 15.5-inch console touchscreen told me the truck would be fully charged in the next Tuesday. Meanwhile, an 80-amp charger can do the job in eight hours. I can easily adjust there. The Charge Station Pro also unlocks Lightning’s potential as a backup generator, although that requires more hardware for your home. But even straight off the lot, the Lightning Lariat’s 9.6-kW Pro Power Onboard generator and its 10 120-volt outlets (plus one 240-amp) open up many possibilities for portable power, a boon to any farm .

ford lighting with trailer on a charger

That glorious rarity, an open pull-through charger.

Neil Dunlop|Car and Driver

But since I’m stuck with trickle charging at home, I’m forced to wrangle local Level 3 pay-per-use chargers in Montpelier. Vermont is a famously green state, but I only saw two Level 3 chargers in its capital. Each was limited to a one-hour charge duration, which provided about 75 percent of the total charge—or about 240 miles of range—with the optional 320-mile extended-range battery of Lightning. According to local etiquette, you’ll be forced to sit in your car while charging, or you’ll have a nasty note stuck under your wiper when you get back. (Ask me how I know.) There’s always someone waiting to use the chargers, and I’m often asked how far I’m going, implying that if I’m going far enough, their needs are greater than mine. billing. I think the Lightning might need a few years worth of dents and scratches and mud that hasn’t been washed off in a long time to properly convey a “you better not bother with me” vibe.

Towing Range Problem

My charging problems would be solved if I bought the Lightning, as the extended-range models include an 80-amp charger. But the second big issue is endemic to any vehicle regularly attached to a heavy trailer: drastically reduced range while towing. Depending on the load, this is usually estimated as a 50 percent reduction. Therefore, in theory, the Lightning with a full charge should have a range of about 160 miles while towing. We haul a lot of farm equipment.

One of our regular destinations is the slaughterhouse 61 miles away in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, right near the Quebec border. I had a kill date during my time with the Lightning, so I hitched up our 2350-pound stock trailer and loaded two pigs and a lamb into the trailer, totaling about 3050 pounds. We started with a 92 percent charge, so even with a 50 percent reduction in range, I should have been able to drive there and back and still have 10.5 miles left.

Despite concerns about range, I really liked how the Lightning didn’t seem to notice that I attached a trailer. Our gas F-150 lags noticeably when towing, and I have had to adjust my driving and expectations accordingly. The Lightning and its 775 pound-feet of instant torque seem to barely register the load. And when I got to the slaughterhouse, I had 54 percent of the battery left, good for 74 miles. Right on target.

ford lightning with a trailer on a charger

A charger at a dealer that sells EVs: What an idea!

Neil Dunlop|Car and Driver

I had some errands to run back, so 25 miles from home I had 27 miles of range left. I might make it, I thought, but if I fall short I’m looking at a costly tow and likely time waiting in the cold for the tow truck. Fortunately, there was a charger on the way home, at the Ford dealer, and the lot was empty so I could pull the charger without removing the trailer. I’ve never seen a pull-through EV charger, but this is the next best thing. Hopefully, as the high-speed charger network develops (the government is funding 500,000 new chargers in 35 states), there will be plenty of pull-through spots for trucks with trailers—and the inevitable large EVs, like Mercedes’ upcoming eSprinter .

I’m hoping by the time I can order the Lighting and have it built and delivered, Ford and the EV engineers of the world may have improved the battery or efficiency, so range isn’t a big issue while towing.

The Sticker Price

There will still be another big issue, though. Farming is barely profitable, and my sample Lightning has an MSRP of $89,214, about $30,000 more than our gas version. And Lightning prices continue to rise. That’s a lot of bacon. In our case, literally.

It’s fun being the fastest farmer in Washington County. But I’d rather not be the worst.

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