When Ford Motor Co. introduced the 2021 F-150, it revealed a lot of clever features designed for people who use their trucks as a mobile workstation. The most interesting – and perhaps most confusing – feature is Pro Power Onboard.
We know it acts like a mobile generator, and there are three variants – one for the gasoline model and two for the PowerBoost hybrid. But how does it work, what exactly can it power, and why is this even necessary?
Most of our curiosity centers around the 7.2 kW output available on the PowerBoost.
So, we took some questions off my TikTok account of all places, and sent them to Ford, who graciously had Nigar Sultana, the Pro Power Onboard feature owner, provide us some answers.
@jillciminilloReply to @coltonarmstrong4 Ford says available 7.2 kw output of Pro Power Onboard can power 28 fridges for 32 hrs. 😳 ##fordf150 ##cardujour♬ Glorious (feat. Skylar Grey) – Macklemore
Q: A lot of people called this an inverter instead of a generator. How do you answer that, and what is the difference between the two?
Both are partially correct as our system is technically an inverter generator. Conventional (non-inverter) generators take the output directly from the engine-coupled electric machine (aka generator) to produce a modified sine wave at the outlet. Inverter generators add an additional DC-to-AC converter (aka inverter) after the generator. The inverter uses dedicated power electronics to smooth out the voltage ripples and produce a pure sine wave at the outlet. Another benefit of the inverter is that it allows the engine to run at a lower and variable RPM as opposed to full throttle to provide the same capability, which results in lower emissions and noise and increased efficiency.
Pro Power Onboard has vehicle mounted inverters, which are capable of generating 2 kW, 2.4 kW or 7.2 kW of output power. The output from the inverters are consistent and reliable power, which does not rely on the engine speed. The power generated by inverter (pure sine wave) is much cleaner than the power produced by conventional generators (modified sine wave).
Q: People see the plugs in the back and say: My Toyota or Chevrolet or whatever truck had that years ago. How do you answer that?
While other competitors provide up to 400 watts of power, which is just enough for a work lamp or a blender, our Pro Power Onboard is capable of providing up to 18 times more power (2 kW for gas and 2.4 kW/7.2 kW for HEV vehicles) to power an entire job site. The output produced is a pure sine wave, which makes sensitive electrical appliances safe to use. Power is available while the vehicle is in Park or in Drive. Customers can also check real-time power consumption and system status through the SYNC 4 screen.
Q: How exactly does Pro Power Onboard work? (Power flow from engine to battery to generator)
Gas: Engine > Alternator > Battery > Inverter
HEV: Engine > Electric Machine (Motor/Generator) > Power Converter > HEV Battery > Inverter
Q: How long does it take to charge the battery to power the generator? Or is it a constant flow? If it’s a constant flow, how long will a tank of gas be able to generator power?
- With a full tank of gas, the available 7.2 kW Pro Power Onboard is capable of operating at max power output for 32 hours.
- With a full tank of gas, the available 2.4 kW Pro Power Onboard is capable of operating at max power output for 85
Note: This assumes 30° C [86° F] ambient temperature with AC off.
For the HEV, the high-voltage (HV) battery serves as a power reservoir for the loads. As it depletes based on load demand, the engine turns on to simultaneously provide power the inverter and to charge the HV battery. Once the HV battery is fully charged, the engine may shut off until the battery is depleted again.
Q: One person specifically called out the 7.2 kw output and said there’s no way it could power 28 refrigerators for 32 hours. (We admitted this was a weird metric. But this is what we were told during a formal presentation. So, we were looking for something a little more relatable.)
The embedded graphic below shows some examples of what 7.2 kW (as well as the 2.0 kW and 2.4 kW systems) can power simultaneously, but for quick reference:
The 7.2 kW optional Pro Power Onboard has a 32-hour maximum runtime on a full tank of gas, and can simultaneously power the following while framing a house:
- 12-inch compound miter saw (1,800 watts)
- Circular saw (1,000 watts)
- Gang battery charger (1,200 watts)
- Hammer drill (1,200 watts)
- 1/2-hp air compressor (1,000 watts)
- Area flood lights (800 watts)
Or, if you’re using your truck for play instead of work and are spending a day at the ORV Park, it can power:
- Two electric dirt bikes (4,800 watts)
- Electric griddle (1,400 watts)
- Portable air compressor (1,000 watts)
Q: Why is something like this better than an actual portable generator?
Pro Power Onboard provides the ease of customer convenience by eliminating the need to carry a separate portable generator, which is noisy and takes up valuable bed space. For comparison, a 2 kW portable inverter generator can weigh 40 pounds and take up 2 cubic feet, while a 5.5 kW portable inverter generator can weigh more than 250 pounds and take up more than 14 cubic feet of cargo volume, not to mention a gas canister to refuel.
Now, F-150 owners are no longer forced to carry around a heavy generator since it’s all integrated seamlessly into the truck. The power is also more usable because PPOB is available while in park or while driving, inside the cabin and outside in the bed or around the truck, and the customer can also monitor and control the feature in real time and remotely using the SYNC screen and via FordPass.
The bottom line on F-150 Pro Power Onboard
But what is it going to cost you? Well, first you’ll have to add the hybrid powertrain, which will cost between $1,990 and $4,995, depending on trim and configuration. Then you’ll have to add the available 7.2 kW Pro Power Onboard option, which is another $750. When we spec’d out a base XL with the SuperCrew and 5-1/2-foot box, added the hybrid and Pro Power Onboard – without any extraneous options – we were looking at a price of $43,760 including destination. We configured the Limited trim similarly and topped out at $74,420 – again without any additional options.
For comparison’s sake, you can get an 8,000-watt generator at Home Depot for $1,049.
All right, we imagine these answers might beget more questions. So, if you’ve got ‘em be sure to comment below. We’ll follow up for you and find whatever answers we can.
But the gist is, this on-board generator is something a full-size pickup truck has never had, and it creates a level of convenience a portable generator doesn’t have (aka you don’t have to lift 250 pounds). Not to mention the fact that it’s as compact as it is powerful. But it won’t be cheap.