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Generator or inverter? 2021 Ford F-150 Pro Power Onboard explained

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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.

F-150 Pro Power Onboard

2021 Ford F-150 Pro Power Onboard screen in Sync 4. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

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.

F-150 Pro Power Onboard

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid engine bay. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

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)
F-150 Pro Power Onboard

2021 Ford F-150 Pro Power Onboard (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

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.

Related posts:

Can you start the 2021 Ford F-150 hybrid in cold weather?

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost: Everything you want + more [First Drive]

2021 Ford F-150 trim differences in photos

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is a syndicated automotive writer. Jill also manages the “Drive, She Said” blog for ChicagoNow and posts reviews to DriveChicago. She is the president emeritus of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. She also serves as a judge for the Automotive Heritage Foundation Journalism Awards. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

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23 Comments

  1. Dan Ashley October 23, 2020

    Can it recharge a stranded Tesla?

    – Dan Ashler, Chicago

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl October 26, 2020

      Theoretically, you could charge anything as long as you have a way to plug it in. For the Tesla, there is a 110v charger adapter with the car and you could charge it this way. It would take a very long time to charge though.

      Reply
  2. Mark November 18, 2020

    Good afternoon,
    Can you please advise how to connect the 2021 Ford F-150 Pro Power generator/inverter (twist-lock NEMA L6-20 240-volt, 30-amp outlet) to the shore power plug input on a travel trailer. Specifically is there any cord/appliance that can step down the 240v to 110v conveniently to charge trailer batteries while driving or at least run the AC on the trailer when stopped? This looks like a great feature on the new Ford F-150 hybrids but I am having difficulty figuring out how to make use of it for camping.
    Thanks,
    Mark

    Reply
    1. John November 18, 2020

      The article had a youtube video showing both 240v and 110v receptacles on the truck, same as what you would find on most portable generators

      Reply
    2. John Welter December 1, 2020

      You just need a splitter to split each out the two separate 120V/30A legs to a pair of plugs. The 240/30A is just two 120V/30A legs.

      Reply
  3. Robert Brock December 21, 2020

    No one cares about the deactivation, how did they get the horsepower/torque bump??

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl December 24, 2020

      Which engine? This post is about the Powerboost. Combining the power output of the hybrid with the 3.5L V6 gives it the additional horsepower and torque for the PowerBoost.

      Reply
  4. David Schomp December 27, 2020

    When you option for the pro power models doesn’t it replace the 400W plugs in your cab with higher draw outlets? I’m curious if I added the 2kW option would I get 2kw power to the plugs in the dash and crew cab?

    Reply
    1. Nathan Houston April 15, 2021

      David, did you ever get your question answered? I have the same question. Thanks

      Reply
    2. Tim Esterdahl April 16, 2021

      The inverter and battery are after the dash plugs, so no, they don’t change the cab plugs. All the inverter does is change the power going to the bed plugs for the generator panel. The rest of the truck is not changed.

      Reply
  5. Kenneth Norton January 7, 2021

    Would it be possible to add extra batteries to this system for additional storage (Say under the back seat)? Also, do you think some solar panels could be added to the top of the cab to help trickle charge the system?

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl January 8, 2021

      I don’t know of a way to add additional batteries to this system without some advanced knowledge on how this system worked as well as reprogramming the CPU. Also, the same with solar panels.

      Reply
  6. Marc January 11, 2021

    I’m just about to take ownership of my new 2021, F150 ecoboost 3.5
    Can dealer install the 2KW option at dealer?
    Where is the battery? Does it have unique alternator or it use main engine alternator?

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl January 12, 2021

      I believe you have to order the truck with the generator and a dealer can’t add it on.

      Reply
      1. Marc January 12, 2021

        You maybe right! Got a call today, the dealer did not know, he said he would get back to me. I read the battery is under back sit, any one can confirm? What about the alternator, does it have a unique one?

        Reply
  7. Matt in Oklahoma February 8, 2021

    Interesting
    Thanks

    Reply
  8. Adrianne February 19, 2021

    Thinking about the next blackout….what do you think would the gas, standard, and optional hybrid systems run in terms of household lights and appliances, and for how long?

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl February 20, 2021

      We are hearing stories with people running their truck off and on for days during the Texas storm. You could run some lights, a space heater and occasionally run your fridge or a microwave without any problems. Just a matter of the more things you plug in, the more the truck will run, the more fuel you will use.

      Reply
  9. Brenda L February 21, 2021

    So when is this going to be available in a Super Duty?

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl February 28, 2021

      No official word yet.

      Reply
  10. Brad McCuen March 30, 2021

    What is the output for the 3.0 Powerstroke? 2.0 or 2.4?

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl March 31, 2021

      2.0. Only hybrid models get the 2.4 or 7.2.

      Reply
  11. William Chandler March 31, 2021

    Is it available to mount on my 1995 f350 diesel 7.3
    This would be great to have

    Reply

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