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2022 Ford F-150 Lightning: Better than the gas model? [First Drive]

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There is a healthy dose of skepticism right now as it concerns electric vehicles and range. Then when you bring a truck into the picture, the blood pressure rises exponentially. As Ford Motor Co. pushes the 2022 F-150 Lightning into production, the automaker is working overtime to allay fears and show off the capability of this new breed of truck.

Will you be able to tow and haul confidently? What does it do to range? Can you take a road trip? How long will it take to charge? Can it actually act like a truck?

While a brief first-drive test can’t answer all these questions, we are starting to put the puzzle pieces together and the TL;DR version of my review is this: The F-150 Lightning is a damn nice truck, and I feel pretty good about its capability even if I can’t speak confidently about real-life range.

Can you tow heavy shit?

Both the standard- and extended-range versions are well powered by dual motors. You’re looking at 452 and 580 horsepower, respectively, but it’s the torque you’ll care about most when towing, and that’ll be 775 pound-feet for both trucks.

Max towing for the two vehicles range between 7,700 and 10,000 pounds with the max trailer tow package. While this is 1,300 less than the gasoline version, Ford execs said during the press briefing that 80% of its customers tow less than 10,000 pounds, so this slightly smaller number will work for the vast majority of its buyers.

During the press preview, I had the opportunity to tow a trailer near max capacity at 9,500 pounds, and I thought the 2022 F-150 Lightning did really well. In terms of acceleration and stopping, you could definitely feel the weight of the trailer, but I didn’t feel like I was chugging along to get up to speed on the highway. On surface streets, I barely noticed I had a trailer behind me. It was well behaved in terms of tug and sway, and other than making sure I didn’t take out any stop signs while turning, there wasn’t any kind of an extra learning curve here.

Once we hit highway speeds, I did notice more tug and sway. However, I wasn’t sure if that was due to the fact that I was carrying liquid on the trailer or if it was due to the trailer itself.

So, it can tow, but the big question mark will be how far.

2022 F-150 Lightning

The 2022 F-150 Lightning has a max tow rating of 10,000 pounds when equipped with the extended-range battery and the optional tow package. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

What is the range?

The 2022 F-150 Lighting has two battery options, a standard range and an extended range, with two different range estimates. On the low end, you’re looking at 230 miles of range, and at the high end, you’ve got 320 miles.

After 2 hours on the road, I honestly can’t tell you if that’s accurate or note. But what I can tell you is I went through my entire drive without range anxiety, and I didn’t notice the truck gobbling up a crazy amount of range with hard accelerations, highway driving and A/C blasting.

But probably the bigger question is going to be what happens to range when you tow or max out the payload? The short answer: I dunno.

When we reached out to the Ford team for clarification, they wouldn’t attach any numbers to range degradation.

“Electric trucks experience the same range degradation that we see when towing with traditional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines,” said Emma Berg, the director of electric vehicle communications for Ford Motor Co. “Factors like trailer weight, frontal dimensions and aerodynamic drag, traffic speed, weather, route topography and driver habits all affect fuel economy and range in the same manner. The main difference is how drivers adapt to understanding how electric trucks manage range information and recharging using tools like Power My Trip and Intelligent Range, versus using a traditional gas gauge. It’s not simple to offer a specific percent loss as there are so many factors in play including driver style.”

But we know you want a number. So, let’s use Publisher Tim Esterdahl as an example.

When he owned the Ford F-150 PowerBoost, he averaged around 18 MPG in normal driving and then dropped to 8 MPG when towing a 6,000-pound trailer. So, that’s about a 50% degradation. This is going to be an oversimplification, but assuming he doesn’t change his driving habits and uses the exact same trailer, he could realistically expect to get about 160 miles of range while towing with the extended-range truck.

2022 F-150 Lightning

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning has a max payload of 1,500 pounds when properly equipped. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Let’s talk about charging

Even though the range and range degradation for the 2022 F-150 Lightning is similar to that of a gasoline vehicle, it’s the idea of “re-fueling” that often creates the anxiety. Gas stations in 2022 are plentiful and easy to find, but charging stations are not. Even if you use the Ford Pass app, which Ford encourages, there’s no guarantee that the station will be available or operable – even if the app says it is. We discovered that when we did a test of the Mustang Mach-E more than a year ago.

But, as Ford execs frequently pointed out during the press preview: Gas stations weren’t always plentiful, and once upon a time, there was a lot of pre-planning that went into a road trip. All that requires a learning curve and patience.

All that being said, the Lightning does have fast charge capability, so if you combine a home charger with plotting the fast-charge network on your route, that should allay a lot of the range anxiety. Though the charge times aren’t equivalent to gas station fuel-up times, you aren’t looking at hours.

Looking at a Level 3 150 kW charger and the extended range battery, you can get 54 miles of range in 10 minutes or if you need a little more juice it’ll take about 41 minutes to get you to 80% (about 256 miles). With this information, you can strategically plan your road trip: Do you need just enough charge for your final leg, or do you need the extra charge to get you to the next charging station?

Yes, this will take longer than if you were in a gasoline F-150. But think about how often you take road trips and if this will truly apply to you and your life.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been trepidatious about taking an EV loan recently because of my frequent trips from Chicago to Indianapolis (about 180 miles). But the 2022 F-150 Lightning is the first vehicle I’ve driven that makes me feel confident about range. Plus, I did a little reconnaissance on Electrify America fast-charge stations and found a viable one (verified with my eyes) at a Walmart in Lafayette, Indiana. So, I could either make a stop on the way out or way back to ensure I have enough charge.

Of course, all that changes when you add in towing. We recently followed a Rivian R1T on its trip across the U.S. towing a trailer, and the hour-long charging sessions and the occasional inability pull through a station with a trailer caused a lot of problems. So, if you’re towing often and covering a multi-state distance, this should definitely give you pause.

2022 F-150 Lightning

Interior of the XLT trim of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

But how does it drive?

During the press preview, we had the opportunity to haul, tow, go off road, drive on twisty bits, hit the highway and do a little dynamic dirt road auto cross. Therefore, though my time was brief, I got a good first impression of how it drives.

The short answer: It’s flipping awesome.

It has fast highway acceleration, and for its size, it’s fairly nimble due to the low center of gravity. On surface streets, the 2022 F-150 Lightning is hands-down the best-handling truck I’ve ever driven. Add to that the adjustable pedals and excellent visibility out all windows, and you have a full-size truck made for pretty much every size of driver.

Off road, the Lightning has 8.9 inches of ground clearance due to some of the lower-hanging under-bits. But it does have full skid plats to protect the battery, and it does a nice job of handling some challenging off-road terrain. Will you tackle the Rubicon Trail in this truck? No. But can you get to off-the-beaten-path camp sites or trail heads? Yes.

I already talked about towing, but I wanted to give a quick word about driving while hauling. I chose one of the heavier loads available at 1,350 pounds, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice the weight. At all. The danger here, then, would be to overload the truck because it does so well.

Thankfully, each F-150 Lightning comes with the onboard scales pre-loaded with that specific truck’s payload capacity (Yay! No math!). The truck takes the guesswork out of payload, which will prevent you from damaging the truck (and voiding your warranty) by overloading.

A word about Blue Cruise

We’ve recently spent a lot of time with hands-free driver assistance technology from General Motors, so it was interesting to test these two systems virtually back-to-back. Unfortunately, this didn’t bode well for the Blue Cruise system. Not that it’s a bad system — it’s just not as good as Super Cruise.

First, the lane centering system, which keeps you between the lane lines, is inexact. I found the steering wheel was making constant adjustments, which had the truck almost bobbling between the lane lines. On curves, this was harrowing, and in one instance the vehicle freaked out, and I had to take immediate control.

Second, Blue Cruise doesn’t have automatic lane change. So, the adaptive cruise control will slow you down when a slower vehicle is in front of you, but if you want to change lanes you need to initiate and execute it yourself. In some ways, this is preferable because it forces the driver to, well, drive. But in other ways, it makes this system seem like a prototype 1.0 version.

The bottom line on the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

At the end of the day, I really liked the 2022 F-150 Lightning. Ford did an amazing job creating an electric truck that has cool tech but doesn’t look weird. It can tow, carry heavy things and haul ass – almost simultaneously.

Do I miss the visceral feel of an engine pulsing through the accelerator pedal? Maybe a little.

But do I feel good about the future of electric trucks? Hell yes.

Ford has set the bar high, so anything from General Motors and Ram will have to meet or exceed what the F-150 Lightning has done. I can’t wait.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization.

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