The Ford F-150 Lightning electric pick-up is yet to be confirmed for Australia, but it’s a chance if the local conversion of the regular model is a success. Here’s why it is one of the most ground-breaking vehicles we’ve tested so far this year.
2023 Ford F-150 Lightning
Meet the world’s first electric full-size pick-up, the Ford F-150 Lightning – a battery-powered version of what has been North America’s top-selling vehicle for almost half a century.
The Rivian R1T technically beat the Ford F-150 Lightning to US showrooms by a few months; however, it is a smaller vehicle – somewhere between a Toyota HiLux and a Ford F-150 in size – and production was initially restricted to a few dozen vehicles at a time.
Ford ramped up to a production rate of 30,000 vehicles a year from the get-go, but due to unprecedented demand the company is in the middle of factory upgrades to more than triple output next year and beyond.
Electric car extremists might wonder why the world needs an electric pick-up, but if the goal is to reduce emissions, then creating a battery-powered version of one of the biggest – and biggest-selling – vehicles on the planet seems like a good place to start.
We went into this preview drive not knowing what to expect and had not even glanced at a spec sheet. But we came away with our minds blown – with the important disclaimer that it is nevertheless somewhat of a flawed genius, given how much driving range is sapped when towing or hauling a heavy load.
Where’s the Tesla Cybertruck? We’re still waiting. It turns out old-school car companies such as Ford – which have been around for more than 100 years – are no longer napping. In fact, Ford is now trying to claim new territory early.
The electric Chevrolet Silverado and battery-powered Hummer are not yet in showrooms in North America, the arrival timing of the Tesla Cybertruck is anyone’s guess, and Ram is yet to unveil its concept electric pick-up (though the covers are due to come off in November in the lead-up to the Los Angeles Auto Show).
In the meantime, we got to find out how an electric pick-up copes with 3000kg of mass.
Will the Ford F-150 Lightning come to Australia? We hope so.
But first, Ford needs to ace the upcoming local conversion of the regular F-150 range due in the middle of next year.
If that goes well, Detroit might grant Australia access to the Ford F-150 Lightning for a local conversion program. Fingers crossed.
We got to preview the Ford F-150 Lightning during a brief test drive in the lead-up to this year’s Detroit auto show, after Ford invited a group of international media – including Drive – to sample this and other US models.
How much does the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning cost?
There are four model grades in the US: the workhorse Pro ($US39,974 or $AU59,750), mid-level XLT ($US52,974 or $AU79,200), luxury Lariat ($US67,474 or $AU100,850), and flagship Platinum ($US90,874 or $AU135,800).
Prices quoted exclude on-road costs. Australian price estimates are based on straightforward currency conversions and exclude any potential right-hand-drive remanufacturing costs.
|Key details||2023 Ford F-150 Lightning|
|Price||From $US39,974 ($AU59,750) to $US90,874 ($AU135,800) plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Rivian R1T | Chevrolet Silverado EV | GMC Hummer EV|
How much space does the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning have inside?
The Ford F-150 Lightning is huge inside. It has the same four-door body as the petrol variant, so it’s a long reach to pull the door closed from the other side – and a decent climb involving grab handles to get aboard.
The centre console is massive, and there is ample oddment storage in the dash and doors.
Back seat space is huge, with plenty of room for heads, shoulders, knees and toes. And you can comfortably fit three adults across the back row.
The Platinum edition tested had white leather seats and piano-black trim highlights. It felt like a Range Rover until you spotted a hint of the ute tub in the rear-view mirror.
|2023 Ford F-150 Lightning|
|Cargo volume||Box length at floor 1702mm
Box width between wheelhouses 1285mm
Box height 545mm
400L under bonnet
|Width||2032mm (excluding mirrors), 2438mm (including mirrors)|
Does the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning have Apple CarPlay?
The infotainment command centre is a massive 15.5-inch vertical touchscreen in the centre of the dash – and some of these functions can also be viewed on the 12-inch digital instrument cluster.
Radio frequencies for AM and FM are standard. Smartphone connection is wireless for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and there is embedded navigation. There is also a large wireless smartphone charging pad.
The touchscreen is supported by well-placed buttons and dials – including one in the bottom of the screen – which are safer and easier to use on the move when your eyes are on the road.
The test car was equipped with premium audio, but we didn’t have time to connect our phone and crank up the volume.
Is the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning a safe car?
The Ford F-150 Lightning comes with a full suite of advanced safety technology including autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, speed-sign recognition, rear-view or 360-degree-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, and individual tyre pressure monitors.
There is also an infrared camera near the instrument cluster to monitor driver eye movement and check for fatigue.
Six airbags are standard. A centre airbag between the front seats is not deemed a necessary requirement for five-star safety in large vehicles such as this, because the occupants sit so far apart.
This crash-test video shows how the airbags deploy in severe front and side impacts.
|2023 Ford F-150 Lightning|
|US safety rating||Regular Ford F-150 five stars (2021), Lightning not tested|
|Safety report||Link to detailed NHTSA report|
How much does the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning cost to maintain?
Servicing cost estimates are not listed on the Ford US website. However, most petrol or diesel Ford vehicles have service intervals of 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first).
Although electric vehicles require less maintenance, they still need a regular check-up for fluids, brake wear, and basics such as wiper blades.
|At a glance||2023 Ford F-150 Lightning|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||To be advised|
|Energy cons. (claimed)||29.8kWh/100km to 31.5kWh/100km (depending on model)|
|Battery size||98kWh (standard), 131kWh (extended range)|
|Driving range claim (EPA)||370km (Pro), 515km (XLT and Lariat), 483km (Platinum)|
What is the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning like to drive?
The Ford F-150 Lightning has mind-blowing acceleration, does 0–100km/h in about 4.5 seconds, is quieter and more luxurious than a Range Rover, and feels much more nimble and more supple than a three-tonne pick-up ought to.
It is the most surprising car I have driven this year. But, alas, it’s not perfect.
First, a quick catch-up on the whole line-up.
The base model and mid-grade variants have a combined output of 337kW and 1050Nm from two electric motors (one for the front wheels and one for the rear wheels).
The flagship Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum edition tested has a combined output of 433kW and 1050Nm from two electric motors (one for the front wheels and one for the rear wheels).
A side note, the Rivian electric pick-up has four electric motors (one for each wheel) and a bigger battery pack than the Ford F-150 Lightning. This makes the Rivian heavier than the Ford F-150 Lightning – even though the Rivian is smaller bumper to bumper. The Ford F-150 Lightning’s aluminium body also helps save weight.
The base-model Ford F-150 Lightning Pro has a standard-range 98kWh battery pack, while the three other variants – XLT, Lariat and Platinum – are equipped with the extended-range 131kWh battery pack.
Estimated driving range for the Ford F-150 Lightning Pro is listed at 370km, while extended-range battery pack models can cover a peak distance of between 482km and 515km on a single charge.
All four versions of the Ford F-150 Lightning have an estimated 0–60mph (97km/h) time of “mid four seconds”.
Although there is a difference in peak power on certain models, the torque rating of 1050Nm is the same for the entire line-up.
Ford does not provide estimates on how much driving range is sapped when towing.
However, a recent test by US magazine Motor Trend found driving range was slashed by about two-thirds when the Ford F-150 Lightning is towing.
Motor Trend reported that, when towing a modest 1400kg trailer, the Ford F-150 Lightning’s maximum driving range dropped from 482km to 185km.
With a mid-size 2385kg trailer behind it, maximum driving range dropped from 482km to 160km. A 3275kg trailer reduced range from 482km to 145km.
All three scenarios are a long way short of the 482km maximum driving range claimed by Ford for the F-150 Lightning Platinum (other extended-range battery variants have a claimed maximum of 515km).
Incidentally, in the same Motor Trend test, the vehicle travelled a maximum distance of 410km when unladen.
Diesel-powered pick-ups also cannot achieve their maximum driving range when towing, but in our testing (and testing in the US) they typically only lose about a quarter of their capacity – and they can be refuelled at a bowser in five to seven minutes.
Frustratingly, one of the lead engineers Ford rolled out in front of media to answer questions about the F-150 Lightning was adamant hauling had a negligible impact on driving range, despite our repeated questions, including what results Ford had found in its own testing.
The shutdown response from Ford – which, paraphrased, sounded like ‘nothing to see here, look the other way, don’t know what you’re talking about’ – appeared to defy the laws of physics and the outcomes of real-world testing. At the end of the day, it requires more energy to move more mass, no matter what the vehicle type.
So, the Ford F-150 Lightning is epic – as long as you don’t need to tow or carry a huge load for any significant distance. And isn’t that one of the primary purposes of these vehicles?
|Key details||2023 Ford F-150 Lightning|
|Engine||Dual electric motors|
|Power||337kW (Pro, XLT, Lariat)
|Torque||1050Nm (all models)|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Power to weight ratio||120kW/t to 145kW/t|
|Weight||2800kg to 2989kg|
|Payload||885kg (extended range battery)
1014kg (standard range battery)
|Tow rating||3500kg (standard hitch)
3695kg (Platinum with heavy-duty hitch)
4536kg (Platinum with pintle)
|Spare tyre type||Full size|
Should I buy a 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning?
The Ford F-150 Lightning is in many regards an engineering marvel because it showcases how electric-vehicle technology can be applied to one of the world’s biggest – and biggest-selling – automobiles.
How Ford engineers have been able to make a three-tonne pick-up feel light and nimble is nothing short of remarkable.
However, for all the Ford F-150 Lightning’s merit, towing and cargo-carrying remain serious hurdles for electric vehicles to overcome. The more battery packs are added, the heavier the vehicle becomes, and it’s soon a case of two steps forward and one step back.
The Ford F-150 Lightning is not alone with this dilemma. Official driving range for the Chinese LDV T60 electric ute is halved as soon as it is fully loaded too.
For now it remains a mystery how the car industry will grapple with electric utes and pick-ups. Because if you need to tow or haul anything heavy over a reasonable distance, electric power alone is not the way to do it.
And if you don’t need to tow or haul huge loads, then you probably don’t need a car like this.
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