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2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

DRIVEN: The All-Electric 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Is a Better F-150

Ford's plug-in pickup provides up to 320 miles of range and a wealth of capabilities

  • New electric version of the F-150 starting around $41,000
  • Useful tech options, including the ability to use it as a battery for your home
  • Independent rear suspension improves ride quality

What is the F-150 Lightning?

The best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the past 45 years is turning electric, and it's hard to underestimate the importance of the Ford F-150 Lightning. Its success, or otherwise, will define how we view and use trucks in the years ahead. The Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV might have beaten it to the showroom, but they're targeted at the affluent leisure market. The Lightning is targeted at working America, and at least until the Chevrolet Silverado EV arrives in 2023, the Lightning has the "real"  EV truck market to itself.

Ford is determined to present this truck as a genuine alternative and has priced it accordingly. The entry-level Lightning Pro starts at $41,769 including the $1,795 destination fee, while a fully loaded Platinum model can reach almost $100K. This is before federal, state or power company incentives, which can lop $7,500 or more off the price. Importantly, these prices are comparable to the gas-powered or hybrid versions of the F-150 and rival trucks.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

How does the Ford F-150 Lightning drive?

The Lightning starts its life as an F-150 SuperCrew (or crew cab) with a 5.5-foot bed. But instead of a gasoline engine and drivetrain, it has two electric motors and all-wheel drive. The Lightning also has a fully independent rear suspension, in contrast to the regular F-150's traditional solid-axle rear suspension.

There are two choices of battery pack, which impacts not just the electric range but also performance. The standard battery pack and dual-motor setup produces 452 horsepower and a massive 775 lb-ft of torque, more torque than any other F-150 currently on sale, including the 625 lb-ft of the Raptor. The F-150's most powerful non-Raptor engine is the turbocharged V6 hybrid that makes 430 hp and 570 lb-ft.

Ford says the standard battery pack will deliver an EPA-estimated 230 miles of range on a full charge. The larger, extended-range battery not only provides up to 320 miles of range, but it also boosts the truck's output to 580 hp (the 775 lb-ft stays the same). Ford says a Lightning with the big battery can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-4-second range, which would make it quicker than the F-150 Raptor. 

Although we haven't yet had the opportunity to independently test these numbers, the bigger-batteried Lightning certainly feels rapid. On slightly slick surfaces, there was sufficient oomph to overpower the all-terrain tires fitted to our test vehicle, and the instantaneous torque or pull provided by the electric motor only enhances this impression of pace. It's fun.

It also achieves all this with none of the histrionics associated with the Raptor. It's just a very fast, very comfortable everyday truck. It's not as overtly sporting as the significantly smaller Rivian R1T, but it's still an engaging drive with well-weighted, accurate steering and impressive body control.

One thing EV adopters will need to get used to is so-called "one-pedal driving." When you lift off the accelerator pedal, the electric motor recoups some of the truck's energy in order to charge the battery. This feels a lot like traditional engine braking, and it means that in normal driving you'll rarely need to use the brake pedal. It's a relaxing way to drive and in our experience it quickly feels intuitive.

We also drove the truck briefly off-road. It has a single off-road mode and further benefits from a lockable rear differential. It coped ably with our relatively modest test, and the appeal of driving a near-silent vehicle in the wild is considerable.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

How comfortable is the Ford F-150 Lightning?

The introduction of an independent rear suspension improves the ride and handling characteristics, eliminating the porpoising (bobbing) motion sometimes experienced in the gas-powered alternative. It would be wrong to say this truck has the characteristics of a luxury SUV — it's still built to haul heavy loads and tow — but it's a comfortable long-distance companion.

The refined cabin enhances this appeal. The problem with eliminating the sound of the engine is that it tends to highlight other imperfections, such as wind or road noise. Ford has done a great job of minimizing both, and the well-constructed cabin is also pleasingly free of squeaks and rattles. It does a fine job of combining the sometimes competing demands of work and leisure activities.  

How's the F-150 Lightning's interior?

The Lightning's interior is almost identical to that of the regular F-150 crew cab with an impressive mix of space, comfort and versatility. Available features are also similar to what you'll find in the standard F-150. These include the available fold-out center console table, front seats that recline nearly flat so you can stretch out and take a nap, and a lockable storage bin under the rear seat. There's certainly no shortage of space with a brace of 6-footers able to sit in tandem with ease.

Opt for the Lariat or Platinum trim level and the dashboard is dominated by a 15.5-inch vertically aligned touchscreen pinched from Ford's Mustang Mach-E EV. Pro and XLT trims feature a smaller, 12-inch center touchscreen familiar to gas-powered F-150s. The larger screen has more of a wow factor, but in reality, both systems work well and it's good to see that Ford has continued to include physical controls for key features such as the volume knob, gear selector and glovebox.

The quality overall is impressive, with even the entry-level Pro trim feeling well appointed. The high-spec Lariat and Platinum trims compete on price with luxury SUVs, and while they can't quite match the best of the German brands, the attention to detail and fit and finish still impress.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

How's the F-150 Lightning's tech?

Ford's hands-free driving system, BlueCruise, is standard on Lariat and Platinum versions of the Lightning. It works on more than 130,000 miles of pre-mapped divided highways to take the stress out of long-haul driving by taking control of the truck's steering, acceleration and braking. While it is a hands-free system, BlueCruise uses cameras to monitor the driver to make sure the person's in the pilot's seat and paying attention. On our relatively short test it performed well, even if the idea of driving genuinely hands-free takes some getting used to.

Ford has deliberately designed the Lightning to be recognizable as an F-150, but this hasn't stopped it utilizing some of the beneficial technology used in other Ford EVs. The 15.5-inch touchscreen on premium models is awash with features, from driving models to electronic payload scales. There are even some games, such as Sudoku, although we'd argue Tesla's arcade is more sophisticated for the moment.

The Lightning also offers the F-150's existing Pro Power Onboard feature, which consists of household-style electrical plugs in the bed, cab and front trunk that you can use to power tools and other electronic devices (delivering as much as 9.6 kW combined in the EV).

Like both the Mustang Mach-E and F-150, the Lightning can receive over-the-air updates through its infotainment system. These updates (Power-Ups, in Ford speak) can give your truck the latest software and features without having to visit a dealership. The Lightning will also let you use a compatible smartphone as the truck's key so that you don't need to use a separate key fob.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

How's the F-150 Lightning's storage?

For the most part, the F-150 Lightning mimics the standard F-150 SuperCrew, which means a 5.5-foot bed and a cabin packed with neat storage solutions. In addition, the F-150 Lightning joins other EVs in opening up the space under the hood for extra cargo capacity. The power front trunk, or frunk, provides around 14 cubic feet of space and, per Ford, can fit two sets of golf clubs. Along with four power outlets and two USB ports, the frunk is water-resistant and even features drain plugs. This additional lockable, versatile storage is arguably the most significant advantage of the EV versus the gas-powered F-150.

How do I charge the F-150 Lightning?

If you opt for the extended-range battery pack, Ford will provide a robust home charging station (Ford Charge Station Pro) for free. Installation will be at your expense, but this is quite a nice perk for new EV owners since most popular home charging stations cost hundreds of dollars for the unit alone and generally aren't as powerful.

The Lightning can gain up to 30 miles of driving range per hour using the Ford Charge Station Pro. But even if you don't get Ford's charger, you should consider a dedicated charging station or 240-volt outlet a necessity for the F-150 Lightning. Attempting to charge using a household-style 120-volt outlet will be impractical because it simply takes too long to recharge.

The Lightning also supports DC fast charging for quick top-offs while on the road. Plugging into a 150-kW station can charge the battery from 15% to 80% in about 40 minutes, Ford says.

The Lightning is also capable of returning the favor by powering your home with electricity in the event of a power outage. If you've got your truck connected to Ford's charging station and a power inverter, the Lightning can provide up to 9.6 kW worth of constant electricity. With a fully charged battery, Ford says it's possible that you could use the Lightning to power your home for three days or even longer if you ration the power. Ford also says it's working on a feature that can use the truck's battery to power a home during high-cost peak-energy hours and then charge the truck during off-hours, helping to save money on your home electric bill.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

How are the F-150 Lightning's towing and hauling?

The F-150 Lightning's towing and hauling capabilities vary by trim level and choice of battery pack. A Lightning with the standard-range battery has a max payload capacity of 2,235 pounds. Add the larger battery and more features and this figure is reduced, down to 1,850 pounds in the case of the Platinum. Ford will program the max payload of each individual VIN before the truck leaves Michigan, which can be accessed through the onboard touchscreen. Available electronic payload scales allow you to see in an instant whether you're in danger of overloading your vehicle.

Ford's research suggests that 75% of F-150 customers tow, with 80% towing less than 10,000 pounds. Maybe that's why the larger battery pack available for the Pro, XLT and Lariat trim levels provides up to 10,000 pounds of towing capacity when they're equipped with the Max Trailer Tow package. The Platinum can tow up to 8,500 pounds.

As part of our test, we towed a boat rated at 8,300 pounds and the Lightning handled it with aplomb. The instant torque of an electric motor, combined with a tow/haul mode that adjusts how the throttle pedal operates, makes for a relaxed and effective driving experience.

The challenge is the impact both towing and hauling have on this EV truck's range. The trip computer seeks to recalculate range in real time based on what you're carrying or towing, the road and weather conditions, and how you drive. Adding a 8,300-pound boat instantly halved the truck's range, to the point where realistically you'd need to stop every hundred miles or so. This might be fine in a gas truck, but finding fast chargers at 100-mile intervals remains a major challenge in the U.S.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

Edmunds says

The elephant in the room remains the EV charging infrastructure. Having a home system installed is a challenge that can be overcome by most customers relatively easily, but the network of fast chargers in the U.S., while improving all the time, remains inadequate. If you're serious about towing and hauling heavy loads, this is a key concern and we'd advise waiting before taking the electric plunge.

But if this isn't your priority, there are a number of genuine reasons to choose the Lightning over a hybrid or gas F-150. It's faster, more refined, more comfortable and more enjoyable to drive. The benefits of onboard power sources and a large, lockable frunk also shouldn't be underestimated. It is, in many ways, a better F-150, which only bodes well for the future.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning