According to Ford, 75 percent of F-150 owners use their trucks to tow. So when it came time to build the F-150 Lightning, towing was a top priority for Ford's engineers. With a maximum tow rating of 10,000 pounds, the all-electric Ford is on par with its gas-powered siblings, able to pull as much as a 2.7-liter EcoBoost-powered F-150. But towing capacity is just a small part of what makes hauling with the Lightning so great.
Pulling a trailer with an electric truck is a revelation. The reasons are obvious: All 775 lb-ft of torque from the standard dual motors comes at zero rpm. That means there’s no need to wait for revs to build to get anywhere at a reasonable pace. Sluggish starts and panicked intersection crossings are a thing of the past. You can just hit the go pedal and accelerate away, as if you’re not pulling anything at all. Highway merges are way less dramatic than they are in any similarly-sized ICE-powered truck, as is passing slower-moving vehicles. The instant torque makes towing less stressful, because you don’t have to think seven steps ahead to make a maneuver. Plus there isn't any drivetrain slack, nor gearshifts, to unsettle the load.
Then there’s the braking. On any ICE-powered truck, you have to use considerably more braking force than you would without a trailer because, well, you’re slowing down way more weight. While the weight is the same (if not greater) here in the Lightning, you never really feel like you're exerting more force than usual on the brake pedal while slowing down with a trailer. That’s down to a smartly tuned regenerative braking system. The Lightning’s tow/haul mode turns off one-pedal driving and programs the pedal in such a way that it blends the regenerative braking with the actual brakes, making it a seamless transition from one to the other. It’s a much better experience versus having to, in some cases, stand on the brake pedal to get your truck and trailer to slow down.
It’s not just the driving experience that makes the F-150 Lightning so great to pull with. Option the Towing Technology Package, and you’re treated to a suite of tow-centric features. The coolest piece of tech is what Ford calls the Smart Hitch. It uses sensors to determine real-time estimates of cargo weight, and gives the driver an estimate of the trailer tongue load weight, so drivers can adjust how weight is distributed on the trailer to improve their towing experience and make sure weight is placed in the safest possible places. The package also comes with Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which lets the driver use a knob on the dashboard to guide the direction of an attached trailer while reversing.
Pulling weight isn’t the only thing the Lightning does well. The truck has a bed payload capacity of 2235 pounds, nearly matching that of a 2.7-liter EcoBoost F-150. Pick the right options and you get what Ford calls onboard scales, which measures the weight and positioning inside your bed, so you know exactly how much stuff you’re hauling. Add the Pro Power Onboard option, and you’ll find four 120-volt outlets and a 240-volt outlet in the bed, there to power anything from power tools, to welders, to camping gear, to whatever else you might need.
The elephant in the room is, of course, range. Towing anything with an EV slashes range significantly, and that’s no different here in the F-150 Lightning. During our short towing test, our extended-range F-150 Platinum displayed a range of just 158 miles with a full charge. That’s not horrible, but it’s well short of the truck’s maximum range of 300 miles. Ford knows how this might dissuade buyers who might otherwise want an all-electric F-150 in their garage, so it’s added a system called Intelligent Range to every Lightning. It uses factors such as payload, tow weight, driving style, traffic, elevation changes, and even weather conditions to provide drivers with an accurate range number. So while range can’t be improved while towing, at least you’ll have a dead-accurate reading on how much farther you can travel.
If you plan to do a lot of heavy-duty towing with your Lightning, you should know that not every variant can haul the same amount of stuff. Opt for the standard 98-kWh battery, and towing capacity is limited to just 7700 pounds, no matter which trim you opt for. Step up to the 131-kWh extended range battery pack, and that number jumps to 10,000 pounds in the Pro, XLT, and Lariat trims. Go for the top-level Platinum trim, though, and you get just 8400 pounds of towing capacity. Payload capacity for the bed is 2235 pounds on every trim level save for the Platinum, which gets a rating of just 1850 pounds. The lesson here? Avoid the Platinum trim if you’re planning to move heavy things often, but do check out the F-150 Lightning.
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