- Ford’s F-150 Lightning is pretty similar to its gas-fueled F-Series trucks.
- But Ford did give some unique features to its first battery-powered pickup.
- The F-150 Lightning has tons of onboard power, a real-time range calculator, and a giant frunk.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In the race to bring an electric pickup truck to market, it can be tough to stand out.
And in an effort to set themselves apart from the pack, startups and established automakers alike have promised to equip their upcoming pickups with unique and sometimes outlandish features. Rivian is planning a “gear tunnel” that can house a slide-out kitchen, GMC’s Hummer EV can drive diagonally, and the Tesla Cybertruck resembles no truck before it (or probably after it, for that matter).
But Ford’s F-150 Lightning, which debuted this week, is a bit different. In designing the truck, Ford had to toe a fine line between producing something new, but not radically different from its popular, trusted lineup of F-Series trucks. The Lightning is no Cybertruck – and that’s exactly what Ford intended.
Still, although the electric vehicle shares a cab and an overall design with the other F-150s in Ford’s stable, it does have some unique features that set it apart from its combustion-engine relatives.
A giant touchscreen with one quirk
Love them or hate them, it seems that massive infotainment screens are here to stay – in EVs, at least. Following the trend set by Tesla, the F-150 Lightning comes equipped with a 15.5-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen on Lariat and Platinum trims. Lower trims get a more restrained 12-inch display.
But Ford recognized that its customers still appreciate physical buttons and don’t want to have to navigate through endless menus to access essential vehicle functions. So its designers included some analog controls and, strangely enough, embedded a volume knob right into the bottom of the 15.5-inch screen. It’s the same setup Ford put in the Mustang Mach-E.
Lariat and Platinum trucks come with Ford’s latest Sync 4A infotainment system, and all models have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and WiFi hotspot capabilities.
Onboard power for tools, tailgates, and more
Ford started offering mobile-generator capabilities in the latest-generation F-150. But, it stands to reason, the Blue Oval gave its first all-electric truck an even greater ability to power things at job sites, campsites, tailgates, and the like.
The conventional F-150 offers a 2.0-kilowatt system, while the hybrid F-150 PowerBoost bumps that up to 2.4 kilowatts or, optionally, 7.2 kilowatts. The F-150 Lightning can deliver up to 9.6 kilowatts of power – a combination of up to 2.4 kilowatts from outlets in the frunk and 7.2 kilowatts from the cab and bed. That capability comes standard on Lariat and Platinum trims, and is an option on the XLT.
As an example, Ford says 9.6 kilowatts is more than enough to power a tailgate party with a projector, PA system, portable hot tub, lights, portable AC, refrigerator, and two blenders. The truck will alert owners when battery charge dips too low.
A backup generator on wheels
The F-150 Lightning’s mobile-generator functions don’t end with tailgating, however. The truck can serve as a last-resort source of power during blackouts and emergencies thanks to a feature called Ford Intelligent Backup Power.
When plugged in through Ford’s Charge Station Pro home charger – which comes standard with the extended-range truck – the F-150 Lightning will automatically begin feeding power to an owner’s home in the event of a loss of power. Ford says the 9.6-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard system can power the average home for three days on a full charge.
Ford also plans to roll out a feature called Ford Intelligent Power, which will enable the Lightning to power a home not only during emergencies, but also during high-cost, peak-energy hours.
An oddly named frunk with serious functionality
Since they don’t have an engine up front taking up space, lots of EVs have a front trunk that adds precious cargo room. Ford gave the F-150 Lightning what it claims is the biggest frunk in the industry: the Mega Power Frunk.
The compartment adds 400 liters of storage space and has power outlets and USB plugs, to boot. That’s enough room to stow two sets of golf clubs or three suitcases, Ford says.
Plus, the Mega Power Frunk has a below-floor compartment with a removable lid for storing extra tall items. A drain hole in the floor – which is also found in the Mach-E’s frunk – means owners can hose it down or fill it with ice and use it as a cooler.
A simpler way to hitch up a trailer
Ford is debuting a new feature on the F-150 Lightning to simplify hitching up a trailer. The Pro Trailer Hitch Assist feature – which is an option on XLT and Lariat models and comes standard on the Platinum truck – enables the F-150 to automatically control steering, braking, and throttle to back itself up to a trailer.
A real-time range calculator
Range anxiety – the fear of running low on battery without a charging station nearby – is one of the key hurdles to mass adoption of EVs. Ford’s Intelligent Range feature is the automaker’s attempt to put drivers at ease.
The feature aims to provide real-time range calculations on the dashboard based on factors like weather conditions and how much power a driver is using. The truck also has built-in scales so it can take into account how much stuff is in the bed and how much it’s towing when generating a range estimate. Ford says this feature will improve over time with over-the-air software updates.