Sorting F-150 Lightning cold-weather truth from fiction

Simply earlier than 6:30 a.m. on a February morning, my telephone lit up with a notification: The Ford F-150 Lighting in my driveway had stopped charging.

“That’s not good,” I stated to my spouse Karen, noting that the truck was plugged in and never but absolutely charged.

By the way in which, it was about 20 levels under zero Fahrenheit.

I’ll get again to what occurred with the charger on a chilly morning. But when the video headlines screaming in all caps on the Web are to be believed, electrical vans don’t work within the chilly in any respect as a result of they lose all their vary. After per week of utmost cold-weather testing of the Ford F-150 Lightning I’m right here to inform you that is some grade-A clickbait.

I froze my tuchas off throughout that week of subzero climate in Minnesota with a Ford F-150 Lightning to separate truth from fiction. I by no means ran out of juice, and I don’t even personal a Stage 2 residence charger.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

What I did

All the things improper. On goal.

Most EV house owners may have a Stage 2 charger at their residence and, when it’s this chilly outdoors, precondition the automobile (the cabin, and maybe the battery) whereas it’s nonetheless plugged in. I did neither of these issues—despite the fact that the FordPass app makes these issues straightforward to determine.

Parking an EV inside a storage would assist too. However 35% of America does not personal a single household residence, many Individuals don’t have a storage, and people who do won’t even be capable to match the 231.7-inch lengthy F-150 Lightning inside it.

For them, I checked out three eventualities:

1) I let the truck sit outdoors in ambient temperatures starting from -5 to -22 levels Fahrenheit for 12.5 hours straight unplugged. This was to cold-soak the battery and each different element within the automobile and see the way it impacts the Lightning.

2) One other night time with the very same circumstances I plugged the Lightning into a daily 120-volt outlet with the usual charging wire that comes with each F-150 Lightning for 12.5 hours. This state of affairs trickle-charged the truck and replicated what may occur ought to somebody discover themselves parking at a good friend’s home on a street journey (or at work).

3) With a virtually empty battery I fast-charged the truck at an Electrify America station within the chilly, which itself proved to be an expertise.

4) With a hotter battery I charged the truck on public L2 chargers and a slower, much less highly effective, L3 charger.

Right here’s what I realized.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

EV vary and effectivity go down within the chilly

In honest to heat temperatures our crew has seen the Lightning common wherever from 2.1 to 2.6 mile per kwh. That’s a wide array with a lot of variables, simply as with the gas financial system of a gas-powered automobile.

The very best I noticed on this week of cold-weather testing with the Lightning, in a 44-mile freeway run at 16 levels, was a 1.8 mile/kwh common. And over the course of the entire 358 miles of combined driving, the Lightning averaged 1.5 mile/kwh—amounting to about 200 miles of vary from the 131-kwh Prolonged Vary Pack, rated for 320 miles.

So general, the Lightning misplaced a few third of its effectivity—and vary—within the chilly.

This type of effectivity and vary loss isn’t unprecedented for gasoline automobiles both, in such chilly climate. My spouse’s Jeep Grand Cherokee with a V-8 engine sees a one-third drop in gas effectivity (from about 16 mpg to 12 mpg) in the identical circumstances. Associates with turbo-6 F-150s report about the identical achieve in thirst.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

Whereas some EVs are experiencing points retaining vitality within the chilly, the F-150 Lightning didn’t point out it misplaced any vitality throughout a 12-hour chilly soak regardless of the estimated vary dropping 38 miles.

The F-150 Lightning doesn’t have a warmth pump, which could have helped it within the chilly. A warmth pump acts like an air-con system in reverse to maneuver warmth vitality to the cabin relatively than create it. It could possibly improve cold-weather vary by as much as 20%. That may be the distinction between attending to a charger or not on a street journey.

Gitanjli McRoy, chief engineer of Ford’s EV vitality administration techniques for the F-150 Lightning, informed Inexperienced Automobile Studies the truck doesn’t have a warmth pump as a result of Ford balanced what was technically prepared, could possibly be optimized, and ship the perfect worth whereas getting the truck developed. The best way the plumbing is completed presents the Lightning alternatives to heat-share the place it might probably, in keeping with McRoy. The engineer wouldn’t touch upon the Lightning’s roadmap for such a characteristic however famous the crew is constant to enhance the truck.

One other statement that carries over from gasoline automobiles is that the extra excessive the circumstances get, the extra wildly the estimated vary swings—and the much less it’s best to fixate on what it is perhaps at any second. It’s the results of an algorithm leading to an informed guess of how far the remaining vitality will take the truck.

As an example: Within the span of half-hour whereas sitting within the driveway with the truck turned off, the Ford iOS app informed me with a full cost the Lightning’s vary can be simply 153 miles and two minutes later claimed 189 miles of vary.

Briefly, relying wholly on the estimated vary is unrealistic, nevertheless it makes for excellent YouTube movies. Simply as would occur with a gas-powered automotive that encountered a handful of 0-60 mph runs, the vary remaining quantity is definitely influenced and never utterly correct. As Senior Editor Bengt Halvorson so casually put it: “Like in a gasoline automotive, it’s best to simply observe the gas gauge.”

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

Charging: Are you able to freeze an EV charger?

Trickle charging off the 120-volt outlet in a single day on common provides simply over 1 kwh per hour, which interprets to 1 to 2 miles of vary per hour within the circumstances I skilled. Importantly, it took among the stress off the battery to maintain itself heat within the chilly.

However that’s when Ford’s 32-amp residence charger stop on me mid-charge. A fast verify of the house owners handbook on-line knowledgeable me that the blinking amber mild meant the charger had encountered a fault; unplugging to reset didn’t clear up it both.

The reply basically was, sure, I did freeze the charger. It is solely rated and authorized to -22 levels Fahrenheit. A couple of hours warming up inside my home after which the charger was pretty much as good as new.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

Ford stated the extra highly effective 80-amp charger that comes normal with the Prolonged Vary Lightning, which my Lariat tester was optioned with the bigger battery pack, is licensed to -40 F. An proprietor would theoretically have this charger put in, both of their storage or outdoors at their very own expense. Customary Vary Lightning house owners must pony up $1,310 to purchase this charger if they need it.

As a reference level Rivian charges each its residence and moveable chargers to -22 F, and GMC stated the obtainable Hummer EV residence wall charger can be rated to -22 F. The usual moveable charger that comes with the Hummer EV is rated to -40 F, although Tim Esterdahl of Pickup Truck + SUV Speak froze it in a similar situation as me (although at 240V) when it was (+)2 F outdoors.

I used to be unable to get any definitive gauge of how the chilly was affecting the Lightning at an Electrify America fast-charging station. One 350-kw charger was offline, one refused to reply or acknowledge the truck, and the road of 150-kw chargers all displayed a message (which was displayed two weeks prior when charging an Audi This autumn E-Tron) stating the utmost energy of the chargers had been briefly decreased with the intention to enhance service and carry out an replace. The FordPass Plug and Cost characteristic labored as billed although.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

Does chilly cut back EVs’ energy output?

Beginning up a gas-powered truck after sitting outdoors in sub-zero temperatures is extraordinarily arduous on the engine. The oil is like sludge; the starter strains from a torpid 12-volt battery; the engine finally fires, after which runs wealthy because it involves life. And it could be downright irresponsible to faucet into peak energy within the first couple of minutes after beginning chilly in climate like this.

Regardless of how chilly, the Lightning, and different EVs, have none of that. Virtually.

In contrast to each different electrical automotive the Lightning shows obtainable energy output on the left aspect of the gauge cluster—and that gauge indicated energy output was decreased almost the complete week I spent with it. The explanation? The battery pack was too chilly more often than not to ship full energy to the electrical motors.

For the reason that F-150 Lightning is a truck, and duties like towing rely on with the ability to faucet into full energy, Ford is useful in together with this gauge, and I noticed energy pulled again to as little as 61% of full, although it largely averaged between 68% and 78% until I warmed the pack absolutely by hooking to quick chargers.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

All through the week the battery temperature gauge indicated when the pack was chilly, however solely as soon as did I get the pack so chilly the gauge turned orange; it felt like an achievement.

Ford verified that battery temperature and state of cost each play a consider energy output. In the course of summer season with a heat pack and the battery at 13% energy output can be restricted as effectively, in keeping with McRoy. The battery temperature bars that house owners see within the higher left of the digital gauge cluster is a direct measurement by way of a sensor relatively than an inferred studying by way of cell monitoring.

Whereas Customary Vary Lightnings make do with simply 452 hp and 580 lb-ft of torque, my Prolonged Vary Lightning with the bigger 131-kwh battery pack had 580 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque. With the large battery Ford stated the Lightning rips from 0 to 60 mph in lower than 4.0 seconds. Even with solely 60% energy output, or 75%, the Lightning isn’t sluggish. Except a driver is doing stoplight sprints, the gauge is the one purpose they’d remember that energy output is being restricted.

The Rivian R1T will merely present a snowflake image within the gauge cluster ought to the powertrain be too chilly to supply full energy, and the GMC Hummer EV doesn’t show something or make the driving force conscious that energy output is restricted. Different EVs don’t both outdoors of some displaying a logo like Rivian.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

The Lightning rode on Basic Grabber HTS all-season rubber. Within the chilly these tires are usually not nice. On dry, chilly pavement all 4 tires can chirp from a begin. On slick, snow-covered pavement they slip and slide rapidly. An actual set of winter tires—and a Snow or Slippery Circumstances drive mode, which different Fords just like the F-150s have—would do wonders for the Lightning (as they do for any automobile) within the chilly.

By way of an over-the-air replace Rivian added a Snow Mode to its R1T and R1S that does recalibrate these techniques, and Ford can be clever to observe right here.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

Similar to different EVs within the chilly

Almost every part laid out above isn’t distinctive to Ford’s electrical pickup truck. A variety of it could possibly be a few Mustang Mach-E, a Tesla, a Lucid, or a Hyundai Ioniq 5.

The place issues are completely different is the actual fact the Lightning is a pickup truck that’s marketed to do truck issues.

As we speak, massive electrical pickups are usually not ultimate for towing lengthy distances or taking street journeys in chilly climate. Each of those details say extra about at the moment’s battery expertise and infrastructure than they do in regards to the F-150 Lightning.

Two key variations assist put this all in perspective. The primary is the truth that a gallon of gasoline is by quantity 13 times more energy dense than the perfect lithium-ion batteries at the moment. Nonetheless, electric cars are far more efficient at utilizing the vitality they do have. Essentially the most environment friendly gasoline engine in manufacturing is at about 40% whereas electrical motors function close to 90% effectivity.

The overarching query for truck consumers: Do you actually want to have the ability to drive 300 or 400 miles at any time with a second’s discover? A recent study confirmed F-150 house owners steadily use their vans to run errands 87% of the time and solely steadily tow 7% of the time. Appears for a big swath of shoppers shopping for pickup vans, should you’re trustworthy with your self, the F-150 Lightning will likely be greater than satisfactory for Starbucks runs, soccer follow, and hitting up Residence Depot, if there’s time.