2022 Ford F-150 Lightning First Drive Review: A Monumental Electric Pickup Truck

Pickup trucks were the longest holdout in the transition to electric vehicles, and for good reason. Their use cases are different, more diverse, and more challenging than anything a car or SUV deals with. They need to tow and haul and off-road as well as they commute, and those all take radically different skill sets. They’re also the bestselling vehicles in America and huge profit and loyalty centers for their makers. Ford absolutely had to get its first-ever electric truck right, and with the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning, it damn well did.

No joke: The Lightning is one of the most important pickup trucks—vehicles, really—in history. Forget early adopters, environmentalists, and technophiles. This truck has to convince construction workers, farmers, ranchers, surveyors, and everyday truck fans that electric pickups aren’t just viable but desirable. That an EV truck not only can do the work but also do it better. It does that.

To get to brass tacks, the Lightning is the best-driving, best-riding, and best-handling F-150 you can buy. The only reasons not to buy one over a gas- or diesel-powered F-150 are that you have nowhere to charge at home, you actually tow hundreds of miles at a time on a regular basis, or you simply don’t like—or won’t let yourself like—electric vehicles. All other reasons are invalid.

Power on Power

You certainly can’t complain about the power. Even the base truck with the small battery makes 452 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful F-150 short of the big-battery model, and it cooks. Ford estimates a mid-five-second sprint to 60 mph, and that feels conservative behind the wheel. It’s already as quick as the quickest combustion-powered F-150, and there’s no waiting on engines to rev, turbos to spool, or gears to be swapped. You put your foot down at any time, and it leaps forward.

And that 580-hp, big-battery bruiser? Ford says mid-fours to 60, but it also feels quicker than its estimate. Drop the hammer, and it’ll even torque-steer ever so slightly, especially if you have weight in the bed or on the hitch. In fact, put enough weight in the back—like the 1,500 pounds of plywood we hauled, 67 percent of maximum payload—and it’ll chirp the front tires any time you stand on the accelerator.

Other than that, towing and hauling are nonevents. Instantaneous maximum torque means the truck is ready to move any amount of weight immediately; from a stop or from a roll, it doesn’t matter. We dragged 9,500 pounds of winemaking equipment (500 pounds shy of the truck’s maximum) around Texas Hill Country to be sure, and the Lightning barely noticed the weight. Yes, hitching a trailer basically cuts your range in half, but let’s talk about that. For one, the Lightning goes between 230 and 320 miles on a charge depending on battery size, so that’s 115 to 160 miles towing, which is still two to three hours of driving. Second, our experience and Ford’s instrumented testing shows towing with a combustion-powered truck cuts your range in half, too, so it’s not a question of range but of charging. Good news is, the truck uses every piece of data it can, from weather to topography to the optional onboard scales, to determine your instantaneous range.

What About Charging?

That’s one of the Lightning’s few obvious weak points. Its maximum charging rate of 150 kW isn’t as quick as that of the Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV—the only other electric trucks on sale right now—which already exceed 200 kW or even 300 kW in some cases. Ford engineers counter they’ve spent a lot of time working on the charging curve to keep charging speed up as long as possible rather than peaking and falling off. As evidence, they point to the truck’s ability to charge at higher speed all the way to 90 percent before tapering, whereas most EVs start to taper after 80 percent. They refuse to say anything about potential software updates that could increase the charging rate in the future.

The real towing issue is the current availability of public fast-charging stations, in particular the complete lack of pull-through stations where you can charge without dropping your trailer. That’s an infrastructure problem that’s being addressed by both private companies and government action, but the growing pains will continue until all the planned chargers are actually built.

Executed Very Nearly to Perfection

It’s worth noting how well Ford did with what it had, though. The Lightning is bigger than the Rivian R1T but weighs less and goes just as far on a comparable battery pack. Moreover, Ford made minimal aerodynamic changes to the F-150 body, opting to keep the truck as familiar-looking and as functional as possible. The 5.5-foot bed is functionally the same as the one available on other F-150 SuperCrews and accepts all the same aftermarket accessories. The frunk (front trunk) storage area is massive and easy to load, and the cheap-looking chunk of shiny gray plastic that stands in for a grille is a small price to pay for that functionality. Same for the milk-glass light bar you can never be sure is actually on during the day.

Getting back to practicalities, thanks to its fully independent suspension, near ideal weight balance, and low center of gravity all inherent to it being an EV, the Lightning is without question the best-riding and -handling F-150 you can buy. We wouldn’t go as far as to call the Lightning sporty, but its steering is sharper and its composure vastly superior to a combustion-powered F-Series truck’s.

Not that you can’t have fun with the Lightning. If you want to turn off traction and stability control and go spin a few donuts, go for it. The computer will let you get good and sideways, though it will step in if it thinks the truck is in danger of rolling over, just like in a combustion-powered model.

The ride is a bit more complicated. On most surfaces, the Lightning rides great. It’s especially apparent off-road, where losing the heavy live rear axle has done wonders for comfort. The truck feels calmer and more confident. The drawback is in the damping. Hit a big dip or some long, rolling bumps, and the truck gets all light and floaty on the rebound. Hit a section of highway with a lot of expansion joints, and it feels like the truck never settles completely. We’d hoped putting weight in the bed or on the hitch would provide a remedy, but it only took the edge off. Ford engineers considered air springs and adaptive dampers like the competition uses but decided against them based on customer feedback and cost targets.

As well as it rides off-road, the Lightning clearly isn’t meant to be an electric Raptor. With 8.9 inches of ground clearance, it’s the equivalent of a regular 4×4 F-150 with an FX4 off-road package at best. That big, low-hanging battery just doesn’t do any favors for the breakover angle. That said, the fine throttle control provided by the electric motors, particularly in off-road mode, lets you maximize your traction at all times. It also allows for a bit of pedal overlap, crucial for smooth crawling. The manually lockable rear differential and brake-based torque vectoring will get you out of most situations you can get a truck with this clearance and these optional mild all-terrain tires into.

Battery Armor

Don’t worry too much about the battery, either. It’s protected by a six-piece skidplate that runs under nearly the entire truck. It’s also sealed, giving the truck a 24-inch wading depth. Should you manage to damage the battery or wear it out somewhere down the line, it can be dropped from the bottom of the truck by loosening just eight bolts.

How far the battery will take you off-road and anywhere else is, of course, a function of speed, terrain, exterior temperature, the amount of weight you’re carrying, driving style, and whether you’re using features like the one-pedal driving mode. We’re huge fans of one-pedal driving, where lifting off the accelerator activates significant regenerative braking. We wouldn’t mind if the Lightning’s regenerative braking were even a little more aggressive. Should you prefer the brake pedal, the feel and response are neither good nor bad. It’s rather numb, but it bites immediately and has no issue stopping this 6,200- to 6,600-pound truck.

Nifty Tricks Like Home Power

Now that we’ve come back around to charging, we need to discuss Ford’s Pro Power Onboard and Charge Station Pro features, because they’re absolutely clutch. The first you’re familiar with because it comes on other F-150s, but its functionality bears repeating. A 9.6-kW power system with four 120-volt outlets and a 30-amp, 240-volt outlet in the bed (plus four more 120-volt plugs in the frunk and two in the cab) is a game changer. The sheer number of appliances, power tools, and devices (not to mention other EVs) you can run and/or charge via the truck rather than a portable generator is a selling point all by itself. This truck is a rolling job site.

And Charge Station Pro, a Level 2 charger you can install at your home or office, is next level. It runs at 80 amps (most are a much slower 30 to 50 amps), and it’s connected to the internet so it can keep track of your time-of-use electricity rates and charge the truck when it’ll cost you the least. Paired with an inverter from solar power installer Sunrun (which will also sell you home backup batteries and solar panels), Charge Station Pro can also reverse the flow of electricity, using the charge stored in the Lightning to power your entire home during a blackout for up to three days running flat out or up to 11 days while metering power output. (You can set a minimum battery level for the truck to retain some driving range.) On a normal day, the setup can float power between the truck and your house, using the truck’s battery to supplement your home when grid electricity is expensive and then to charge when it’s cheap. The charger and inverter are just $3,895, and if you buy the big battery, Ford throws in the charger for free.

That’s just your house. Business owners can get a whole commercial setup quoted by Ford Pro, which takes into account fleet size, operating radius, and operating hours. This way, the trucks can be fully charged with their batteries and interiors heated or cooled as needed any time a shift starts to maximize range and uptime. Ford estimates operating costs for a Lightning Pro are 20 percent lower than a combustion-powered F-150, all things considered.

A Great Deal, Except …

Great a deal as that all is, the actual pricing of the truck is more of a mixed bag. At just under $42,000 before government incentives, the Lightning Pro work truck is the deal of the century. (Read our first drive review of the Lightning Pro here.) All this power and capability and all these features at that price, especially when the average transaction price of a new vehicle is creeping toward $50,000, is an absolute bargain. Even the XLT, the next step up at just short of $55,000, is a great buy. It’s after that the proposition gets shakier.

The Lariat and Platinum models add more high-tech features, but it becomes a case of diminishing returns. The Lightning’s interior cleans up well at higher prices, but only to a point. We’re familiar with $93,000 interiors, as is Ford in its Lincoln division. The interior of the Lightning Platinum is not a nearly six-figure interior. The materials quality just isn’t there, and a touchscreen out of a $44,000 Mustang Mach-E isn’t enough to make up for it. Ram’s been making nicer interiors for years, and it doesn’t charge anywhere close to that kind of money for its trucks. Or, for a more direct comparison, there’s the Rivian R1T, which has an actual $90,000 interior and rides and drives even better than the Lightning.

The good news is Ford stands behind the Lightning. The EV-specific parts are covered by an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty, three years and 20,000 miles longer than the powertrain warranty on its combustion-powered F-150s. Ford engineers also tell us the Lightning went through all the same durability torture testing as any other F-150; in some cases, the testing was more severe just to make sure no one could say this is a lesser vehicle.

Given the undying popularity of trucks in America, it’s hard to understate how important it was for a segment leader like Ford to absolutely nail the electric pickup. If the Lightning were terrible, it could have set the industry back years—or worse. Instead, Ford has risen to the occasion and built a great pickup truck that also happens to be a great EV, and just to be sure, it engineered clever charging functionalities, too. The Lightning is the truck we needed, right when we needed it.

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