2022 Ford F-150 Lightning tackles intense towing tests

Ford still plans to get the 2022 F-150 Lightning electric pickup into the first customer hands sometime in the next three months. The automaker’s hope is that customers will relate to their pickup as just another F-150 that just happens to be electric. To give everyone the best chance of that happening, Ford has put the F-150 Lightning through the same kinds of extreme tests the F-150 has to pass, including towing. Development engineers ran the battery-electric pickup up a steep stretch of highway I-70 in Colorado leading to the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels. TFLTruck calls the westbound grade the “Ike Gauntlet,” running 8 miles up to 11,158 feet above sea level at a 7% grade, an exception to the 6% maximum grade most interstate highways are limited to.  

The Ford team did this in a Lightning with the extended-range battery pack and the Max Towing Package good for yoking 10,000 pounds to the hitch. Only the XLT and Lariat can be equipped thusly, both getting an EPA-rated range of 320 miles without a trailer. The test trailer was a dual-axle 24-footer with a square face of 60 square feet to maximize wind resistance, taken on an 80-mile ride from Boulder, Colorado to Frisco with two inches of snow on the ground and temperatures dipping to two degrees Fahrenheit. 

Engineers ran the Lightning through a similar trial around Davis Dam in Arizona. This involved running a slightly less taxing 5% grade, rising 3,000 feet in 11.4 miles, but in temperatures that got up to 118 degrees on the day. 

Ford hasn’t given us the info we really want yet, which is the effect on range after those uphill runs. TFLTruck tested a Rivian R1T pulling an 8,100-pound trailer on a similar route over its Ike Gauntlet. As soon as TFL hooked up the trailer, the Rivian’s range meter dropped from 271 miles to 135 miles on a full battery. Upon reaching the tunnel after a little more than 70 miles of highway driving, the R1T showed it had used up 114 miles of range, with 21 miles remaining.   

TFL didn’t touch on this aspect of towing in its video, but a Ford engineer told the Detroit Free Press, “We have a tow/haul drive mode similar to (internal combustion) trucks. You hit the drive mode, and the truck holds its speed coming down the grade. There’s nothing screaming at you. It gets to the point where you think the unit is slowing down coming down a steep grade. It’s so effective in maintaining your speed to ensure you are in control of the vehicle.”

Another beneficial aspect of development related to the Detroit Free Press is the agility of the engineering team. Remember, Ford is revamping its vehicle engineering units to be smaller and more flexible, with products like the GT, Bronco and Maverick demonstrating the benefits. Another F-150 team member said, “When we’ve needed to react to things we’ve learned, the team has been, from my particular perspective, mind-bogglingly nimble for a company of our size. This team doesn’t feel like a big company. I’ve seen things implemented and changed faster than you can fathom” compared to the usual OEM processes.

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