For a while, I was the fastest farmer in Washington County. Nothing can touch me. The children in Tacomas who were raised and supplied? Forget it. Guys in tuned Rams and Silverados diesel cars? Now. I am that man.
This green light and lane passing rule is not uncommon. Our regular farm truck is a 2022 F-150 crew cab with Ford’s smooth but not muscular 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6. But recently, I got the chance to swap internal combustion for battery-electric power, in the form of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Extended Range. It’s a Lariat, like my truck. Unlike my F-150, this one offers 580 horsepower, 775 pound-feet of torque, and a 4.0-second 60-mph time.
But can it work as a farm truck? That’s the question I want answered because I’d love to have a work truck that can cosplay as a Porsche 911 Turbo S when it’s time to pass a wimp on the back roads. In fact, the Lightning is 0.2 seconds faster than the Turbo S from 50 mph to 70 mph. It will earn some respect in the feed store.
However, the feed store is far from home. Around here, everything is there. Our 200 acre ranch is two miles up a dirt road, about 20 minutes outside of Montpelier (the smallest state capital in America!) so everything is at least 15 miles away. Combine those geographic facts with the business of farming (picking feed; driving beef cattle and hogs to the slaughterhouse or to another farm; towing lawnmowers, woodpickers, and various trailers), and we’re traveling 40,000 miles a year. Even the Ford dealership is 25 miles away.
I feel terrible about the burning of this incredible non-renewable resource and the impact it has on the environment, not to mention the impact it has on our strained agricultural bottom line. So I can’t wait to get Lightning out to the farm and get it running.
On my first day with the truck, it was raining heavily, but the animals needed food. Switch to Tractor Supply. I couldn’t put five 50 pound sacks in an open bed because the rain would wet the bags and spoil the feed. Frunk to rescue: The Lightning’s spacious front trunk caters for up to 14 cubic feet of cargo capacity where my truck stores its V-6. The feed bag was stored securely, I couldn’t fit anything in there, but I was still well under the 400 pound weight limit.
I did get some views on loading. The sight of someone placing a feed bag in front of the pickup raised a few eyebrows, and one man smirked as if to say, “You idiot. You will damage your engine.
As part of modifications Ford made to prepare the F-150 for EV duties, the Lightning gained independent rear suspension (IRS), making it the only F-150 with that arrangement. The extra weight of the battery and IRS combine to create an embedded, smooth ride that’s almost as enjoyable as the launch of a tire bark. I think our F-150 is good, but the Lighting is noticeably better.
Because it has IRS, the Lightning doesn’t have the differential of a solid axle hanging low behind, so I expect it to have better ground clearance than our ICE version and be better able to handle the deep ruts our tractors put in. our farm way. Not like that. There are still powertrain components, very protected by skid plates, riding low at the rear. In fact, our F-150 has 9.4 inches of clearance compared to the Lightning’s 8.4 inches.
Does not matter. After a few days with Lightning, I knew I wanted it. However, there are still some critical issues: charging, range on appeal, and price.
Charging Is The First Big Problem
Charging at home without a Level 2 charging station (ideally, the Ford 80-amp Charging Station Pro) is unsustainable. During my time with the truck, I could only use a regular power outlet, so when I plugged in the Lightning on Friday, the console’s 15.5-inch touchscreen informed me that the truck would be fully charged the following Tuesday. Whereas an 80 amp charger can complete the task in eight hours. I can easily adapt to it. The Charge Station Pro also unlocks Lightning’s potential as a back-up generator, even if it does require a lot more hardware for your home. But even in person, the Lightning Lariat’s 9.6-kW Onboard Lightning Pro Power generator and its 10 120-volt outlets (plus one 240 amp) opens up a wealth of possibilities for portable, advantageous power on any farm.
But since I’m stuck with trickle charging at home, I’m forced to stick my neck out at a local Level 3 pay-per-use charger in Montpelier. Vermont is a state known for being eco-friendly, but I only found two Level 3 chargers in its capital. Each is limited to one hour of charge time, which provides about 75 percent of the total charge—or about 240 miles of range—with the Lightning’s optional 320 mile long range battery. According to local etiquette, you’re forced to sit in your vehicle while it’s charging, or you get a nasty record of getting stuck under the wipers on your way back. (Ask me how I know.) There’s always someone else waiting to use the charger, and many times I’m asked how far I’ll be going, implying that if I’m only going a short distance, their charging needs trump mine. I suspect the Lightning probably needs a few years of dents and scratches as well as mud that hasn’t been washed in a long time to convey that “you better not bother me” vibe.
Troubled Crane Reach
My charging woes would be solved if I bought a Lightning, considering that the long range includes an 80 amp charger. But a second major problem is endemic to any vehicle that regularly hooks up heavy trailers: greatly reduced reach when towing. Depending on the load, this is generally estimated as a 50 percent reduction. Therefore, in theory, a fully charged Lightning should have a range of about 160 miles when towed. We withdraw a lot of agricultural goods.
One of our regular destinations is a slaughterhouse 61 miles away in the Northeastern Kingdom of Vermont, right near the Quebec border. I had a slaughter date during my time with the Lightning, so I hitched up our 2,350 pound stock trailer and loaded two hogs and a lamb into the trailer, totaling about 3,050 pounds. We started with 92 percent load, so even with the reduced range of 50 percent, I should be able to drive around and still have 10.5 miles left.
Despite the concerns about range, I really liked how the Lightning didn’t seem to notice I had a trailer attached. Our F-150 was lagging behind on fuel when towing, and I needed to adjust my driving style and expectations. The Lightning and its instant 775 pound-feet of torque don’t seem to register any weight at all. And when I got to the slaughterhouse, I had 54 percent battery charge remaining, enough for 74 miles. Right on target.
I had some errands to run on my way home, so 25 miles from home I had 27 miles left. I might succeed, I thought, but if I fail, I’m looking at an expensive crane and likely hours of waiting in the cold for a tow truck. Fortunately, there was one charger on the way home, at the Ford dealership, and the parking lot was empty so I could pull the charger without removing the trailer. I’ve never seen a pull-through EV charger, but this is the next best thing. Hopefully, as a network of high-speed chargers is built (the government is funding 500,000 new chargers in 35 states), there will be plenty of hot spots for trucks with trailers — and the inevitable big EVs, like Mercedes’ upcoming eSprinter.
I hope that by the time I can actually order an Illumination and build it and ship it, Ford and the world’s EV engineers may have improved the battery or its efficiency, so range while towing isn’t such a big deal anymore.
The Price of That Sticker
However, there will still be another big problem. Farming is barely profitable, and my sample Lightning has an MSRP of $89,214, about $30,000 more than our gas version. And the price of Lightning continues to rise. That’s a lot of meat. In our case, literally.
It’s fun to be the fastest farmer in Washington County. But I’d rather not be the most broke either.
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