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Ford F-150 Lighting: everybody is going to demand one!

I took a summer trip last week, across a part of Wyoming and almost all of South Dakota—widthwise.  It was about 500 miles—seven hours—and much of it was interstate highway.  In WY and SD, on the interstates, the speed limit is–mostly–80 MPH, which helps a great deal and is yet another glorious feature of Normal America.

This time of year is tourist season, a substantial part of the economy of Wyoming and South Dakota, so the highways were clogged with pickups pulling enormous camping trailers, enormous motor homes usually pulling an SUV, SUVs full of people with luggage carriers on the top pulling trailers of various types, and people in all manner of vehicles who obviously consider 80 MPH synonymous with certain death.  As a result, I was only able to maintain 80 MPH for a few miles at a stretch before having to slow down 20 MPH or more to get in line behind slow people passing even slower people.  Sigh.

I was driving my lovely 2016 Ford F150, 4WD pickup truck–a ubiquitous and very useful type of vehicle in Flyover Country–and because I was helping move my nephew to a new job, pulling a U-Haul motorcycle trailer.  The cab was full of people, the bed was full of stuff, and the trailer was full of a motorcycle and other stuff.  Even so, the 325 HP, twin turbo V6 easily maintained 80 MPH.  Of course, I would never think of going a single MPH faster.  That would be wrong.

And therein lie the essential elements of this article.  With only two aboard, I can manage as much as 22 MPG—sometimes a bit more—on the highway, which isn’t bad at all for a full sized 4WD pickup.  They’re far lighter—aluminum body—and more aerodynamic than pickups of even a decade ago, but that’s still a lot of mass and frontal area.  Loaded with people and the stuff of daily life as the truck was, I experienced about a 30% reduction in mileage, and a bit less than that on the way back because of ridiculously strong head and head/side winds, which is par for the course in WY and SD.

Most notable was the insanely high price of fuel, ranging from 288.9 to 302.9.  The stations I patronized weren’t really gouging either. (some neighborhood gas stations were only about 6-8 cents cheaper).  This is, since Joe Biden took office, an increase of about a dollar per gallon—in only about five months!  Of course, he took steps to end America’s systemically racist, white supremacist, domestic terrorist/insurrectionist energy independence on his very first day in office.  Obviously, we can’t have that kind of national security/racial identity threat.  In real terms, nearly filling the tank was about $60.00.  I can’t afford much of that; neither can most Americans.

Another interesting and pleasant feature of Wyoming and South Dakota, as well as many heartland states, is the distance between towns and cities.  In North Texas, where Mrs. Manor and I lived for two decades, the end of the city limits of one town is the beginning of the city limits of the next.  Not so in much of America, where one can drive 70 miles or more between towns.  It’s all rolling prairie or farm/ranch land, which is a good reminder where things like food come from.  Plastic-wrapped hamburger doesn’t grow in Central Park.

Gas stations were full of people from all over America, and race, gender and politics had no apparent effect on gas pump sticker shock.  When the pumps clicked off, I saw—and heard—reactions ranging from a Lurch-like muttering and solemn shaking of the head, to outright profanity.  I even heard Joe Biden’s name vehemently taken in vain!  More than once!  Americans are not amused, and as gas prices continue to rise to $4.00 per gallon and beyond, Democrats/Socialists/Communists, if there is any justice left in this divided land, are going to pay at the polls in 2022 and 2024.  That is, if they’re not able to cheat at their new, unprecedented levels.

With this as background, let us once again visit the wonderful world of electric vehicles, which as their proponents tell us—the idiots just won’t shut up—is the future, the very near future.  We begin with a quick note from Reuters.  Note, please, this was dated 10-22-20:

Joe Biden’s campaign has privately told U.S. miners it would support boosting domestic production of metals used to make electric vehicles, solar panels and other products crucial to his climate plan, according to three sources familiar with the matter, in a boon for the mining industry.

How about that!  Before he was cheated into office, he was all for American miners, but only to the degree they could help him make his EV delusions come true.  Now let’s visit Reuters again, this time on 05-25-21, well into the Biden/Harris/Whoever Administration–Joe Biden, Temporary President.

U.S. President Joe Biden will rely on ally countries to supply the bulk of the metals needed to build electric vehicles and focus on processing them domestically into battery parts, part of a strategy designed to placate environmentalists, two administration officials with direct knowledge told Reuters.

The plans will be a blow to U.S. miners who had hoped Biden would rely primarily on domestically sourced metals, as his campaign had signaled last autumn, to help fulfill his ambitions for a less carbon-intensive economy.

How about that!  Obviously, Joe learned from his best buddy Barack: every political promise has an expiration date, though with Joe, a bit quicker than with Barack.  Tough luck miners and America!  You f***ed up; you trusted Joe!  He’s still going all in for “fighting climate change,” he’s just all in with enriching our foreign adversaries and enemies instead of Americans.  I guess that’s what “building back better” means.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a POTUS that actually worked in America’s interests?

According to Electrek.co, Ford plans to have 40% of its offerings all electric by 2030.  Take the link if you want to see what fairy dust and unicorn fart EV cheerleading looks like.  But to continue the point of this article, let’s see how Ford’s soon to be electric F-150 compares with my pedestrian, gas-powered F-150.  Fox News reports:

The F-150 Lightning will come standard with a 230-mile range rating and be offered in an extended range version that can go 300 miles between charges and gets the maximum 10,000-pound rating, but without anything attached to the back of it.

Uh-huh.  That “extended range version” has a much bigger and heavier battery pack.  Oh, did I mention it costs lots of thousands more?

Ford hasn’t yet said how towing or hauling the F-150 Lightning’s maximum 2,000 payload will affect range, but energy is energy and internal combustion engine vehicles offer an idea.

Hmmm.  I wonder why Ford hasn’t mentioned that as yet?  Surely they’ve tried puling trailers and took measurements?  Remember I lost about 30% of my mileage towing a loaded trailer with a fully loaded vehicle and three passengers.

The weight and shape of whatever is being towed can make a dramatic difference on fuel economy, not to mention the road being driven on. Just picture the difference between a cabin cruiser getting hauled to a mountain lake compared to an Airstream trailer cruising through Kansas.

Ah!  Honesty!  Where motor vehicles are concerned, range is a function of many factors. There are, however, three main ways to get better range in fueled vehicles: 1) make them lighter; 2) make them more aerodynamic; 3) make the engines, through engineering and computer controls, more efficient.  The first two factors apply to EVs.  For the third, making batteries more efficient is the trick, but physics keeps getting in the way.  It seems batteries can only be so powerful, last so long, and store so much energy.  But any vehicle, fueled or juiced, is affected by terrain and altitude.  Traversing the rolling hills of WY or SD is going to take a toll on range, far more than traversing Kansas.

Typically, a truck sees at least a 30% drop in fuel economy when pulling 10,000 pounds, though it can be more than 50% in some situations, according to tests by PickupTrucks.com.

In fact, startup electric truck maker Rivian, in which Ford holds a $500 million stake, says that its R1T pickup will see a 50% drop in efficiency when towing a trailer at its maximum 11,000-pound rating.

That means F-150 Lightning owners can likely expect to make it 150 to 210 miles between charges with the extended battery.

Remember that’s the very heavy and expensive extended battery version.  The normal version is going to get 115 miles of range under those conditions.  And, of course, even that’s nonsense.  That kind of calculation is a best case, ideal condition sort of scenario.  The actual range for any version is going to be less, probably much less.  Using frivolous accessories like lights, air conditioning/heating, windshield wipers and anything else that requires electricity is going to also dramatically reduce range. Want to charge your cell phone?  Wave goodbye to five miles of range. The extra weight and drag of a 4WD version is also going to hammer range.

This is assuming, of course, that they started with a full battery. The F-150 Lightning is capable of being recharged at a public fast charging station from 15% to 80% full in 41 minutes, but the process slows down for the last 20% to protect the cells from overheating, so drivers may not want to wait around to top it all the way off during a road trip.

Ah!  More honesty—sort of.  On our trip, we stopped to refuel in Wall, SD and Chamberlain, SD.  In each city, there was a bank of seven or so proprietary Tesla chargers.  At each place, only a single Tesla vehicle was charging.  It took me about 10 minutes to refuel.  The Teslas were there before we arrived, and still there when we left.  That 41 minute figure is also optimistic.  In reality, if there is a charger available when and where one needs it, two hours and more is a far more realistic expectation, and that’s just to get an 80% charge, and only if the charging device is a super duper fast charger, or considering our F-150 Lightning towing a trailer, maybe just enough range to get to the next charging station—if one exists. Keep in mind the Tesla banks were on the major east/west route through SD.  It’s highly unlikely there are any charging stations on anything other than that kind of road in most of America.

But what about that brave, new EV future where there are charging stations everywhere?  Imagine having to wait in line for hours to get to a charger only to have to wait hours to charge.  And where will one repose in the heat of summer or cold of winter while waiting for an 80% charge?  Running the heater or A/C will dramatically lengthen charging times.  Oh yes: cold greatly reduces range and lengthens charging time too, and it gets kind of chilly in much of the US during about half of the year.

Also keep in mind that while electric motors have great acceleration and torque characteristics, they come at a very high cost in power.  Getting anything close to the optimistic projected range figures EV cheerleaders spout is also going to require very modest and gradual acceleration.  Let’s not even talk about the realities of going four wheeling in the back of beyond with an EV truck.  In 4WD, a driver is going to be able to watch an EV “charge remaining” meter dwindle at warp speed.  The same will be true for people who use pickups for actual work, hauling things and traversing non-ideal terrain.

Electrek.co assures us the future is nothing but EVs because consumers are going to demand them.  Riiight.  Not out here in Normal America, speed.

Considering the reality of an electric F-150 hauling a trailer as I did, I’d need at least four charging stops to cover 500 miles.  Figure, just to be ridiculously fair, only two hours for a full charge—because 80% wouldn’t be enough range—and a seven-hour one-way trip suddenly becomes 15 hours, for most people, a two-day affair.  Sorry, but normal Americans don’t have the time or money to put up with that sort of nonsense, so they’re certainly not going to be clamoring for vehicles that reduce their productivity, efficiency and profitability by more than 100%.

Oh, and EVs cost considerably—as in many thousands—more than conventional vehicles.  Yup.  We’re all going to demand that future.