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

This article is primarily about the Ford F-150 Lightning, the F-150-based pickup truck upon which Ford is investing its EV future.  As the proud owner of a 2016 F-150, gas-powered four wheel drive truck, I do have some practical experience with the model.  Mrs. Manor and I were Chrysler/Dodge devotees until the American automobile industry, except Ford, sold out to Barack Obama.  We were coincidentally in the market for a new vehicle at the time and have been happily driving Fords since.  I will, leading up to what’s up with Ford, add some updates on other issues I’ve previously addressed, beginning with the Chevy Bolt: 

Chevy Bolt
credit: Mark Matousek/BI

With the Chevrolet Bolt gradually losing its competitive edge as more all-electric vehicles take the field, and the car on the hook for a high-profile recall relating to battery fires, General Motors opted to reduce its price by six grand this year in a bid to make the 2023 model year more appetizing to consumers. Prior to the Biden administration pushing to renew EV tax credits as part of the ‘Inflation Reduction Act of 2022’ (basically a tweaked version of Build Back Better), GM had little hope of its vehicles benefiting from continued government incentives that it had already exceeded its sales quota for and needed a remedy. However the sudden price cut didn’t sit well with customers who had just purchased a Bolt EV (or EUV) at the earlier price point, so the automaker attempted to cut them a semi-Faustian bargain.

Introduced in July, the assumption was that GM would offer simple cash rebates to last year’s customers as a way to say it was sorry. But Bolt owners have started leaking to the press that the deal also includes a contract where beneficiaries would have to waive their right to sue General Motors (or any other involved company) in the event that the Bolt catches fire.

Obviously, as with the ill-fated, but much hyped Chevy Volt, cutting the MSRP $6000 means Chevy is actually losing money on every Bolt they make, probably a great deal of money.  As for the wonders of the IRA, in order to “save money,” Americans are going to have to spend around $70,000 for an EV in order to get an eventual tax rebate, which probably won’t apply unless the EV was built with union labor.  What a deal!  So what does this “deal” GM is offering do for unlucky Bolt buyers?

A very optimistic fellow…

According to Jalopnik, those attempting to take advantage of the offer found themselves confronting a step in the process where they had to submit their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and were then required to agree to ‘forever waive and release all claims, damages, or causes of action’ before continuing. So, if the car experiences a bout of thermal runaway and burns down your garage or some other catastrophic issue takes place, GM is legally protected.

Who wouldn’t want to rush right out and buy seven Bolts, one for each day of the week, with that kind of deal?  Perhaps buy an extra garage or two as well, you know, just in case? You may also wish to visit this Real Clear Investigations article on how the Federal Government is wrestling with the issue of replacing gas taxes when we “transition” to green all-electric vehicles.

The bottom line, you’re going to have a hell of a lot less privacy, far more government surveillance of everything you do, and you’re going to be paying more, much, much more.  Let’s go Brandon!

At The Pipeline.com, Steven F. Hayward, explains the reality of the green EV transformation.  An excerpt:

During recent power crunches, which are threatening to become endemic in the U.S. under the current policies of the Biden apparatchiks, grid operators have asked EV owners not to charge their vehicles in the evening, when power demand is highest and the time of day when most working people will want to charge their cars.

Right now, electric vehicles make up about 1 percent of America’s car fleet. If they pose challenges for the electric grid already, what will the challenges look like if the EV fleet reaches 50 percent of the auto fleet as Biden proposes? No wonder Elon Musk says we’ll need to expand electric power generation by 30 percent or more to meet the demand of a larger EV fleet on the road. And yet it is supremely uncouth to point out that electrons for EV batteries are generated mostly from fossil fuels right now, and thus EVs may not deliver a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when a proper life-cycle analysis is done.

Take the link for a dose of real reality, but I’ll add only this this:

Volvo C40. For some reason, Volvo only depicts it from a distance, or with an extreme closeup of some body panel…

Thus it is eye-popping when Volvo admits that the carbon footprint for the manufacturing of its C40 Recharge electric car is 70 percent higher than its comparable internal combustion version of the car (the XC40). But not to worry, says Volvo: you’ll make up the higher manufacturing emissions when you drive the emission-free EV far enough.

How far? Kudos to Volvo for calculating that: at the world’s average electricity sourcing today, a C40 driver would need to drive his car 68,000 miles to reach a break-even carbon footprint with a gasoline-powered model. The average American drives about 14,000 miles a year, and thus would need to drive his Volvo EV almost five years before reaching a lower carbon footprint. What if we had a grid that was 100 percent wind- or solar-powered? Volvo calculates that an EV driver would still need to drive 30,000 miles before reaching a carbon-footprint breakeven point with a gasoline car.

Oh, so EVs really aren’t carbon neutral and better for the environment after all?  But to compensate, they’re far, far better for China’s economy and military.  But before we get to the Lightning, let’s see how Ford’s planned green transition is working out:

Ford Motor Company is the latest automaker to announce a price hike for its electric vehicle (EV) due to ‘significant material cost increases and other factors.’ 

Yeah, like China owning most of the minerals and processing capacity.

The Detroit automaker adjusted the MSRP on the F-150 Lightning for the first time since it was revealed in the spring of 2021. Since then, industrial metal prices for batteries, including nickel, manganese, cobalt, and lithium, have jumped, forcing the automaker to raise the new EV truck prices by up to $7,000, depending on the model.

Actually, Ford is now saying the price increase will be from $6000 to $8500 per Lightning.  How bad is it? This bad:

Kelly Blue Book’s sales data for average MSRP EV prices for June was around $67,000, exceeding the level of the average gasoline car MSRP of about $48,000.

That’s June, before the price increases were announced, and they’re going to affect every manufacturer because the rare earth and other elements necessary are skyrocketing in price, and most of that money–80%+–is going into Communist China’s pocket.  I last wrote of the Lightning in any detail in June of 2021 with A Summer Trip To EV Paradise. On August 4 of this year, I also addressed a Lightning towing test in The Bold,  Brilliant EV Future.  As you might imagine, it was a disaster.  Now on to Motor Trend’s F-150 towing testIt begins with this sentence:

The EV bricks Motor Trend chose for their test          credit: motor trend

Before you hitch an Airstream to your electric truck and set out to circumnavigate the country, you need to understand this: With the largest available battery pack, a fully charged 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck has less energy onboard than a regular F-150 with four gallons of gas in its tank.

And no, it doesn’t get any better.

 Now that you understand where we’re starting from, you won’t be as surprised to learn that the towing range of the electric F-150 is dismal. In MotorTrend testing, an F-150 Lightning Platinum saddled with a camper that nearly maxed out its 8,500-pound towing capacity couldn’t even cover 100 miles. Range improved when we hooked up a significantly lighter trailer, but not by as much as you might expect.

 The Lightning’s towing capacity ranges from 5,000 pounds up to 10,000 pounds. To hit the big number, you’ll need an XLT or Lariat trim with the optional extended-range battery, and the Max Trailer Tow package that adds more battery- and motor-cooling capacity. To get there, you’ll spend at least $75,094.

No, that’s not adding in the $8500 dollar sticker increase.  For an extended range Lightning with the equipment to tow a trailer, figure around $90,000.  The sticker price on MT’s Lightning was $92,669.  Yes, one can spend that much on a gas powered pickup, but one can get a truck that will tow well for far less than that.  Here were the testing parameters:

We followed the same methodology used to determine an EV’s MotorTrend Road-Trip Range. With the automatic climate control set to 72 degrees, headlights on, and the audio system playing, our testing imitates how most owners will use their vehicles, rather than reaching for the maximum possible range. We targeted an average speed of 70 mph, but construction at the beginning and end of our route meant our speed was slightly lower than we were aiming for. All three tests were at least consistent, with average highway speeds between 64 and 67 mph.

After establishing an 80-mile route, we repeated the test with a 17-foot, 3,140-pound Forest River R Pod RP-153, and a 28-foot, 5,260-pound Coachmen Freedom Express 246RKS. We used the energy consumption from these real-world tests to extrapolate how far someone could drive on a full charge.

On the road and burning juice fast
credit: motortrend

Take the link and read the whole thing.  MT is honest, but sparingly so.  The article is brief, and delivers nothing but bad news about not only mileage, but the Lightning’s performance in towing, but they try to do it in a sort of forced, upbeat fashion.  Here’s some of the bad news:

Before we answer the big question, let’s set the baseline. While the EPA says the F-150 Lightning Platinum is good for 300 miles, that number is based on a mix of city and highway driving. With only a driver aboard and no trailer in tow, the Platinum achieved a MotorTrend Road-Trip Range of 255 miles. 

We had been warned to expect the range to be cut in half when towing, but the effect of towing these travel trailers proved even more significant. With the smallest and lightest trailer, we measured a range of just 115 miles. That figure fell to 100 miles with the middleweight camper and sank to a mere 90 miles with the 7,218-pound Grand Design trailer.

Final Thoughts:  I’ve always noted there are three primary ways to get better mileage in any vehicle: (1) make it lighter, (2) make it more aerodynamic, and (3) make its propulsion more efficient.  MT notes the aerodynamics of the towed platform have a larger effect than weight. I’m not sure I agree, but it’s certainly a factor in trailer towing.  The 300 mile range Ford and the EPA claim for the Lightning is only attainable with the far more expensive battery, which also requires far more expensive options.

Most Americans buy pickups not to make some sort of sociopolitical statement, but because they are useful vehicles.  This is particularly so for people who pull trailers of all kinds.  They’re willing to shell out more for more powerful, heavier duty pickups with trailer towing packages. They expect to lose mileage—take the link to A Summer Trip To EV Paradise—but that’s at least partially compensated by the speed and ease with which they can fuel up.  Of course these days, filling any vehicle is an exercise in taking Joe Biden’s name in vain.

As I noted in The Bold, Brilliant EV Future, EV charging stations are configured not as gas pumps, but as pull-in stalls, with stations abreast.  Unless one unhooks the trailer and parks it elsewhere, they’re going to block traffic, or block every other charging station.  Remember too the mileage figures MT got were on a short route with average speeds of around 65 MPH.  Even managing five miles per hour faster would significantly reduce range.  MT doesn’t tell us anything about the character of their route either.  A route with hillier terrain, and with higher winds—they make no mention of this factor—would also be disastrous for EV range.

Let us also recall charging any EV takes time—a lot of time.  One can expect, if they have access to a super duper turbo charger, to reach 80% charge in something like an hour, but that’s not most chargers out there.  In fact, substantial numbers of EV drivers are having rotten experiences with public chargers.  Once 80% is reached, to reach 100% takes far longer, hours longer, because the charging rate must dramatically slow to avoid overheating the battery.  Imagine we’ve reached 50% of EVs on the road by 2030 as Biden’s handlers want.  You’ve managed only about 60 miles in your trailer-towing Lightning–you have to have some reserve!–and you pull into a charging station only to find all chargers in use or broken.  You’re going to be waiting for three hours or so just to begin charging, after you unhook your trailer and find somewhere to park it.  It’s 95°, and you can’t run the AC, so the kids, wife, and dog are very unhappy.  At 80% charging, you’re only going to get another 60 miles or so, and you’re probably going to find the same problem—if you can find a charging station, down the road.

Lord only knows what Ford is thinking.  They market pickups to the people who want to buy them, and that’s not coastal self-imagined elites.  They think anyone who owns a pickup is mentally ill, shops at Walmart, marries their close relatives, has sex with farm animals, and is probably a murderer too.  

These people really believe that nonsense, so we can be certain they’re not going to be a market for an electric pickup.  We can also be certain people who like and need trucks, and particularly those who use them for work, aren’t going to be buying a truck that will have to sit idle for hours every 60-115 miles.  What’s that you say?  That’s not fair.  If they’re not towing, they’ll do better?  OK, they’re not going to be buying a truck that will have to sit idle for hours every 150-200 miles.

EVs, particularly those intended for towing, aren’t ready for prime time, and absent some physics-shattering breakthrough, they won’t ever be.  One would think Ford was a bit smarter than that, but natural selection also appears to be an immutable fact among auto manufacturers.