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F-150 Lightning tow and charge: How far you can go and how long it’ll take

Pickup trucks are often tasked with a variety of jobs. The exception of what a truck should be capable of doing far exceeds that of a sports car. So an electric pickup truck will be held to similar standards.

Additionally, unlike a gas-powered truck, an electric truck will need to be recharged. Depending on the truck, that can take a little bit of time. But how long does it actually take?

Recently we tested the range while towing — and not towing — of the all-new Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat, along with putting it through its paces at a charging station.

Keep reading to find out how far you can tow with a trailer, and how long it takes the truck to recharge from nearly 0% to 100%, plus a ton more.

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We tow and charge, at the same time, with the F-150 Lightning. Photo credit: Chad Kirchner / EV Pulse

Tow like a professional

When it become known that electric pickup trucks were going to become a thing, the internet started asking questions. One of those questions was, “Will an electric pickup truck be capable of towing?”

While the obvious answer is, “Yes, of course,” the answer is a bit more complicated than that. When devising a towing test to test out the range and performance of an electric truck, what you tow is as important as the weight of the thing you’re towing.

Case in point, our towing test. We recently has a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat with the Max Tow package. The truck is EPA-rated for 320 miles of all electric range.

We rented ourselves a U-Haul car trailer and loaded up our long-term Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus and strapped it down. The combined weight of the trailer and the car should be approximately 7,000 pounds.

Choosing a car trailer was a matter of convenience, but also probably a bit more realistic of what someone would haul with a half-ton pickup. Towing a snowmobile, or two, or a side-by-side is likely far more common than towing a massive camper. Campers even vary in aerodynamics, with an Airstream likely being more slippery than a Jayco.

Our testing route was simple. We’d drive on the Ohio Turnpike west with the cruise control set at 65 mph. Western Ohio, especially in the north, is flat. Not like Iowa flat, but flat enough. We did a loop, so any benefits to elevation change going one way would be negated by going the other direction.

FIRST DRIVE: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

Yes, the trailer specifically said to drive at a max of 55 mph, but we’re rebels and assume more people are going to want to tow a bit faster than that. That being said, towing faster than 65 mph can be quite dangerous and is not typically recommended.

While not making any special accommodations for maximize range — we had the AC on because it was hot, and the lights and stuff on because it was late in the evening — we set off. After the highway portion of our loop, we were averaging 1.4 miles per kWh.

For a truck that has a 131 kWh usable battery pack, that means our towing range is effectively 183.4 miles. When we set the trailer up in the truck’s computer, so that it could effectively track range while towing, it predicted a similar range of nearly 180 miles.

Now 183 miles is significantly less than 320 miles, it’s also almost 100 miles more with a similarly-weighted trailer when that trailer is an RV. Aerodynamics matters.

We then drove a combined loop, which included the highway driving we previously mentioned, plus back road rural highways and around-the-town driving. This would be more typical for many uses.

In that case, the truck was getting 1.5 miles per kWh. That makes an effective towing combined range of 196.5 miles. That’s a little less than a 40% loss of total range while towing.

For comparison sake, we ran the same loop in the same conditions, including the same highway speed, without the trailer attached. On the highway the truck performed at 2.3 miles per kWh, and 2.5 miles per kWh on the combined loop. That means the truck has a range of 301.3 miles and 327.5 miles, respectively.

That second number beats the EPA estimate of 320 miles.

Charging up

With a bit of reduced range when towing, the Lightning will likely need to charge more on a longer towing trip. While this is where a gas-powered truck ultimately shines — it can be completely refueled in minutes — the Lightning is a solid charging performer.

The sweet spot in charging an electric car is the 10% to 80% state of charge area. That’s 70% of the entire usable pack. So after your first complete charge, it makes the most sense to plug in close to 10% and then stop charging at 80% (though, you can go higher with Lightning and not sacrifice that much more time).

The Lightning takes a tested 46 minutes to go from 10% to 80%. If the full range of a Lightning highway towing is 183 miles, and you live in the 10% to 80% range, then you are effectively using — and charging — 135 miles. So to add 135 miles of range to continue towing, you’ll sit for 46 minutes.

We admit that’s a long time to sit, even with the impressive charging performance of the truck. It charges at a higher peak rate than Ford claims, and consistently charges at about 100 kW through most of the charge cycle.

The thing is, while half-ton truck drivers do tow, it’s seldom an everyday occurrence. There are always exceptions to the rule, but most are only towing a time or two a month to just a couple of times a year. In that case, waiting a little extra time to charge on a longer towing trip is perfectly fine considering the benefits the truck has the rest of the time.

It’s also a great truck to tow with. All the torque in the universe inspires confidence, and the trailer towing tech makes it easy even for a novice.

Be sure to watch our video above as we go into more depth about the trailer towing tech, provide a detailed breakdown of our charging test, and talk more about what it’s like to tow with America’s best selling electric pickup truck.

And remember, if your towing needs are greater than what a Lightning can deliver, the F-150 PowerBoost hybrid is a great half-ton pickup truck alternative.

Updated (11:53 am EDT, 08/04/2022): Adjusted for clarity.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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