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Towing with an electric truck is both the best and the worst

When videos and reviews of the Ford F-150 Lightning came out, people were outraged by how much the range dropped while towing. In our testing, the truck didn’t do too badly, but other publications saw much larger declines. This led to plenty of inflammatory tweets and clickbait headlines. But here’s why folks are dead wrong about electric trucks. The Lighting is actually one of the best towing rigs you can buy.

Why do I think this battery-powered Ford is such a great option if its range is so limited while pulling a trailer? Well, for starters it gets you up to 580 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque, meaning it is completely unfazed by loads. There’s also standard four-wheel drive, which is great in all weather conditions, there’s an independent rear suspension for improved ride and handling while loaded and unloaded, on road or off, and with a curb weight of around 6,900 pounds in Platinum trim with the long-range battery pack, this truck always feels planted, the tail is never wagging the dog. Overall, the Lightning can tow up to 10,000 pounds, and it should be confident even when pushed to the limit.

But of course, range is this pickup’s biggest weakness. There are so many variables that affect how far you can drive while towing — ambient temperatures, the weight and wind resistance of your trailer, the terrain you’re traversing and, of course, how heavy your right foot is. Now, I’d also remind you, these downsides also apply to combustion-powered trucks, not just electrics. Fuel economy goes way down while towing, it’s just you can refuel in 10 minutes compared to fully recharging, which takes hours.

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In our testing, the Lightning got about 183 miles on a full charge while dragging about 7,000 pounds. That’s a bit more than 50% of the EPA-estimated maximum range of 320 miles when the truck is unladen. This is because the Tesla Model 3 we used as ballast was quite low and aerodynamic, plus the roads in northern Ohio where we did our testing are dead flat, so we weren’t climbing mountains, which would have really hurt the range.

F 150 Lightning XLT tow 01
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Photo credit: Ford

Overall, the F-150 Lighting is an awesome towing platform for casual use — not hard-core heavy-duty hauling. And the same should apply to rival models like the Rivian R1T, Chevy Silverado EV and upcoming Ram 1500 REV. The Lighting is perfect for probably 75% of full-size truck buyers, the cul-de-sac cowboys and cowgirls that want to look cool, so they buy crew-cab trucks when really all they need is a Honda Accord. For people that treat pickups like a fashion accessory, the Lightning is ideal — it’s capable, comfortable, costs way less to run than gas-powered pickups and it’s perfect for light-duty towing, pulling a small fishing boat or a couple snowmobiles a few times a year.

Now, if you need a work truck to earn your living or if you plan on dragging 10,000 pounds or more every day, the Lightning is, unfortunately, not for you. It can do that, but the range will be terrible and you’ll hate the long charging times. What you need is a traditional, combustion-powered truck, and there are plenty of great options from GM, Ram, Toyota and Ford.

2023 Toyota Sequoia Limited Towing 032
Internal combustion is still superior to electricity in certain applications. Photo credit: Toyota

Really, electric trucks are all about choice, so avoid seeing things as black or white. If you want greater efficiency and lower operating costs in a versatile vehicle, consider an EV pickup, but if you regularly do heavy towing and hauling, internal combustion is a better option, at least for now. But who knows what will happen as battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology advances.

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It’s all about having the right tool for the job. You’d never pound nails with a screwdriver or try to chop vegetables with a tape measure. No, you get a hammer or a knife. Electric trucks are just another option, one that’s perfect for some drivers and far less ideal for others.

Written by Craig Cole

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