Ford F-150 Lightning TOW TEST! | Real-World Truck Towing Comparison | EV vs. Diesel, Gas & Hybrid
ALISTAIR WEAVER: Alistair Weaver and friends here for Edmunds, with our biggest ever tow test. Never before has there been so much choice if you want to pull stuff for work or for pleasure. Here are four full-sized trucks representing the four types of propulsion on sale today-- diesel, gas, hybrid, and electric. Now we're going to tow four Teslas around Southern California in the searing heat. All our trucks are fully juiced up with a bit of help from a generator. And if you want to know how really anal we've got, we've actually weighed and equalized all the Teslas for a fair fight.
We're going to reveal the cost, the tag, the challenges, and finally, which one of these trucks makes most sense for you. Here's the route. And here are the rules.
And now without further ado, let's get on with it. SPEAKER 1: I'm here in the F-150 Hybrid, most notably not the Lightning. And I'm feeling pretty good so far. I'm in Tow Haul mode.
I've got the trailer set up for weight, for length. So everything should be good. SPEAKER 2: Ram 1500 Eco Diesel. This is a diesel.
It's going to be a breeze for me. SPEAKER 3: So the 02 has the worst range about all of the actual ICE vehicles, just because I've got the biggest motor and I've got the most aggressive tires. But I'm very interested to see how Alistair is doing back there. Because that was a really steep uphill.
And we haven't gotten to the downhill part yet. So he might be sweating bullets. So for us, we're doing 55 miles an hour. I don't think we're going to have to stop. So that's like, what, four hours and change? I think Alistair is going to be closer to six or six and a half. And really, it really depends on if the fast charger is A, unoccupied, and B, working at full capacity.
ALISTAIR WEAVER: So welcome to the future, the F-150 Lightning. This is actually a Platinum Edition, which has all the bells and whistles but costs, wait for it, over $98,000. And I'm still going to use the idea of spending $100,000 on a truck. We keyed all the details, the trailer into the computer. And that's helped spit out the estimated range.
It started at 160 miles. But it did warn us that it would recalculate as you go along and it gets used to the prevailing conditions. Already, as we've gone at some inclines, it's dipped to 137 miles. And it's coming down all the time. So we'll be keeping a close eye on that. So if you're not towing, this truck has what we call a one-pedal driving mode.
It's similar to the Tesla that's on the trailer behind me, which means that really just drive with the throttle. You lift off the throttle, regenerative braking takes over and slows the vehicle. When you turn on Tow Mode in the Lightning, it switches off that function.
So you drive it more like a conventional car, using the brakes to slow. For me, that's an important security measure when you're towing a sizable load like we are here. And you dial it up through the computer. But that doesn't mean that it switches off the regenerative braking. So when we're going downhill, I can take my feet off all the pedals.
And it's actually using the regenerative braking to control the speed of the truck and the trailer behind it. And that energy is then converted into electricity, which is used to recharge and give us a bit more range. And that's all taken care of by the computer.
It feels a lot like engine braking in a traditional internal combustion car. It's pretty neat. There's so much clever tech that you really have to think about in this truck. Before the tow test, we subjected the Lightning to the world-famous Edmunds EV Range Test. We managed 332 miles on a single charge, 32 miles more than the official EPA estimate. It won't get anywhere near that towing.
But it shows it's in good shape. As the miles wore on, it was clear that the heat of competition was having an effect. SPEAKER 3: So ambient temperature outside is about 95 degrees. And this is set to 72.
And I'm hot. It feels way hotter than 72 in here. So I wish I could turn it down but I can't because we have everything the same. ALISTAIR WEAVER: Meanwhile in the Lightning, I was all talk. So first impressions of towing with the Lightning, well two things really stand out.
Firstly, the sheer propensity of torque-- this vehicle has 775 pounds-feet. And it's instantaneously available. The next biggest here is the Hybrid with 570, assuming you've got charge in the battery. Then the diesel.
480 pounds-feet. And of course, torque is everything when you're towing. Second thing is just how quiet it is. It is exceptionally peaceful in here, not just compared to a traditional truck, but even compared to a luxury car. This is just a nice place to be. Before we even set off, we had to do more thinking about the route in a way that you simply don't have to do in a gas or a diesel alternative.
Where are we going to stop? Where's the fast charger? Can we get there? How is it going to impact the time of the journey? And it is a kind of mental pressure that we're just not used to. And although the computers help, you've still got to do a bit of the legwork yourself. SPEAKER 3: 50 miles in, Annie was having her own challenges. I am so bored.
55 miles an hour is the worst, you guys. SPEAKER 2: This Ram is the definition of cruising right now. Alistair, what's the verdict on the Lightning so far? ALISTAIR WEAVER: Honestly, we're in good shape.
We've still got 120 miles, 118 miles left on the range. Super quiet, super comfortable. We're currently tracking to get about 180 miles out of this charge. It's good.
SPEAKER 1: We're cruising here in the Hybrid. Everything's going well so far. Now that the terrain has leveled off, my fuel economy has gone up. According to the computer, I'm averaging about 15 miles to the gallon, which is what the Chevy is supposed to do without a trailer. So I'm pretty pleased with that. ALISTAIR WEAVER: So we are 87 miles and 1 hour 43 into the route.
And actually, we're doing far better than expected. When we looked at the route-planner, we were expecting to stop in Bakersfield, where there's a fast charger, 350 kilowatts. But having made it to Bakersfield, we've still got 100 miles of estimated range and only 54 miles to Mojave. So we're going to push on. But the route to Mojave involves a pretty big hill. So there is an element of jeopardy.
There is a sort of game to all of this, that we're trying to manage our battery so we never have to fill to more than 80%, at which point the charge rate really, really kind of slows down. And we never want to let it fall below 20% because then you have all the ramp-up and it will take forever. So we're trying to manage between 20% and 80% So we're trying to game that with the available infrastructure as we go along our journey, which is kind of fun but also kind of stressful. SPEAKER 3: So surprising, I can't believe that Lightning is getting as good a range as it is. So yay, go electric.
Just don't beat me. ALISTAIR WEAVER: As we turn for Mojave, the need for fuel was more man than machine. SPEAKER 4: Living the American dream. SPEAKER 1: Everybody really wanted Frosties. SPEAKER 3: I didn't even have to stop.
If I didn't need to go to the bathroom and get a Diet Dr. Pepper, I would still be on the road. ALISTAIR WEAVER: So we've stopped for just a handful of calories. Now we're using the truck's onboard computer to calculate our distance to the final destination, down in Santa Clarita, but also where we need to recharge. So let's hit Go. It's now adding the Chargers to the trip.
So it's saying total trip time 2 hours 49 minutes. Charge time, 1 hour 25. So if I hit Details for that, it's giving me a charge point at Mojave Denny's. The only thing with that is we don't think that's the fastest charger. So we did a little bit of preplanning before we did the route. We think this is only a 50 kilowatt charger, not a 350.
And we can't find a way of forcing the system to take us to the 350 as part of its-- part of its route-planning. So the only way to start to do it is to go back into the nav, call up the charging system. Honestly, there's a reason why Google and Apple do CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a pretty frustrating system.
So what we've done now is actually keyed up the charges manually. We're asking it to find us super fast chargers, which is defined by Ford as anything over 100 kilowatts, which is absolutely what you need in a truck that has 130-ish kilowatt battery. We know that there's one in Mojave.
And that's where we're headed. But can we find it? Mojave-- Electrify America, that one? So the charger that we think is there in Mojave, Mojave Airport, ChargePoint EV connect. It's not bringing up Electrify America.
Check the filters. So basically, the system's not bringing up the charger that we're pretty sure exists. This is really, really annoying. I know the technology has got to keep up with the mapping, and over-the-air updates, help, and everything else.
But this is so fundamental to getting it right. And this is where all the anxiety and the stress comes from. The truck is performing great.
We've actually gone far further in terms of range than we anticipated. Now we need to find a charger. And we're having to kind of second guess the onboard system with what we're finding on our phones, And then kind of hope for the best when we get there? Let's go to Mojave. SPEAKER 2: Well, we just had our one and probably only stop. And it was not for fuel.
We are probably not going to need to stop for fuel at all. So we just got a little food break, a little rest break. And now we're heading through the desert on kind of the beginning of the home stretch. Right now, we're near the back of the caravan.
The F-150 Hybrid is way out in front. We'll see whether they stop or not. And then it's the Silverado 02, then us, and then Alistair pulling up the rear in the Lightning. They should be stopping any second now to get a charge. And it looks like the Lightning's going to be the only one that needs to fill up, which we weren't expecting. And even then, they're doing much better with efficiency and range than we thought that that truck was going to.
So it's been pretty surprising results so far. But as for us-- as for us in the Ram, we're just cooking right along. This diesel is not stressed at all. It still says we have about 330 miles of range left, which is pretty astonishing. But yeah, very smooth. ALISTAIR WEAVER: As we trundled across the desert, there was time to take in some of the not-so wildlife.
I've got some-- I've got some cows going past. I don't want to tell him I just went to Wendy's. SPEAKER 1: We're about 10 miles out from the gas station, where I'm going to fill up just before we cross the finish line. The other trucks are going to do the same.
The idea is to see how much fuel each of us used over the trip. Because fuel economy is different. But I may get there first. But I might have been a little thirstier than the diesel. So interested to see how this all plays out.
ALISTAIR WEAVER: So the telltale sign of the Denny's combined with the SatNav is telling us that we have reached the EV charger. Look, there's even a little tiny blue sign saying EV. So the good thing is nobody's here. So I can actually get in with the trailer, which is positive. But before we do that, I'm going to pull up and jump out, and just see exactly what we're dealing with in terms of charging speed.
So ChargePoint, 50 kilowatts, 50 kilowatts, 50 kilowatts. Level two, so that's as good as useless, and 50 kilowatts. So we're going to be here like two or three hours. So what are we're going to do now is have a look at our phone, see if there's a better option that the Ford system somehow isn't showing us. 50 kilowatts is about 130 kilowatt-hour battery.
When you think about the ramp-up to start charging, the ramp down, honestly, we would be here for minimum two hours to get the kind of charge that we need to get ourselves to the final destination. So let's have a hunt around, see if there's something a bit faster. This is the problem, folks. There's only so much Denny's you can eat.
I don't want to be here two hours. The Lightning will charge at up to 150 kilowatts per hour, which was the minimum speed we were looking for. But it is now revealing Electrify America charge station, which is 1.3 miles away, which
has got 350 kilowatts. And it's telling me that there's four. But it's not telling me whether they're available or not. So I could go with the Electrify America app and check that out. But we're a mile away.
So let's just head on down there. Really weird that it's not in the Ford system. And that's the difference between charging in, I don't, 30 minutes, and a couple of hours. So what's really winding me up is right behind us over there is a Tesla Supercharger.
So we could, in theory, charge the car but not the truck. So the good news is we found a 350 kilowatt Electrify America charger with a nice little overhead canopy nestling behind a Comfort Inn. That's the good news. The bad news is that we have a truck with a trailer and absolutely no way of connecting said truck and trailer to the power. So what we've got to do now is decouple the trailer and then pull the truck in.
That's going to take a few minutes. But it's still faster going through all that hassle for the 350 kilowatts than it would be to go back up the road to the 50. Does that work? This is kind of the asshole move, right? I hope he's not a big dude. Being a decent sort of chap, I decided to uncouple the trailer. And while I was doing that, others headed for the finish line. SPEAKER 1: It's me.
I am back first in the F-150 Hybrid. Couldn't be happier with how it did. Didn't even use a half tank of fuel. So I'm really curious about how long those other guys are going to take, especially Alistair in that Lightning.
ALISTAIR WEAVER: Free workout, people. SPEAKER 2: Well, we made it in the Ram. And it was just as comfortable as I expected. We're not the first ones here. But you know what? This thing is first in my heart.
That's what's important. ALISTAIR WEAVER: Here we go. Trusty charge port.
Plug in first, wait for the click, then Connecting to Vehicle. We will hold our trusty phone somewhere near it. Swipe to charge.
Processing payment. Here we go. Initializing charging. Stay with me, people. This is the exciting bit.
So we've plugged it in to DC Fast Charger. We know the system, in theory, is working. Somebody else was charging an Ioniq 5 over there. But now we're getting charge error through the Electrify America app.
It was saying initializing charging. Now it's not working. We've got another warning inside the cab here. Charge station fault, see manual. So we're going to do Control-Alt-Delete and try again, and see what happens. This is the problem, right? If this doesn't work, we can't charge the vehicle, what do we do next? Maybe try one of the chargers up the road? I don't want to go back to Denny's.
Getting a red light flashing. I'm now trying to uncouple it. There we go. So let's try charger one.
Right, it does just fit. Swipe to charge. Blue light is on on the car. Initializing charging. Electrify America, or don't Electrify America, depending on how things are progressing. Fault. So what we're going to do is reverse the truck out
and try the one that we think was working for our Hyundai-driving friend. Because they're saying this ain't working. Click, click. Click. So it worked.
Hurray. So now we start playing the range calculation game. We started charging at 504. Theory, hit 90% at 610. That's just over an hour's time.
The reality though, is that we've only got about another 70 miles to go to our destination. We've got 48 miles of range. But then we actually don't want to leave ourselves empty when we get there. So let's say we need about 120 miles to get there with 50 miles left in the tank.
So we're going to charge up to the point where we head about one 120, 130 miles. And then we'll unplug and get on the journey. So what we're not going to do is mess around trying to charge to the max because, frankly, we don't need that.
SPEAKER 3: Yeah, buddy. We made it. ALISTAIR WEAVER: So we've been charging for 49 minutes.
We spent $35 and added 84 kilowatt hours of energy, which has taken our range up to 141 miles, which is enough to get ourselves to a destination then hopefully onto a charger beyond. Because we've figured out we've got a bit of a grade in-between. Now, as you'll also see, we're down to 56 kilowatts of energy going in.
So as we're getting towards full, the charging rate started to drop off. So we've got to unplug and get on the move. I say get on the move.
But of course, we've now got to reattach the trailer. It's 6:00 PM. It's still 100 and a million degrees. Need the caffeine. [PHONE RINGING] AUTOMATED VOICE: Ryan [INAUDIBLE].. Hey, Ryan.
SPEAKER 2: Alistair, my man. ALISTAIR WEAVER: Where are you all? SPEAKER 2: We're in the trailer, the winner's trailer. SPEAKER 3: With the air conditioning. SPEAKER 1: Yeah, it's nice.
ALISTAIR WEAVER: I've got air conditioning. SPEAKER 2: We miss you. ALISTAIR WEAVER: Do you want to know where I am? SPEAKER 2: Why? Where are you? ALISTAIR WEAVER: I'm in a beautiful seaside resort that reminds me a lot of the Mediterranean. It's called the Mojave. SPEAKER 2: Sure, I know it well.
SPEAKER 1: A lot of sand? ALISTAIR WEAVER: According to the car, it's 105 degrees when you're in the shade. SPEAKER 3: Yeah, that sounds right. That sounds right. SPEAKER 2: So how long do you think until you get back on the road? ALISTAIR WEAVER: Well, as fast as I can rehitch the trailer. And then we'll be back on the road. Then we got about another, like, I don't know, hour and a half to get to where you guys are.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah. SPEAKER 3: Yeah. ALISTAIR WEAVER: But, well, don't wait for me, chaps. Go home.
SPEAKER 2: Oh, no, oh, no. We'll wait. SPEAKER 3: Yeah, we'll wait. I really want to wait here for you, Alistair. SPEAKER 2: Yeah, we wouldn't do that.
SPEAKER 3: This is a team effort. ALISTAIR WEAVER: Bye. SPEAKER 2: See you soon. ALISTAIR WEAVER: Bye.
SPEAKER 2: So you guys aren't really going to wait though, right? SPEAKER 3: No. SPEAKER 1: No. SPEAKER 3: I'm out. SPEAKER 2: Well, that was fun. ALISTAIR WEAVER: While they kindly awaited my arrival, I went back to the gym. So it's about quarter to 7:00 at night.
Sun is starting to set. We set off with about 85%, 86% charge. And it was suggesting 140-mile range. Then the system realized that we have a pretty big grade to go up, recalculated, and suddenly suggest that we are only 110 miles of range. So it's a pretty sophisticated system that's taking into account all these different factors. So we now have 52 miles to go to our destination, 105 miles of range left as I speak.
So we should arrive with about 52 miles left, which was our minimum requirement when we drew up the rules. And so our journey finishes in a slightly less than triumphant fashion. Bon soir to [INAUDIBLE]. So everybody else made it back here by 5:30. It's now 8 o'clock for me.
And that whole time difference has got nothing to do with the truck itself, and everything to do with the infrastructure and the difficulties we had getting it recharged. Now, I expected a bit of fanfare and maybe a cold beer. But no, everybody's gone home. So time to decouple the trailer, rescue the Tesla, and finally set off for bed. We've had a couple of nights sleep. We've had a shower.
We've crunched the numbers. So what did we learn? Well, we learn that diesel is as great for towing, as you'd expect. Ryan's Ram 1500 barely notice the Tesla on its back.
The interior and ride quality continued to impress. And the truck averaged 17.6 miles per gallon, making it the most fuel efficient rig in our test. But diesel is more expensive than gas. So whether it's actually cheaper to fuel might depend on where you live. Amy had a good run in the redesigned Silverado, too.
We were all impressed by how much more modern and premium the new cabin is. It's just so much better. As a tow truck, though, the ZR2 trim wouldn't be our first choice.
The tall stands and knobby tires take a toll on efficiency. And Chevy recommends pricier 91 octane gas. But despite this handicap, our resident off-road racer still managed a respectable 13.6 MPG. Our man [INAUDIBLE] Ford's hybrid system doesn't actually help with towing. But dragging around extra hardware didn't have too much of an impact on efficiency. Our F-150 Powerboost Hybrid netted 15.1 MPG
on regular, old 87 octane. But what about that much anticipated wild card, the all electric F-150? To be honest, we were surprised by how well the Lightning performed. We're towing almost 7,000 pounds in average temperature of over 90 degrees across some pretty steep gradients. We'd expected a range of about 100 miles, but actually achieved closer to 170. There were three key factors at play. First, a transporter is a lot more aerodynamic than, say, a boxy toy hauler.
We went down as well as up the hills, so it benefited from regenerative braking. And thirdly, we were driving at the California trailering speed limit of 55 miles an hour, slower than you might have seen in other tests. We shared our data with the engineers responsible for the lining, who reckon the speed was the biggest factor. The big lesson here, folks? If you want to go further go slower. So where does this leave us? As a product to tow with, the Lightning is great, super quiet and super torquey. But even with its battery fully charged, it still has less than half the effective range of the diesel Ram or the Hybrid F-150.
Then there's the infrastructure challenge. The charger we visited to fill up after the test didn't work either, which is just, well, rubbish. In total, we spent four hours and eight minutes trying to charge, versus 10 minutes to fill up the Ram-- four hours more.
Nor is it much cheaper. We spent $60 on electricity versus $69 on diesel. Then there's the cost of the vehicle. The Lightning we'd recommend for towing, the XLT, costs almost $83,000 with a big battery. A traditional ICE truck with the equivalent towing capacity can be had for under $50,000. That's a $35,000 difference.
All of which means it's tough to recommend the EV. If you're going to tow your boat 50 miles to the local lake and charge it at home, then at least take a look. But if you're going to tow a U-Haul across the country to pick up your kid from college, it's going to drive you nuts. So which should you choose? For the full analysis of all the facts and figures, check out our companion piece at edmunds.com/towtest. But here's the executive summary.
All three of the ICE trucks handled this test with ease. But they do differ in appeal. If you're buying an everyday truck and only tow occasionally, we'd go for the F-150 hybrid, especially if you live in an urban area. But if you're buying a truck predominantly for towing, we still wouldn't look past the diesel. The Ram is a great truck with a value price tag and the lowest fuel consumption on test. Sometimes the old ways are still the best.
I'm Alistair Weaver for Edmunds. Thanks for watching.