Road-Tripping Our Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
If you love road tripping, the worst part of owning an EV is long-distance travel. Our 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat tries to do a lot to make this easier. Its 130-kWh Extended Range battery pack increases range to an (optimistic) EPA-estimated 320 miles, its peak charge speed of 167 kW is adequate if not hugely impressive, and its nav includes a trip planner to take the guesswork out of planning a charge strategy for long-distance travel. Yet after nine months and over 12,000 miles, we’ve found there’s some room for significant improvement going forward. Here are the ways our Los Angeles-based Lightning makes our lives easier—and harder—when on the road. (Head here for more on road-tripping in our Detroit-based F-150 Lightning XLT.)
Good And Bad: On-Board Trip Planning
Ford’s trip planner takes much, but not all, of the guesswork out of traveling. Accessible via either the FordPass phone app or the onboard nav system, simply input your destination and the truck will calculate whether you can get there on the current charge and, if not, add charging stops along the route. Even better, it will in theory tell you how long you need to charge in order to continue your journey.
Yet sometimes the trip planner makes some real boneheaded decisions. Our Detroit colleagues already experienced this when our 2023 F-150 Lightning XLT tried routing them across an international border to charge, and our L.A.-based 2022 F-150 Lightning Lariat hasn’t been immune from similar issues.
On one trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, the route planner tried to route us to a 50-kW EVgo fast charger for a 50-minute charge when a faster Electrify America 150-kW charger was available, operational, and nearby. Another time, when returning to Southern California from a trip to the state’s Central Valley to check out the Tesla Semi, it tried to route us to an Electrify America charger that was both out of order and under renovations. That’s not even the worst one. On a trip up the spine of the Sierra Nevadas toward Bishop, California, the route planner tried to send us to a Rivian Adventure Network (RAN) charger in Inyokern. Although RAN chargers use CCS plugs, they also currently only work on Rivians. Our Ford is very much not a Rivian.
Needless to say, we now always double-check the truck’s work with PlugShare before committing to the proposed route. Thankfully, programming different charging locations on a suggested route is fairly painless, although the system frustratingly won’t let you reorder charging stops with the navigation system while in motion or via the app ever.
Bad: Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen
To understand how annoying our next problem is, it might be useful to understand how road-tripping EVs usually works at a mid-journey charge stop. You pull up to the charger, plug in, and start charging. A display in either the instrument cluster or the center stack tells you how much charge and range you need to make it to your next stop and how long it’ll take to get to that state of charge. Easy, right?
That’s not how our F-150 Lightning works. Take a look at the following three pictures, taken at the exact same time while charging on the exact same road trip from L.A. to San Francisco.
You catch the problem? The dash readout says the Lightning needs to be 45 percent full to make it to the next charger, the navigation system’s trip planner says it needs to be at 60 percent, and the FordPass app says 47 percent. Super helpful, huh?
We should add we’re making an assumption about the above, because the Lightning’s owner’s manual doesn’t explain what the little orange or white checkered flags that appear next to a percentage, time, and day mean, nor does it mention how to interpret the navigation’s separate charge-to-continue reading.
For what it’s worth, we almost always go with what the navigation says regarding the percent we need to continue. Better to sit at a charger for an extra 10 minutes than get stranded.
Ford, for its part, told us it’s aware of some discrepancies between the three displays, but we haven’t noticed any improvement in the months since our initial inquiry.
Bad: Don’t Lie To Me
Here’s something else odd we noticed: If we charge our F-150 Lightning to 100 percent on a Level 3 DC fast charger, we’ll usually get an estimated range in the ballpark of 230 to 245 miles, depending on how we’ve been driving the truck lately. However, if we run the battery down slightly to 99 percent and plug into a Level 2 AC charger or Level 1 wall outlet, by the time the battery hits 100 percent again, the range-to-empty will display between 320 and 326 miles. Surely that 1 percent jolt of AC juice isn’t good for an extra 81 miles, is it? What gives?
A spokesperson told us that in the spring Ford had “updated how range is displayed to our customers above 80 percent state of charge [on] Level 1 and 2 [chargers], to show what range is possible for long trips according to the EPA standard.… As the battery energy depletes, the range figure will update according to the conditions and driving style. ” It’s worth noting that EPA range is based on a mix of 55-percent urban and 45-percent driving.
In other words, if you plug your F-150 Lightning into a Level 1 or 2 charger and charge it above 80 percent, the truck’s range meter will display an unrealistically high range estimate. This would be like Ford telling Mustang GT owners that their cars can clear 288 miles on a full tank of 87 octane but 190 miles on a tank of premium, but only in the case they fill up past three-quarters of a tank. To quote the great Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, “With all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin getting it on.”
Good: Plug And Charge
Let’s end on a positive note, shall we? We love the Lightning’s ability to plug-and-charge— much like Tesla owners do at Superchargers—at Electrify America and EVGo stations. With a credit card saved to our Ford’s profile in the FordPass app (for EA stations), and in the EVGo app, it’s really convenient to pull up to a charger, plug in, and not have to fiddle with apps, key tags, or credit card readers. Anecdotally, we’ve also found that plug-and-charge seems to somewhat improve the reliability of Electrify America stations, as it removes the credit card and NFC readers—common points of failure—from the equation.
For More On Our Long-Term 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat:
- We Just Bought a Ford F-150 Lightning
- An OTA Update Gets a Thumbs Up From Glove Users
- Winter Road-Tripping in Our Long-Term EVs Has Been … Interesting
- For Us, It’ll Cost $18K to Power a House With Our F-150 Lightning
- Ford F-150 Lightning OTA Tracker: Keep Up With Software Changes
- Can You Charge a Ford F-150 Lightning at a Tesla Supercharger?
- Timeto Scale Back Expectations?
- We Charged Our F-150 Lightningat 7-Elevenand All We Got Was This Stupid Hat
- Too Fast Forthe Drag Strip
- Is the F-150 LightningBetterThan a GMC Hummer EV Pickup?
- We’re Paying $650/Yearto Subscribeto Our Ford F-150 Lightning
- Battery Troubles For Our Electric Pickup