I recently sat down (virtually) with Ford Model e’s Vice President of Electric Vehicle Programs, Darren Palmer, to discuss the Ford F-150 Lightning and my experience after a few weeks of ownership.
I took delivery of my F-150 Lightning in Lariat trim in early July, so I’ve already learned a lot about the truck, and I’m beginning to form my opinions about what I like and what I’d like to see improved. Palmer agreed to have a discussion with me about my initial impressions, and answer any questions I have about the Lightning.
We started out talking about the lightning’s unique DC fast charging characteristics. Unlike other EVs, upon plugging in, the Lightning will accept its maximum power for 5 to 6 minutes, at any state of charge that’s lower than about 65%.
Most EVs that charge at high power (more than 100 kW) will only accept maximum power for a short period of time and only at a very low state of charge, as the charging curve is mostly dependent on the state of charge. That’s not the case for the Lightning, as the initial max power delivery is time-dependent more so than SOC-dependent.
There are exceptions though, for instance, the Audi e-tron that will hold max power right from the initial plug in to roughly 70% SOC, but that’s also a very unusual charging curve when compared to other EVs.
Palmer explains his reasons why Ford adopted that charging strategy, and also hinted at possibly charging improvements coming in the future. He pointed to the improvements that Ford made to the Mach-E charging profile based on customer feedback. He was referring to an OTA update that was sent out to Mach-E owners which improved the DC fast charge power intake between 80% and 90% state of charge.
Since we were talking about the Mach-E, I followed up and asked Darren if there was any concern about the Lightning’s battery contactors having the same problems that the Mach-E battery is experiencing that recently prompted a recall. Palmer explained that the battery system in the Lightning is completely different than the Mach-E’s and that they tested it under the most extreme conditions.
He stressed that it was paramount that they engineered the Lightning to be as tough in any condition as the conventionally-fueled F-150. In fact, the initial designs failed under the extreme testing they conducted and had to be re-engineered. Palmer said that the extreme testing “cooked the system”, so the engineers had to go back and make it even more robust.
I then asked Palmer if the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV will leave the Lightning looking like old tech. The Silverado EV will be equipped with GM’s Untium battery technology, which can be utilized as an 800-volt or 400-volt system. It will also have rear folding doors called “Midgate”, which allows for longer cargo items to be stored in the bed as they can extend into the rear seating area of the cab.
Darren didn’t seem too concerned about the competition, and even gave us (without actually saying it) some indication that Ford has an answer to the 800-volt Ultium system that we may see as early as 2025.
The nearly-hour-long interview covers other topics including the issues that some customers are experiencing with Ford’s Charge Station Pro, why Ford is recommending SunRun for Intelligent Backup Power installation, my personal Lightning complaints and more, so check out the whole video and let us know if I missed anything in the comment section below.
I’ll try to get a follow-up interview with Palmer sometime soon to ask any unanswered questions.