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HomeRVAustralia now has an electric 4x4 towing ute

Australia now has an electric 4×4 towing ute

You can now buy an F150 Lightning in Australia, the all-electric version of the hyper-popular Ford F150. The question is, should you?

The vehicles are imported by AusEV and converted to right-hand drive, mostly for the mining sector, but you can buy them privately too. What you get with the F150 Lightning in Australia is a large dual cab ute – no other body styles – capable of towing up to 4500kg, with some offroad capability.

To give you an idea of size, the Lightning is 5910mm long compared to the Ranger at 5220mm. Width measures in at 2033mm vs the Ranger’s 1848mm. The breakover (ramp) angle is 17.6 degrees for the Lightning and 24 degrees for the Ranger, so you can expect more scraping over mounds.

There are two battery sizes for the F150 Lightning in Australia, the Standard and Extended range, with 98kWh and 131kWh batteries respectively. This translates into a range of 270km and 515km on the EPA test standard, which is usually more realistic than the WLTP standard more commonly used in Australia. So for comparison purposes with WLTP vehicles, you might consider the Lightning a bit longer-ranged.

However, in reality, you’d be unlikely to get WLTP anyway. And any EV range figure is for the stock car, not modified with tyres, roofrack and especially not when towing. We’ll talk more about range in a moment.

Ford F150 Lightning Australia
Ford F150 Lightning is now available in Australia

The F150 Lightning is not a vehicle for pure offroading

Being a ute, there are going to be three use cases for it: towing, carrying and offroad. The F150 Lightning is not meant as a dedicated offroader, but it does offer constant 4WD with two motors front and rear and a rear cross-axle locking differential. There is no low range, but there’s less need for it with electric motors. The wheelbase is a hefty 3595mm, compared to the Ranger’s 3270mm.

I’ve not driven one, but I have spoken to colleagues in the USA with considerable experience with these vehicles and the consensus is that the F150 is not a vehicle you’d buy for pure offroading. It would be behind a Ranger for capability, but it’s certainly not going to be stopped by steep hills, sand, or other terrains and would have sufficient capability for the majority of tourers.

Size, carrying and towing

You’d need to be mindful of the size of the F150 Lightning in Australia and expect more scratches than usual in forests, but it’d still get there. And I say that having just finished a test trip down narrow tracks with a Fuso Canter, which is as wide and long, and even taller.

Next is carrying, and here the Ford Lightning F150 does surprisingly well with a payload of up to 1000kg. It’s a pretty good figure compared to other dual cab utes in Australia, especially when compared to other American utes, which tend to have big towing figures but small payloads. And here is an important difference – the GVM is about 3742kg, but as batteries are so heavy the Standard version with a 98kWh battery has a kerb weight of 2730kg vs the Extender range with 2885kg.

That means the payload for the Standard range is around 1000kg, and the Extender is around 850kg. Still pretty good. I’m using figures from the US F150 Lightning as I cannot get information on the Australian version. However, from prior experience I expect it’ll be very similar.

Now for towing…

Now for towing. I don’t have all the F150 Lightning specs specific to Australia needed to do a proper towing analysis. So all we know is the payload and max-tow. Based on educated guesses, I’d say that towing 4500kg would be fanciful, and you’re better off restricting loads to 4000kg and below. I will say, that based on personal experience, that EVs tow really, really well – loads of torque, one-pedal operation, quiet, smooth, and they’re heavy with the weight down low.

People I’ve spoken to say the F150 Lightning tows well, and personally, I’d rather tow 4000kg with a F150 EV than an F150 petrol, that’s for sure. Unless I had to go any significant distance, in which case range and charging becomes a problem.

Ford F150 Lightning

The big problem with EVs for towing

And now we come to the big problem with EVs for towing, working and 4×4 and that is their short range, plus long recharge times. This isn’t any problem for suburban around-town roadcars which can easily charge at home, aren’t modified, have small batteries and might do the odd inter-city run on main highways. It’s a different story for towers, 4x4s, workers and tourers who need to focus on their journey, not managing the energy of their vehicle and don’t want to spend time waiting for a charge.

Every EV maker has a headline charging rate, and for the Ford F150 Lightning which we can now get in Australia, say a Level 3 charger can take the battery from 15 to 80% in 44 minutes. Sounds good, but that’s under ideal charging conditions. In addition, you need to find a Level 3 fast charger – and that’s for the smaller battery, the larger battery can do it in 41 minutes.

You can also expect ranges to be cut in about half when you’re towing anything sizeable, noting large, draggy trailers have more of an effect on the range than heavy ones. Essentially, as one of my USA friends put it, owning an EV ute is “a lifestyle choice where you put the truck first” and despite what he sees as the advantages, it’s a change he’s not prepared to opt for as he has things to do, places to be and a 4×4 training company to run. I think the same applies to most Australian practical ute owners.

Who would, or should buy the F150 Lightning in Australia?

So who would, or should buy the F150 Lightning in Australia? Well, it’s $224k plus on-roads for the Standard, and $254k plus on-roads for the Extended. Which of course, will buy you a modified diesel 4×4 and a caravan, plus change. As a comparison, the petrol F150 is $108k plus on-roads for the long wheelbase version.

My view is that if the price hasn’t scared you, and you’re aware of the real-world energy management effort, then go for it. This might be because you run a winery with only local trips and the truck can park up in the same place on 3-phase power, or you just need to tow your heavy boat to the local ramp, or whatever. The F150 Lightning definitely has a place for those applications in Australia and I’m going to presume if you’ve got $250k to drop on a ute you’re capable of doing the maths to see how many years the lower run costs will take to amortise the extra buy price.

You should also factor in resale, and the problem there is EV technology is improving. So the 2030 F150 Lightning will be much better than the 2024 version, unlike, say the 2030 petrol F150, if there even is one. The warranty is three years for the car and five for the battery for the F150 in Australia. A bit low by the usual standards of five for a car and eight for the battery.

We’re not quite there yet with EVs in Australia

The F150 Lightning is a very interesting vehicle and represents the future in Australia whether you like it or not. So it’s worth paying attention to. It’ll meet the need for a few, but it is further proof that EV 4x4s are not yet able to replace diesel 4x4s, something the Government should note as it advances with its NVES scheme.

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