Ford Lightning Pro Extended Range is the best truck you can’t buy

Ford Lightning Pro Extended Range is the best truck you can't buy

In the Ford F-150 Lightning trim hierarchy, the Pro model is the traditional work truck: vinyl seats, paintable floors, plastic steering wheel. I love it, probably because it’s the Lightning that conceptually most resembles my own shriveled Ram, another member of the club with no floor mats. It’s an honest pickup — and damn it, it still has air conditioning and cruise control, old luxuries now taken for granted. And if you’re looking for a relief of any streak, I say you want the more comprehensive model, which offers a higher-capacity battery that boosts EPA range to 320 miles. In fact, the big battery comes with extra horsepower, 580 horses instead of the stock truck’s 452. That’s my dream truck, right there: vinyl seats, 580 horsepower, and a base price of $51,769. The only problem is you can’t get one.

Just a few EVs filling up.

Car and driver

I don’t mean that in the sense that you can’t get anything these days, what with the supply chain shenanigans – I mean you can’t order a Lighting Pro extension range. When you go to the configurator on Ford’s website, the little slider that allows you to choose the standard range or extended range battery on the Pro is missing. It is only standard range. So how did I end up getting into a Pro with longer range? Was this a hot rod chopped up by rogue Ford engineers to explore the possibilities of super-fast work trucks? No. Ford builds a Lightning Pro with a longer range, but only sells it to fleet customers. No pro for you. At least not with the big battery.

ford lightning with frunk open

The frunk is clutch.

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That’s a shame, because a longer-range XLT — the second-cheapest route to a 580-horsepower Lightning can — costs $74,269. And to save $22,500, I can live without a power seat, heated steering wheel, and power tailgate. I know I can live without floor mats. If I legally change my name to Fleet, can I buy one of these?

I haven’t been able to test one of Ford’s more hilarious claims for the extended-range Pro—that the battery has “enough power to rip up to 50 miles of half-inch plywood on a single charge”—but I did haul some. The results underline the fact that towing an electric truck involves a lot of guesswork, because trailers differ so much in weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics. The truck’s unloaded range is determined by rigorous testing, but once you hook up a trailer wiring harness, it’s all guesswork.

ford lightning with boat trailer

Towing an empty boat trailer is a great way to get guys to say, “Hey, you forgot something!”

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My plan was to tow an empty boat trailer (tandem, steel, about 1000lbs) 130 miles or so out to shore and then return with 3000lbs boat on board. But it turns out I didn’t have to tow the boat, so I just drove around with a thousand pounds of empty trailer. Which bothered the Lightning very little — even with the trailer attached, it could accelerate hard enough to bark its front tires at 40 mph. Off the line, you could definitely surprise the Mustang GT in the next lane. With your work truck. While pulling a tandem axle.

The general rule with EVs and towing is to expect a 50 percent reduction in range, which was reflected in the truck range prediction when I plugged in the trailer. But an empty boat trailer doesn’t have much air resistance, and the truck’s own numbers turned out to be pessimistic. While gobbling up electrons at a stated speed of 2.8 miles per kWh, I could expect over 200 miles of range while towing this particular trailer. And, in fact, I started with a non-full charge and towed over 170 miles (I took a detour to check out the Megarexx MegaBronc) and had about 75 miles of range left after unplugging the trailer. For the local tow that a real contractor would probably undertake, a Lightning would work just fine. Probably even a standard series. This truck also had the Max Tow package and thus a 10,000-pound towing capacity.

However, the downside to that large battery is that the standard level 2 charge takes a long time. By parking the Pro at a public ChargePoint station, it took the Lightning 16 hours and 35 minutes to absorb 111.38 kWh. So you can see why consumer Lightnings with the extended battery come with Ford’s 80-amp home charger, which, once you’ve wired your home to accommodate it, can charge nearly three times faster than my ChargePoint. Or the Lightning can of course also handle DC fast charging, but I didn’t test that because in my area the only DC fast chargers are at Harley-Davidson dealers, for the LiveWires.

But hey, that’s a minor problem for a quiet, fast, low-cost truck with an electrically operated frunk. But, you know, only fleet customers. Which made me wonder how many trucks make up a fleet, so I asked Ford. And the answer is five. If you buy five Lightning Pros at once, you are a fleet customer. Who wants to join Groupon?

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