Before you hitch an Airstream to your electric truck and set out to circumnavigate the country, you need to understand this: With the largest available battery pack, a fully charged 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck has less energy onboard than a regular F-150 with four gallons of gas in its tank.
Consider how far a combustion-powered F-150 would tow at max capacity on four gallons of regular unleaded. Thirty five miles? Maybe 40 if you drive slowly?
Now that you understand where we’re starting from, you won’t be as surprised to learn that the towing range of the electric F-150 is dismal. In MotorTrend testing, an F-150 Lightning Platinum saddled with a camper that nearly maxed out its 8,500-pound towing capacity couldn’t even cover 100 miles. Range improved when we hooked up a significantly lighter trailer, but not by as much as you might expect.
How Much Can The Ford F-150 Lightning Tow?
The Lightning’s towing capacity ranges from 5,000 pounds up to 10,000 pounds. To hit the big number, you’ll need an XLT or Lariat trim with the optional extended-range battery, and the Max Trailer Tow package that adds more battery- and motor-cooling capacity. To get there, you’ll spend at least $75,094.
We performed our testing with the top-shelf $92,669 Platinum trim (full test at this link), which includes the larger battery and has a standard towing capacity of 7,700 pounds. The Max Trailer Tow upgrade, which wasn’t equipped on our test truck, raises that to 8,500 pounds.
The Test: Towing The Line
With more than 500 pop-ups, teardrops, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, camper vans, and RVs on the lot, the General RV dealership in Wixom, Michigan, inspires grand dreams about wandering America on wheels. We set our sights significantly shorter, though, as we embarked on an out-and-back loop as far as we dared travel with the heaviest trailer we plucked out of General RV’s toy box. That camper, a 2022 Grand Design Imagine 2910BH, sleeps eight, measures nearly 34 feet long, and weighs 7,218 pounds.
We followed the same methodology used to determine an EV’s MotorTrend Road-Trip Range. With the automatic climate control set to 72 degrees, headlights on, and the audio system playing, our testing imitates how most owners will use their vehicles, rather than reaching for the maximum possible range. We targeted an average speed of 70 mph, but construction at the beginning and end of our route meant our speed was slightly lower than we were aiming for. All three tests were at least consistent, with average highway speeds between 64 and 67 mph.
After establishing an 80-mile route, we repeated the test with a 17-foot, 3,140-pound Forest River R Pod RP-153, and a 28-foot, 5,260-pound Coachmen Freedom Express 246RKS. We used the energy consumption from these real-world tests to extrapolate how far someone could drive on a full charge.
The Results: How Far Can A Ford F-150 Lightning Tow?
Before we answer the big question, let’s set the baseline. While the EPA says the F-150 Lightning Platinum is good for 300 miles, that number is based on a mix of city and highway driving. With only a driver aboard and no trailer in tow, the Platinum achieved a MotorTrend Road-Trip Range of 255 miles.
We had been warned to expect the range to be cut in half when towing, but the effect of towing these travel trailers proved even more significant. With the smallest and lightest trailer, we measured a range of just 115 miles. That figure fell to 100 miles with the middleweight camper and sank to a mere 90 miles with the 7,218-pound Grand Design trailer.
The tightly clustered results reveal that aerodynamics have a bigger impact on towing range than weight. Using the width and height of the trailers to calculate a crude approximation of frontal area, the larger two trailers more than double the area plowing through the air compared to an unladen F-150. If you’re towing something smaller and sleeker, such as a boat, an open car hauler, or a utility trailer, you’ll likely be able to push farther than we did on a single charge.
We should also note that the XLT and Lariat models are more efficient than the Platinum, stretching the same battery pack to an EPA-rated range of 320 miles. Cherry-picking the right trim and options could buy you a few more towing miles.
What’s It Like To Tow With The Ford F-150 Lightning?
With 775 lb-ft of torque on tap, the electric Ford F-150 shoves off from a stop smoothly and confidently, but that authority wanes as speeds climb. Equipped with single-speed transmissions at the front and rear motors, the Lightning can’t just downshift into the meat of the torque curve like a gas truck does, so passing maneuvers at highway speeds require patience and planning with a heavy trailer.
The Lightning takes some of the stress out of towing, however, with clever and easy-to-use tech. The blind-spot monitor can extend to cover trailers up to 33 feet long, and a Tow Technology package that’s standard on the Platinum and available on all other trims adds a trailer brake controller, a 360-degree camera system, and Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which takes the guesswork out of steering a trailer in reverse. It also includes Ford’s brilliant Smart Hitch feature that puts the dark art of dialing in the tongue weight within reach of average Joes and Janes. Carrying between 10 and 15 percent of a trailer’s weight on the hitch makes for more stable towing, and Smart Hitch makes figuring out if you are within that window a simple extension of hooking up the trailer—if the Lightning indicates the hitch is carrying more or less than that, you either repack the trailer or use a weight-distribution hitch to shift the balance of the load.
Perhaps most important, the Lightning doesn’t try to hide its limited towing range. The truck cut its estimated range in half every time we connected a trailer and punched the load’s weight and dimensions into the 15.5-inch touchscreen. That number then fell rapidly during the first few miles of highway driving until it accurately reflected what was possible. Until someone figures out how to double or triple the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, that seems like the most we can ask of electric vehicles that are pressed into towing duty.