Are you thinking about getting an electric car, but you are not completely sure if it will work for your lifestyle? In this article, I am sharing our real-life experience owning the all electric F-150 Lightning truck here in the Midwest for one year. We are covering the following topics:
Let’s start with some facts about our electric truck. Which version did we get? We have a the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum.
Why did we get an electric truck?
Currently, our electric F-150 Lightning is our only family car. I bought a Ford Mustang Mach-E one year before we got the electric truck. It was the first car I ever purchased, and I absolutely loved it. After taking a few road trips with the Mustang here in the Midwest, we felt confident that going all-electric would work out for us. As a result, my husband sold our last gas-powered car.
Let’s talk about how far we can go on a single charge and how that actually matters.
Currently, we are pretty much the only F-150 Lightning owners in our area, so any time we stop somewhere and people realize that the truck is electric, we get the same first reaction.
“Hey, that truck is so cool! What’s the range?”
Officially, the long range version of the F-150 Lightning Platinum has an EPA-estimated driving range of 300 miles. What does that mean?
This is the range that they get when they officially test a vehicle “under laboratory conditions” and standardized driving conditions. Just like with emissions for gas-powered cars this is the basis to compare the efficiency of one vehicle to the next. These are standardized driving and charging profiles at standardized outside temperatures as well as standard settings for air conditioning, heating as well as entertainment.
In a battery powered vehicle, everything from propelling your car to climate control to entertainment uses energy that is supplied from your high voltage battery. Depending on several factors such as driving style, weather conditions, road type, traffic and use of accessories like air conditioning and heating, the exact range you will have on a trip will vary from that official range.
For our Lightning, depending on who is driving, if we drive in the winter or summer, if we have a load in the truck bed, we see a variation between 200 to 300 miles on one charge.
If you want to compare this to a gas-powered car, just think of the “fuel efficiency” – how many miles can you go per gallon. This number also significantly changes depending on who is driving, how fast you drive, if you tow something or not, if you drive through the mountains or not etc.
Although one thing that is significantly different when comparing a gas-powered car to an EV in the winter is the fact that your engine produces a lot of heat when it runs and hence helps heat up the cabin too. In the case of an EV, you don’t have that effect at all and have to rely on alternative methods for cabin heating.
However, it’s worth noting that the absence of this heat production is actually one of the indications why EVs are more efficient than gas-powered cars. Gas-powered vehicles are notorious for their inefficiency, as only around 30% of the energy contained in the fuel is actually utilized to move the wheels, while the majority of it is wasted as heat. EVs, on the other hand, are electrically powered and convert energy from the battery directly into motion, resulting in an overall efficiency of up to 90-95% and less wasted energy.
If we weren’t constantly asked about the range of our EVs every time we meet someone new, it wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion for us. The range of our vehicles is sufficient for our needs, and we always have a clear understanding of how much further we can go at any given time.
During our everyday driving when going to work or for smaller trips within a radius of 100 miles, we don’t bother checking the battery’s state of charge. Typically, we only utilize around half of the battery’s capacity, which is more than enough, especially considering the convenience of charging at home or work.
The only time range “affects us” is during road trips. In those instances, we rely on tools and resources that guide us to our next destination, providing information on where to charge and for how long. We have access to the right tools and information, which gives us confidence about our EV’s range at any given time. We never experience “range anxiety.” Instead, on road trips, we may discuss “charging anxiety.”
Read more about charging and road trips below.
Most of the time, we charge our electric truck at home using our solar system and the Emporia level 2 charger in the garage with a 240 V outlet. So far, we have experienced complete reliability with this setup, encountering no issues whatsoever.
We park our truck outside in front of the garage year around. The Emporia charging cable is long enough to reach outside. We recently added a mount on the outside for the charging handle. Most of the time, you’ll find the cable running underneath the garage door to this handle. Also very convenient when you have friends visiting with EVs.
Additionally to home charging, we are lucky and have an option to charge at work. We have a commercial Level 2 charger provided by Cyber Switching. The installation process for the charger involved obtaining the necessary permits which took a bit longer than expected, but it is now set up and available for anyone who comes to work with an EV. Read this if you are interested in more details about workplace charging.
The answer to that question is not as simple as stating a single number. If you’re new to EV charging, I recommend watching this video where I explain the different charging options available and why it’s important to consider more than just one charging time.
Compared to filling up a gas-powered car at a gas station, charging an EV is a different concept. Unlike gas stations, there are multiple options for charging an EV, depending on your situation. You may have the convenience of charging at home or rely on public charging infrastructure.
For us, whether we charge at home or in public, our most common charging practice is “topping off.” We don’t completely deplete the battery and then charge it up in one go. Instead, we charge it in smaller increments.
Let’s take a typical week as an example. Our daily commute to work is about 40 miles round trip, and we may run errands during the week. On the weekend, we might go on a short trip totaling around 70-100 miles. In total, we might cover about 300 miles per week.
So now, how do we charge the truck?
One option could be to start the week with a full battery (100% state of charge), deplete it throughout the week, and then perform a full overnight charge on Sunday. This is probably most comparable to how you use a gas-powered car. The charging process in that case with our Level 2 AC charger at home takes about 10 hours. However, there are drawbacks to this approach.
First, it can impact the battery’s lifetime, especially with the current state-of-the art battery chemistry (NMC). Lithium-ion batteries with NMC cathodes don’t like to be completely charged or discharged, they prefer an intermediate window around 50% charged leading to lowest degradation over lifetime. Read more about that here or watch this video. Second, you limit you flexibility and rely one one big charging event.
Another option is to start the week at around 50-60% of the full battery capacity and maintain that level throughout the week. 60% SOC means a range of 180 miles for our truck. We can set this charging limit in our Ford App, and our truck will stop charging when it reaches that threshold. You can have different limits for different locations.
Every week day, that we drive our typical 40-60 miles, we immediately recharge to 60% at the office or at home. I call this concept “topping off”. It offers flexibility and is beneficial for battery health. Charging times for this method are just a 1-2 hours. (About 40-50 miles per hour.)
Interestingly, and this is what’s also surprising to new EV drivers, this “topping off” scenario is also the approach we use on road trips. Read more below.
Before installing solar, it used to cost us 13 to 17 cents per kWh to charge at home. For our 130kWh battery pack this would be about $20 for a full charge for about 300 miles.
It could be for free or for a certain charge. This is individual to your employer. Systems like the CSE1 EV charging station from Cyber Switching allow an employer to set up a customized payment system. They can easily accept payments, set up charging rates, limit the station to specific group of people, let employees reserve and schedule charging sessions – all in one tap, via the mobile app.
When I purchased my first electric car, my husband still had his gas-powered vehicle. We were hesitant to completely replace the gas-powered car with an EV because we were unsure if longer trips would be feasible for us in the Midwest. However, nearly two years later, we can confidently say that EVs work for us in all situations. We have adopted an open-minded approach and enjoy pushing the boundaries.
One of my favorite things to share on my social media platforms, such as Instagram @electrified.veronika and TikTok @ev_veronika, is the real-life experience of embarking on an EV road trip. I enjoy posting real-time stories that showcase our trip planning process and provide insights into how charging and other aspects work. Watch a good example here.
Currently, we live in Wisconsin and many of our longer journeys involve visiting our family in Detroit and Northern Michigan. These trips offer a great opportunity to document the EV experience.
Planning an EV road trip can feel overwhelming at first, but it becomes second nature as you gain confidence and familiarity with the available tools and methods. There are numerous apps that can assist in trip planning, providing information on charging locations and durations. While using the OEMs’ app is a common choice, it can sometimes have limitations.
After trying various options, we have found “ABPR, A Better Routeplanner” to be our preferred third-party tool for our F-150 Lightning.
A Better Routeplanner is an app that goes beyond traditional third-party trip planning. It can access real-time data from your battery through the OBD2 dongle, enabling it to accurately predict your charging stops while you’re on the road. What sets it apart is its ability to adapt the charging strategy based on your real-time driving conditions. We utilize this app both offline, to plan our route ahead of time, and online during our trips. It has proven to be the most reliable and accurate prediction tool we’ve used, and we’re extremely satisfied with its performance.
When we go on a longer trip, we typically check the route the day before. When using the Routeplanner ahead of time, you select your specific EV model, choose the starting and ending battery state of charge, and decide on your preferred charging strategy. You can set your preferred way of charging to everything between “Few but long stops” to “Quickest Arrival” to “Short but many stops”.
Here’s an example of how these settings can impact our trip from Wisconsin to Northern Michigan.
Interestingly, if you compare all those options in terms of total travel time, driving and charging time, they are quite similar. It’s really just a preference what works best for you and obviously there is options in between those extreme cases.
Our preferred case is the scenario in the upper right picture where we have one bathroom and charging break in Chicago, then a longer lunch/dinner stop in Kalamazoo with the main charging event and then maybe a couple more bathroom stops where we don’t necessarily charge.
Please note that the charging times and number of stops required for your specific electric vehicle (EV) are influenced by several factors:
The good news is that various apps and tools, such as “A Better Routeplanner,” can automatically incorporate all of these factors and provide real-time updates as you drive. You don’t have to worry about these intricacies. However, it’s important to be aware that there may be variations in charging times when repeating the same road trip under different conditions, such as cold weather.
The cost of DC fast charging depends on the charging location, the public infrastructure provider you choose, and the charging speed. Since we’re specifically discussing road trips, let’s focus on DC fast charging.
In the United States, there are several independent third-party providers, such as “Electrify America” or “EVGo.” These providers charge based on the kilowatt-hour (kWh), with rates that can vary depending on whether you’ve subscribed to their membership model or not. As we primarily charge in public only during road trips, we haven’t found it beneficial to engage in a subscription at this point.
In any case, it’s necessary to sign up through the respective provider’s app before accessing their charging stations. Prices have increased significantly over the past two years.
Ford has established a partnership with Electrify America called “Plug and Charge,” which comes closest to the Tesla charging experience. You set up this option in your app with an automatic payment system and when you get to charging station you just plug in and everything else happens automatically. It’s very convenient. When you purchase your EV, Ford provides a certain credit of “charging points.” This has incentivized us to seek out Electrify America charging stations.
Currently, in Illinois and Michigan, where we charge during our road trips, prices are approximately $0.48/kWh. Those rates increased significantly over the past 1-2 years. I do recall encountering a rate of about 31 cents/kWh last year. Here is one example of our last road trip, where paid $45.79 for a 50 min charging event.
Yes and No.
In general, urban areas and major cities in the Midwest have a relatively well-developed charging infrastructure compared to rural or sparsely populated regions. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the charging network is continuously expanding and improving.
From our personal experience, the charging infrastructure in Wisconsin is not sufficiently developed for easy travel to northern areas. We would greatly appreciate an expansion of charging stations in those locations. As for our current travel needs, there are enough charging stations to support trips going west, south, and through Chicago to reach Michigan. However, it’s worth noting that as you head farther north, the density of charging stations decreases.
We often debate if today’s electric vehicles have enough range already or not. And this is of course heavily connected to how dense the charging network is. In my perspective, a range of 300 miles is good enough with a dense enough and reliable public charging network.
The activities we engage in during charging vary each time and depend entirely on the charger locations. Some chargers are conveniently situated in areas such as shopping centers, restaurants, or coffee houses. However, there are chargers that seem to be in remote locations where facilities like bathrooms are not available.
Additionally, the time of day plays a role in determining our actions. For instance, I would avoid getting out at chargers in questionable areas during the late hours. That’s why it’s essential to plan our road trips in advance and research the charging locations. There are apps that provide reviews, pictures, and details about the amenities offered at charging stations.
In general, during shorter stops of around 10-20 minutes, we usually take bathroom breaks, or grab a cup of coffee. For longer stops of approximately 45 minutes to an hour, we take the opportunity to enjoy a longer meal.
If there are no amenities available nearby, we opt to stay in the car and watch Netflix.
So far, we have never encountered any issues that have prevented us from completing our trips or left us stranded with our EV.
There have been a few occasions where one of the available chargers at a charging location was not functioning. Whether it displayed an “Out of operation” message or simply didn’t start when plugged in, we were fortunate to find other functioning stations at the same location. Only once, we had to wait for another EV to finish charging before we could begin our own charging session.
While it does require some flexibility and additional time planning due to the occasional unreliability of chargers, it has never resulted in any kind of emergency situation for our occasional road trips.
The Midwest winter can be quite harsh, with heavy snowfall, ice and prolonged periods of low temperatures. However, it is a misconception to say that EVs don’t function well in cold weather. Take Norway, for example, where EV adoption has reached 73% of all new cars despite their snowy winters, cold temperatures, and mountainous terrain. In our own experience, we have found that EVs work perfectly fine during the winter months. Let’s talk about it.
Yes, we do see a lower range in the winter as compared to the summer! And this is typically the second question we get when we meet somebody new.
“Hey, that truck is so cool! What’s the range?”, “But how far can you go in the winter?”
There are basically two main reasons for an EV to loose range in cold weather.
As a result, we typically experience a reduction of up to 30% in the winter range compared to the summer range.
The following chart shows the winter range loss for 13 popular EV models taken from 7,000 vehicles in the Recurrent community from across the United States. You can see range losses of up to 33% in the winter as compared to the EPA rated range and it heavily depends on the type of EV.
While we can’t avoid the range loss overall there are a couple things that we do a bit different in the winter with our F-150 Lightning as compared to summer months. As mentioned previously, we park our truck outdoors throughout the year, including the cold winter season. During this time, it is not uncommon for our vehicle to be completely covered in snow.
Here are some things:
We have not tried towing with our electric truck, but as soon as we do, I will update this review.
“Why does everybody need a truck in the US? Can’t they drive more efficient cars?”
I see this perception often fueled by Europeans on LinkedIn or other platforms (and remember I am Austrian) and I would say it carries some truth. While I won’t delve into the details, I have observed both cases. There are certainly people that drive huge SUVs and trucks when they would not really need to from a functionality and lifestyle perspective, but then there are plenty of individuals who rely on trucks for work purposes.
The “truck” mentality has influenced us here in the Midwest, but I can genuinely say that it aligns well with our lifestyle and we truly use this electric truck both as a work truck, adventure vehicle and family van. The fact that this is our only vehicle and we charge it mostly from the sun makes it an efficient solution for us.
Now, how good or bad are electric trucks in terms of sustainability?
When we talk about sustainability of electric cars, we have to look at what we call “Lifecycle Assessments (LCA).” An LCA is a comprehensive method used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product, process, or activity throughout its entire life cycle. It involves analyzing the environmental inputs, outputs, and potential impacts associated with all stages of the life cycle, including raw material extraction, manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal.
This is very useful when we want to compare emissions from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles, or compare efficiencies and emissions from one electric car to the next.
There have been many LCAs for comparing electric cars to internal combustion engine cars in the past years, for different parts of the world. The one I want to share here was published in 2022 by University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. researchers. It compares the green house gas emissions from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV).
They found that for sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks, battery-electric vehicles have approximately 64% lower cradle-to-grave life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than internal-combustion-engine vehicles on average across the United States. Find the whole study here.
Another tool I always recommend when talking about sustainability, emissions and cost for electric cars is “CARBONCOUNTER.com – Cars evaluated against climate targets”. This is a tool that was developed by MIT Trancik Lab and is based on this study.
It is an interactive tool that allows you to compare lifecycle emissions and cost of almost 200 vehicle models in the US. The special thing is that you can customize
The upper graph below shows the tool’s start page and displays about 200 vehicles in the database categorized by their propulsion type. ICE vehicles are represented in black, hybrids in red, battery electric vehicles in yellow, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in blue. The turquoise line represents the emission climate target for 2030. For BEVs, the average electricity mix of the US is used as the standard setting. It’s evident that even with today’s average electricity generation in the US, most EVs are below the climate goal for 2030.
In the lower graph I have specifically filtered out AWD pickup trucks. The database includes several gas-powered versions as well as two battery electric pickup trucks, namely the F-150 Lightning and the Rivian truck. Based on this study, both of these trucks, at least with the US average electricity grid do not hit the 2030 emission targets.
In the following two graphs, I have continued to filter AWD pickup trucks but made a change in the electricity mix for charging. Instead of the average US mix, I have used the specific electricity mix of Wisconsin. The results show a slight deterioration in the situation since Wisconsin primarily relies on coal for electricity generation. However, if we consider California’s electricity mix, the situation significantly improves.
Since we mainly charge our truck using solar power from our house, our emissions are likely close to or even better than the Californian electricity mix. However, it’s challenging to pinpoint our exact position on the graph in terms of emissions. It may vary depending on how frequently we go on road trips and rely on the public charging grid in the Midwest.
While it’s interesting to compare ICEs to EVs let’s also take a closer look at electric vehicles only. The next graph focuses solely on EVs, beginning with the average US electricity grid and gradually transitioning to “better” grids. This graph effectively demonstrates the remarkable sustainability potential of electric vehicles. By exclusively relying on a “100% low carbon electricity grid”, such as solar charging, we are already meeting the 2050 target today. It’s important to note that emissions of EVs are not reduced to zero due to factors like vehicle and battery manufacturing, raw material extraction, and recycling processes. Nonetheless, the progress made is significant.
After owning the all electric Ford F-150 Lightning truck for a year now, we conclude: We just love it. So far, there has not been a single day where we missed a gas-powered vehicle. It really fits our lifestyle.
Improvements we would like to see in the future for this truck and EVs in the Midwest:
Anything else you would like to know?
#EV Electrified Veronika
Expertise, Empathy, Enthusiasm