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Ford Engineers Test Lightnings In Tough Situations To Make Sure Everything Is Okay

There is something to be said for testing, especially electric vehicles. The conventional thinking has always been that battery-powered EVs would have serious weather problems as extreme cold and heat sap battery strength. That's why Ford's engineers put their electric pickup Lightning through a number for grueling tests.

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One of the issues sure to have been on the minds of electric truck buyers is cold-weather performance. After all, if there is one issue that constantly confounds batteries, it is cold weather.

Lightnings Stand Up To Cold Weather

Indeed as the weather heads toward zero, the performance of batteries doesn't just fall off slowly. It's more like a cliff. When the battery hits the zero mark, it has lost about 50 percent of its charge to the cold. That's why vehicles with marginal batteries tend to break down in the cold. It's not that the battery won't take and hold a charge. It is that the battery loses power as the temp drops.

At zero, a standard vehicle battery has about half the power that a typically charged battery has at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Drop the temperature by another 10 or 15 degrees, and the battery's power halves again. As noted, this is for batteries in good shape.

It has been axiomatic for years that batteries couldn't stand up to the cold. However, the Ford F-150 Lightning, the automaker's first all-electric pickup, shows the old thinking wrong. Indeed to make sure that the Lightning performed well in the cold, the automaker took half-a-dozen early models up to a camp in Alaska and put the vehicles through their paces.

The Lightnings withstood the cold, and the battery performance of the test vehicles was impressive. Later, the automaker took the Lightning to Colorado and hooked a test truck up to a 10,000-pound towing package. Then, they turned the vehicle loose on an uphill climb, and it worked out beautifully.

The engineers also have shown that electric pickups will have a significant role in cutting emissions.

Engineers Finds Tough Testing Venues

And, now the folks who continually throw Lightnings into strange, cold situations have come up with another torture test for the electric pickups. Whether hauling snowmobiles to a cabin in the dead of winter or towing the pontoon boat to the lake in the dog-days of summer, Ford engineers have tested the 2022 F-150 Lightning to ensure that the automaker's customers are covered. To help prove it, Ford engineers took the first all-electric F-Series to two of America's most challenging real-world towing routes during development – Davis Dam in the summer and TFLTruck's Ike Gauntlet in the winter.

Last month, Ford engineers took preproduction F-150 Lightnings to what some call the world's toughest towing test — TFLtruck's Ike Gauntlet towing test — with windchills registering below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The Ike Gauntlet is an 8-mile stretch of I-70 in Colorado that ascends at a 7 percent incline to a maximum elevation of 11,158-feet above sea level around the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel.

Towing in wintery conditions, however, is only one part of the equation. To prove the truck's muster towing in extreme heat, Ford took the F-150 Lightning to the extreme grades of Davis Dam. With ground temperatures reaching a high of 118-degrees Fahrenheit during testing, F-150 Lightning preproduction units towed the same 10,000-pound trailers for multiple loops across the dam. Davis Dam, located on State Route 68 between Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, ascends from 550 feet elevation to 3,500 feet in 11.4-grueling miles.

Sites Put Lightnings Through Wringer

Between the two locations, their steep continuous inclines, expressway speeds, and trailers in tow – in this case, the truck's targeted maximum 10,000-pound trailers – make them highly grueling for EV and gas trucks alike. The two testing trips are examples of the hundreds of hours of rigorous towing testing the F-150 Lightning has endured during development.

Ford begins deliveries of the 2022 F-150 Lightning pickup this spring.

During the test sessions, the testers' models included max towing packages on XLT and LARIAT models with available extended-range batteries. The Max Trailer Tow Package for maximum towing capability varies based on cargo, vehicle configuration, accessories, and the number of passengers.

Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise that I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.

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