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2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid Won’t Be A Plug-In Hybrid, According To Ford

The upcoming hybrid F-150 to be modeled more after Ford Explorer Hybrid and Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid. Ford confirms F-150 and Explorer will share a the same 10-speed modular hybrid transmission and see an increase in power and fuel economy.


Strolling through my Twitter feed (follow me @F150writer and @driverside), I saw something that caught my eye from Mike Levine (@mrlevine) who is the Product Communication Manager for Ford North America.

He said on a Tweet response to a Car and Driver story about the “laughable” range of 10 mpgs from the Ford F-150 PHEV: “Ford has never said the next F-150 will include a plug-in hybrid.”

Levine went on to Tweet:
“What Ford has said is that the F-150 and Explorer rear-wheel drive hybrids both share a crazy smart 10-speed modular hybrid transmission sharing 90% of its parts with the non-hybrid 10-speed.”

2020 Hybrid Ford Explorer Exterior

I asked Levine for more clarification about this and also asked if my assertion about the hybrid F-150 being more about performance than fuel economy was correct. He said:

“More than great fuel economy. It will also function as a mobile generator and tow heavy trailers.”

Levine’s answers to me were vague at best, but clearly the response to the InsidesEVs and Car and Driver information made him speak up. So we can take it to the bank that the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid will not be a plug-in, but just a regular hybrid. Let’s look at the 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid and see what else we can glean.

2006 Hybrid Ford Explorer Sign2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid
My Torque News colleague John Goreham is my go-to for all things hybrid. He did a story on the 2020 Explorer and even drove the hybrid version. When I asked him his thoughts he said: “The hybrid is a great drivetrain in that vehicle and will be good for truck owners who don't need top towing numbers.” Fellow Torque News contributor Patrick Rall offered up his first take on the 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid.

With an 18-gallon fuel tank, the all-new 2020 Explorer Limited Hybrid RWD has an EPA-estimated range of over 500 miles per tank of gas, meaning potentially more time on the road and less time filling up. The 2020 Explorer Limited Hybrid equipped with four-wheel drive has an EPA-estimated range of over 450 miles.
Rear-wheel- drive-equipped Explorer Limited Hybrid has an EPA-estimated rating of 27 mpg city /29 mpg highway/28 mpg combined, while a four-wheel-drive version has an EPA-estimated rating of 23 mpg city/26 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

The Explorer Hybrid does have a 3.3-liter hybrid engine and the aforementioned 10-speed modular hybrid transmission which allows that Explorer to tow up to 5,000 pounds. If properly equipped with a Class III Tow Package, the 2020 Explorer Hybrid can tow an additional 1,500 pounds.

How Does Explorer Hybrid Compare To The 2020 Police Interceptor Hybrid?
In my exchange with Levine, he referenced me to the hybrid police interceptor. This was a vehicle I was not knowledgeable on, so I took at a look at on Ford’s media site.

My colleague John Goreham got to drive the hybrid Interceptor and reported on it having great bottom-end torque with impressive regenerative braking. Postulating from what Levine told me, we can assume the 2021 F-150 Hybrid will have similar brakes too.

Unlike the Explorer, the Interceptor Hybrid uses a 3.7-liter gas engine along with a hybrid motor. Which, according to Ford led to a 41 percent improvement in fuel economy for this police vehicle. The Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid has an EPA-estimated rating of 23 mpg city/24 mpg highway/24 mpg combined.

Drawing Some Conclusions on 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid
We can now safely assume the 2021 F-150 hybrid won’t be a plug-in, so you can throw out all that talk about 10 mpg of EV driving. Clearly that’s been debunked.

Assuming the report that the 2021 F-150 Hybrid will get mated with the 3.5-liter Ecoboost (which is an assumption since Levine would not confirm that for me), then we assume it will get better power and performance than the Explorer Hybrid.

One report from Reuters that Levine pointed me to stated (accurately according to Levine) that the hybrid motor in the Explorer and F-150 makes 44 additional horsepower.

Drawing the conclusion of adding 44 more horses to the 3.5-liter Ecoboost of the F-150 means the 2021 F-150 Hybrid could see a total horsepower of 419. And certainly the electric assist and noticeable torque increase my colleague John Goreham noticed will push the overall pound-feet north of 500 for the hybrid F-150 too.

Levine refused to even comment on that postulation by me, but I feel pretty confident with my math there. With the electric assist motor and the modular hybrid transmission, this could also increase the towing capability of the 2021 Ford F-150 hybrid. How much of an increase? Well that’s hard to say. But if the Explorer Hybrid was able to pick up an additional 1,500 lbs. in towing then so could the F-150.

I appreciate you reading the information I provide here on Torque News. It’s not always easy figuring out fact from fiction. Some rumors end up being true and others end up being just rumors. It’s nice to see Mike Levine come forward on Twitter to clarify some things. And while I have a lot of respect for him and his staff at Ford, it’d be great to hear more about this exciting hybrid F-150 other than, “we don’t talk about future vehicles.” You may not, but the rest want to hear about future vehicles.

There is a lot of interest for it, and I think Ford will have a successful truck on their hands as long as it’s more powerful and more capable, which I think it will be. What do you think? Would you consider a hybrid F-150 if it did as much, if not more, than your current pickup truck? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.


DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 14, 2020 - 1:21PM

That is disappointing to hear. If they were smart, Ford probably made their EV drivetrain design modular, so that they could have models that used a smaller battery working as a regular hybrid, and then add a bigger battery and a plug to work as a plug in model. While it is understandable that they would build a hybrid model that makes the most profit, and it is a good move (from nothing) towards electrification, it now will certainly be an EV placeholder until their full EV150 comes out. I see a similar move by Honda with their hybrid CR-V, but no plug in model. The Toyota RAV4 Prime plug in hybrid, and the Tesla Model Y will take a good chunk of their sales. Similarly, the pure EV truck models, from the Rivian R1T to the Tesla Cybertruck, to the EV GMC Hummer will have more time in the truck market without having Ford's (or Dodge's) EV competition. However, with lower gas prices, the total stoppage of any vehicle production, and an upcoming recession, you cannot fault them for back peddling (or delaying EV advancement) to make the most short term profits. But it is disappointing news nevertheless.

FreddyB (not verified)    April 18, 2020 - 12:15PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

An F-150 hybrid is a big deal for fuel savings whether it's a long range plug in EV or not. Regenerative braking will save a lot of energy over a regular ICE configuration. A full EV would run the cost through the roof and the weight would kill the payload capacity. The Tesla Model 3 is pretty small and needs half a ton of batteries. I'm sure Ford could do a better job on battery engineering but they would still be very heavy and expensive.

Jimmy Dinsmore    April 14, 2020 - 2:52PM

Dean this is not a back pedal by Ford on account of anything, this was FALSE information circulated that Ford corrected. It was never going to be a plug-in hybrid. They seem to know what they envision for this. I am understanding it more now. They're not going to lose a single customer to someone who'd consider the RAV4 plug in. This is about improved performance (mobile generator, towing, torque) over fuel economy.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 14, 2020 - 4:30PM

It's not a back peddle in terms of what they have promised, but it is certainly a slower transition into full EV trucks. My comparison with the Toyota RAV4 Prime, is not to the F150 hybrid, it is to the Honda CR-V. Honda, like Ford, did not choose to make the CR-V a plug in hybrid, even though years ago they had Honda Pilot PHEV mules running around, and no PHEV models have yet surfaced. Toyota offers the RAV4 in both a hybrid model, and a plug in hybrid (Prime). As I mentioned, other truck manufacturers like Dodge are not even as far along as Ford's F150 hybrid, as they have a mild hybrid, which is just a generator/alternator, but it is weak. And of course GM has nothing in EV trucks now either, but their Hummer (now probably delayed) will be a full BEV, and other truck EVs will show up the F150 Hybrid as being a marginal improvement, compared to a plug in truck/SUV (like the Lincoln Aviator PHEV), and of course Ford's own promised and rumored BEV F150.

Jimmy Dinsmore    April 15, 2020 - 7:56AM

Ford will have the full EV truck. They will be the first major automaker with such a vehicle. I've been critical of Ford when it was required, but I also give them credit on things too when it's due. Even without a plug-in, having a hybrid pickup truck is extraordinary. Especially when you're messing with your top-selling nameplate during a very difficult financial situation. It's bold. Just like changing to aluminum body. So I guess I don't totally see your point as whether it's a plug-in or just a general hybrid, they're at least doing something. And the EV F-150 will be revolutionary, IMO.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 15, 2020 - 12:43PM

My point is that I don't think that Ford will be the first major automaker with an electric pickup truck. And this choice to have a regular hybrid model, rather than a plug in hybrid demonstrates that they are going to move slowly, rather than lead the market. Even though I think that the Covid-19 pandemic will delay ALL U.S. automaker's future developments, GM has just reasserted that they are serious about their plans to offer a full EV line up of vehicles, so I expect to see the Hummer pickup released well before Ford's EV F150, especially with this latest clarification that the hybrid F150 will not be a plug in model. And most likely Rivian and Tesla will beat GM to market with their pickup trucks, which will again push GM and Ford to accelerate the release of their own EV models. Ford has had their Energi PHEV models out since 2013, and the Lincoln Aviator PHEV shows that they could have easily released a PHEV F150 using the same plug in drivetrain, but they are choosing a slower, and financially safer transition to electrification. With all of the market uncertainty now I cannot blame them too harshly for going slow, and I will give them credit for advancing the F150 line up with a hybrid model.

Jimmy Dinsmore    April 16, 2020 - 8:11AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

I think Ford will definitely get to market before the GM hummer EV. I don't know for a fact, but it takes years to plan vehicles like this and I've heard about the EV F-150 for several years and just recently heard about the Hummer one. Plus, will that Hummer be a pickup truck?

Mark Lally (not verified)    April 15, 2020 - 5:29PM

I would NOT dismiss the 10 miles of EV range in the new F150 non-plug in hybrid. You can have a conventional hybrid with a much larger battery than what is normally used in hybrid sedans and SUV's. As I own two ford hybrids (fusion and Cmax), I know how these systems preform. To me, having a much larger hybrid battery in a vehicle meant for towing heavy loads and for being used as a generator makes complete sense. If you where towing a heavy load up a hill, you would quickly exhaust the energy of a conventionally sized hybrid battery and the hauling ability would diminish; it also makes little sense to be in generator mode and having a large 3.5 liter engine running all the time, it would not be efficient; it would be more efficient to charge a large battery and cycle the engine. The 10 mile capacity seems logical to me, but I doubt Ford would program the truck to use it's reserves for that purpose, unless it was stop and go city driving, it would seem more logical to reserve that energy for pulling up hill, generator mode and stop and go situations.

Mike E. (not verified)    May 15, 2020 - 5:55AM

In reply to by Mark Lally (not verified)

I would think that it would also depend upon what mode the truck is operating in. Towing mode should logically reserve any battery availability for getting a load moving (torque) and possibly up those hills at near maximum capacity to provide a little more oomph. In EcoMode you'd expect the computer to sense the driving conditions and provide battery accordingly. I guess if there was a normal mode it would be set parameters, something like under 20 mph and or when using high horsepower. I have to say, I'm disappointed but happy why it couldn't be possible to have a similar sized battery with a plug in port I don't know. If the battery is supposed to aid the engine in any way, (which it is obviously), than what happens when I'm ready to start a trip with a heavy load? Wouldn't it be nice to not have to go drive around for that little bit of battery power? Plugging the truck in for 30 minutes to go from dead to full once in a while could prove beneficial. I'm suggesting the same battery and weight plus plug in, that would have been huge!

Kean (not verified)    May 27, 2020 - 2:00AM

In reply to by Mike E. (not verified)

Non-plugin hybrids don't drain to zero unless something has gone badly wrong, so the battery will never be dead. You'll always have it to help at the start of a trip.
To be more specific, non-plugin hybrids always try to keep the battery at about 50%. I've never seen mine go under 25%. I have maxed it out through regenerative braking, but that's a different issue.

Don (not verified)    June 4, 2020 - 7:41PM

As a former battery engineer for many years I am surprised at Fords disregard or abandonment of the PHEV option. What is one to do once they arrive home from work with a 60% State of Charge (SOC) remaining in the battery. Where are the electrons going to come from to restore it by morning to near 100% SOC?

The magic black box does obey the laws of thermodynamics!

Early Toyota hybrid electric economy cars owners were furious when they did away with PHEV models. So much so that the craftsmen among them designed and installed their own aftermarket home built. Around here companies offered free recharging stations so they could drive home using less CO2 emitting petrochemicals. I would hate to imagine that Ford gave up on the F-150 PHEV because they couldn't assemble the talent to do the work or explain the benefits to marketing.