Just 23 mpg, but can power a worksite


The Ford F-150 Hybrid has been a long time coming. Although the possibility has been suggested by company executives for years, it’s understandable why the hybrid version of such a strong American institution—America’s best-selling vehicle for almost 40 years—had to get it right from the start. 

As revealed Thursday, Ford’s idea of getting the 2021 F-150 Hybrid right doesn’t mean aiming past 30 mpg. Wearing the PowerBoost badge—which says a lot in itself about the mission—the F-150 Hybrid appears to aim for incremental gains in fuel economy while pulling as well (or better than) the non-hybrids in the numbers that matter to F-150 buyers: towing and hauling.

In short, the F-150 Hybrid’s extra electric power may be used to boost functionality as opposed to merely watch the fleet fuel budget.

The F-150 Hybrid uses a 10-speed automatic transmission, adding a 35-kw (47-horsepower) modular electric motor system and a disconnect clutch at its hub. The gasoline engine is a 3.5-liter turbo V-6 that’s part of Ford’s EcoBoost family. 

Ford is targeting an EPA-estimated range of approximately 700 miles for the hybrid on a 30.6-gallon tank of gas—indicating it’s expecting about 23 mpg combined. 

The liquid-cooled 1.5-kwh battery pack is mounted between the frame rails and below the front portion of the load floor, and Ford says that it has “a unique vibration isolation system.”

Ford says that the F-150 Hybrid’s system was designed around supporting high payload and towing requirements (about 12,000 pounds, the company suggested), and enabling sustained driving at high loads. That’s very different than the system in the Ford Escape Hybrid, which is tuned for its 41-mpg rating. 

The hybrid model is offered along with four different gasoline V-6 and V-8 engines, and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. The F-150 Hybrid isn’t a standalone trim level; it’s part of a redesigned F-150 lineup that includes six trim levels, from XL to Limited; three cab styles; three box lengths; six engines. 

As we found in a first drive of the Ford Explorer Hybrid, which has a system that Ford then volunteered was closely related to what will be installed in the F-150 Hybrid, the more aggressively that vehicle was driven, the smoother and better-coordinated the powertrain seemed. That makes sense with what Ford says is the aim, even though it doesn’t result in a system that provides either excellent gas mileage or graceful operation in light-load conditions. 

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

The F-150 Hybrid includes a special option enabled by its hybrid components: a strong 7.2-kw generator system that fully replaces an onboard generator by running the engine and repurposing the hybrid’s motor. That system includes four 120-volt AC outlets plus one 240-volt, 30-amp outlet and allows up to 32 hours of continuous use. 

Ford suggested that with the 7.2-kw generator you could potentially operate a compound miter saw, circular saw, battery charger, hammer drill, air compressor, and floodlights all at once. 

A lower-power version of the generator system, called Pro Power by Ford, offers 2.4 kw and dual 120-volt outlets, and Ford says it can run for 85 hours. That version is standard on F-150. A 2.0-kw generator is optional on all gas-powered F-150s, but not on the 3.3-liter V-6 or turbodiesel.

The V-6 in the F-150 Hybrid has been adapted for the hybrid system and for mobile generator requirements, according to Ford, but the company hasn’t said exactly how. 

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

The new F-150 is essentially the same size as the outgoing truck, but the sheetmetal is new and Ford claims substantial changes to the frame. The wheels have been pulled outward 0.75 inches, the tire diameter is larger, and the stance has been made “more powerful.” As with the current version of the F-150, the body is made with aluminum alloy. 

Ford is playing to a particularly loyal and patriotic crowd with the Michigan-assembled truck, and it’s embracing that in the details. The door panels has been given a Detroit map applique in XLT Sport trucks, and the trim along the dash vents have an American flag etched into them. 

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

Ford also boasted of a fold-away shift lever that permits a flat work surface on the center console for laptops, and lie-flat seats that could turn the F-150 into overnight accommodation—or a good place for a nap while you’re waiting for the next appointment at a worksite. 

A new gear tray—like Rivian’s gear tunnel, but part of the cab—also spans the width of the vehicle, bringing space to stow smaller items below the back seat. Back seats flip up against the back of the cab to allow a flat load floor in back for coolers or other large items. And the bed now comes ready with some of the basic tools for contractors, including a ruler and a spot to clamp work items. 

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

The lineup offers upgrades to 8.0- and 12.0-inch touchscreens, both part of Ford’s Sync 4 system and offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity plus off-the-grid navigation capability. A Premium Navigation system adds real-time traffic, active guidance and rerouting, and real-time weather. Ford says that it will be the first truck in its segment to offer over-the-air updates for quality, safety, and feature upgrades. 

Through its FordPass app, drivers can control the generator operation, plus things like climate controls, remote start, and vehicle location.

The F-150 will be the second Ford vehicle, after the Mach-E electric SUV, to offer Active Drive Assist, a hands-free adaptive cruise control system and driver aid that will be offered on a network of mapped highways. Starting summer 2021, owners will be able to select the feature as an upgrade, for a fee. Including Active Drive Assist, Ford says that it will offer 10 driver-assist technologies on the F-150.



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