Turning a Ford F-150 Lightning into a backup generator means you can keep the lights on during power outages. Here is the additional equipment you will need to use the EV battery to power a home.
Spend an afternoon driving the Ford F-150 Lightning through the vineyards and redwood-shaded back roads of California’s wine country and the truck’s considerable power is evident. What makes the electric version of America’s best-selling vehicle a potential game-changer isn’t its acceleration (zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds) or its range (up to 320 miles with a charge). Rather, it’s the technology that harnesses the Lightning’s battery to power your home or the power grid itself during increasingly frequent weather-induced blackouts.
The Lightning’s 131-kilowatt-hour extended-range lithium-ion pack offers nearly 10 times the capacity of a Tesla Powerwall, an $11,000 household backup battery that can’t be driven to the supermarket. The Lightning is “a mini powerhouse for your home,” says Jason Glickman, executive vice president of engineering, planning and strategy at California utility PG&E Corp. “It can support the network on a hot summer day when demand is increasing.”
“On a large scale, when these vehicles are allowed to send power back to the grid, flexible alerts and emergency notices on the grid will be completely a thing of the past,” adds Glickman, whose utility is testing how to integrate the truck into its management of the grid.
He speaks from the tailgate of a Lightning, one of three parked on a hill overlooking the vineyards of Dutton Ranch in Sebastopol, alongside a senior Ford executive and the president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, an association of 1,800 farmers who promote sustainable agriculture. Ford held the event earlier this month to showcase a pilot program that provides Dutton Ranch and two other local farms with electric pickups and vans under a service called Ford Pro that helps businesses manage their vehicle fleets.
The Lightning is the first electric vehicle sold in the United States with two-way charging capability to deliver electricity to homes and the grid. To date, Ford has yet to deliver the electric trucks to winemakers — it has an order book of some 200,000 orders. (A week later, the company delivered the first Lightning to a Michigan customer.) But the adoption by family farms of this 21st century rural electrification initiative points to the prospects of transforming battery-powered pickup trucks into vehicles. to decarbonize the economy and build resilience to climate change.
Sonoma County Winegrowers President Karissa Kruse, speaking through an audio system plugged into a Lightning, said that at first “winegrowers were skeptical and there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for going electric, especially in their trucks. Now they’re like, ‘Can I get into the pilot program? I heard you could get us a truck.’
A little time with the Lightning shows why. While EVs are often referred to as batteries on wheels, the Lightning might best be described as a mobile power strip. The extended-range Lightning I test featured a 240-volt outlet in the bed of the truck that can power heavy machinery from 9.6 kilowatts of carbon-free electricity generated on board. There are also two 120-volt outlets in the cabin, four in the bed, and four more in the cavernous front trunk that Ford calls a “Mega Power Frunk.”
“The real value right off the bat is the gas savings because gas prices in California are out of sight,” says Steve Dutton, a fifth-generation farmer and co-owner of Dutton Ranch, which is powered in part by a solar energy. deploy. “As we get the trucks and put them into service, we’re going to see more and more opportunities where we can use that electrical power for equipment in the field.”
The pickup’s ability to keep Dutton employees’ lights on is particularly appealing in a place like California, where wildfires and heat waves have triggered seasonal outages in recent years. “If there’s a power outage and the truck is parked at one of my boys’ house, and he can run the house off the battery, that’s great,” says Dutton, who is married to Kruse.
Turning a Lightning into a home generator requires Ford’s 80-amp charging station and a $3,895 home integration system from Sunrun Inc. The cost to install the Sunrun system varies by home and location. . The charging station comes with the extended range version of the Lightning; it’s a $1,310 option for buyers of the standard 230-mile version of the pickup.
If the Lightning is plugged in when a power outage occurs, the house will automatically begin drawing electricity from the battery. When power is restored, the system disconnects and then resumes charging the vehicle. Ford claims the Lightning can fully power an average home for about three days.
“It’s a house like my house with AC, Xbox, kids going crazy leaving lights on everywhere,” Linda Zhang, F-150 Lightning chief engineer, told Bloomberg Green. With more frugal use, the Lightning could run a home for up to 10 days, she says.
Zhang, who installed the backup system in her home, says half of retail reservations for the Lightning come from people who have never owned a truck. “This new truck customer is really attracted, in my mind, to the Mega Power Frunk and the Pro Power Onboard,” she says. “And some people are really, really interested in this product as a backup generator.”
She declined to say whether future Ford electric vehicles will feature bi-directional capability.
According to Debapriya Chakraborty, a researcher at the University of California at the Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, the ability of technology to accelerate electrification depends on its performance in everyday life.
“If you have to commute during a power outage, there are some limitations,” says Chakraborty, who studies consumer attitudes toward electric vehicles. “If you charge with solar power, you can use battery power to run any machine in the evening when electricity rates are higher.”
The version of the pickup intended for commercial fleets, called the Lightning Pro, has a starting price of $39,974 before state and federal rebates and tax credits. With those incentives, the price is comparable to the base F-150 gasoline model. From there, the Lightning can veer into “Cadillac cowboy” territory, with increasingly luxurious models ending in the $90,874 Platinum Edition.
Ford brought more than a dozen trucks to Sonoma for media testing, and I spent an hour piloting a $77,000 “silver icy blue” Lightning Lariat on the narrow, winding roads of the River Valley. Russian, cocooned in a silent cabin. The 6,600-pound pickup handled like a much smaller vehicle, and I can confirm that Joe Biden wasn’t exaggerating when he said “this sucker is fast” after a lap last year.
Not being a trucker, I needed a reality check. So I sent my thoughts on the Lightning to my friend John, a craftsman who drives a 1990 F-150 and is the type of traditional customer Ford needs to electrify. “I want one!” he has answered. “$40,000 – but I just filled the old truck up to $140. I should put my name on the list.