June 26th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
The all new Ford F-150 was officially unveiled with much fanfare on June 25. The press presentation went on at length about the wonders of the new truck — wheels pushed out 3/4″ all around for a hunkier, chunkier look, 3% better aero, airline-style fold flat seats, new 8″ and 12″ touchscreens, cool new lighting in the load bed to help you break camp at 4 am — but, frankly, not many of those things are high on the list of what CleanTechnica readers want to hear about.What will be of interest to our readers are a new hybrid powertrain option, new over-the-air update capability, and an onboard generator option.
Twin Turbo EcoBoost V-6 Hybrid
One out of every 16 vehicles in America is a Ford F-150 in one of its many configurations. The powers that be at Ford are pretty reluctant to mess with that success. While the company says every exterior panel of the 2021 F-150 is new, the new truck looks pretty much the same as the old truck. The engine choices are the same, too, with the exception of what Ford calls the PowerBoost hybrid, a twin turbo 3.5 liter V-6 huffed up with a 35 kW (47 horsepower) electric motor and a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, according to Car and Driver.
If that sounds a lot like the specs of a 2007 Prius, you’re not wrong. Ford is dipping its toes ever so carefully into the electric pickup truck field as it continues development of the battery electric truck it expects to introduce in about 2 years. Buyers who opt for the PowerBoost drivetrain will get a small taste of what driving an electric vehicle is like without the bother of actually having to plug it in. Ford says the combination is good for 700 miles of driving without having to stop for gas. The PowerBoost option includes a 30.5 gallon tank. You do the math. Towing capacity is listed as 12,000 lbs.
The PowerBoost option includes a 2.4-kW Pro Power Onboard generator that supplies electrical power to two 120 volt, 20 amp outlets in the load bed. A 7.2 kW generator that also feeds a 240 volt, 30 amp outlet is optional.
Try as I might, I could not find more information about the onboard generator online. Does it have its own gasoline engine or is it driven by the truck’s own engine? Where is the generator located, in the engine compartment or somewhere else? These seem to be an important questions but one no one is talking much about them. If you can clear up the mystery, please let us know in the comments section.
What may be more significant that the hybrid powertrain is the addition of over-the-air updates, which will be used to configure Ford’s own semi-autonomous Co-Pilot360™ 2.0. It is the only pickup to offer Active Drive Assist, which allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada, according to Ford.
A driver-facing camera tracks head and eye position to enable hands-free driving when available. On certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways, drivers will be able to remove their hands from the steering wheel, provided they continue to pay attention to the road ahead
The Active Drive Assist prep kit contains the hardware required for this feature, while the software to enable functionality, expected in the third quarter of the 2021 calendar year, will be delivered by over-the-air update or dealer visit. Separate payment will be required to activate full functionality at that time.
The over-the-air update technology is a big deal. It’s the thing that is giving Volkswagen fits as it struggles to begin deliveries of its ID.3 to customers. It is the embodiment of the car as computer on wheels concept that Tesla pioneered almost a decade ago. If Ford has it figured out and it works properly, that is big deal.
Ford F-150 vs Tesla Cybertruck
If Ford is skittish about changing the look of the F-150, imagine the shock waves that will ripple through the truck world when the Tesla Cybertruck becomes available. It looks nothing like anything else on the road and may not offer anywhere near the levels of luxury truck owners now expect.
Ford says the cabin of the new F-150 is as luxurious as a Bentley Mulsanne. Optional fold-flat seats similar to those found in first class on airplanes recline nearly 180 degrees and the seat cushion rises up to make a bed for comfortable sleeping. Will the Cybertruck offer similar levels of luxury?
If Ford is reluctant to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, Tesla seems determined to not only slay it but also fillet it and serve it cold to the bosses at Ford and all the other auto companies where traditional pickup trucks are the basis of their profitability.
Americans love their pickup trucks and have proven reluctant to accept offerings from the likes of Toyota and Nissan. Even Jeep failed to crack the pickup truck market, although it is getting ready to take another swing at the pickup truck piñata. There are rumors Tesla has 650,000 reservations for the Cybertruck, but keep in mind that Ford sells 1 million F-150s each and every year. Will truck people abandon their first love to take a chance on the upstart newcomer? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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