Road-trip of a Ford F-150 Lightning in Fenway Park

Image for article titled Road-Trip of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Fenway Park

Photo: Richard Hart

You don’t have to be a particularly keen observer to notice that we live in a time of great change. Take the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup. What I did a few weeks ago, driving a ruby-red example of this huge agent of change (in size and, one supposes, in importance) from New York to Boston, a borough in which I passed three surprisingly joyful years attending law school. . Enthusiastic, in large measure, because I managed to organize an average of 25 baseball games each of those years, visiting the friendly confines of Fenway Park – a venerable old haunt filled with knowledgeable but deeply partisan and sometimes noisy fans. impolite.

Fast forward many years and the Sox were back home for a heated three-game series against their perennial arch-nemesis, the New York Yankees, a game that showcased even more change. What better destination for me to visit with my youngest son Milo and my old college buddy Richard Hart? In the Lightning, to see how it works as a family road-tripper.

Image for article titled Road-Trip of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Fenway Park

Photo: Richard Hart

As every red-blooded American knows by now, the Lightning may look like other F-150s, but it has two transversely mounted electric motors, one for each axle, doing the work of the V6 or V8 gasoline engine in conventional models. . Buyers can choose one of two batteries: the standard offering with 230 miles of range promised, or an extended-range alternative, a tempting $10,000 option said to be good for 320 miles. Sounds like a lot of money, because it is. But in the context of the $94,004 sticker price on the vehicle I tested – an upscale XLT SuperCrew Platinum Lightning that featured Rapid Red paint, spray-on bedliner and Max Recline front seats , but didn’t include dealer “market fit” on that price – maybe that’s a bit more acceptable. (For those with more spartan tastes, a shorter-range Pro model starts at under $42,000. And if you’re willing to forgo the Platinum’s extra gimmicks and niceties, an extended-range XLT might be yours at less than $75,000.)

Like most modern pickups, the Lightning – so far only available with four doors, a 5-foot-5 bed and a 145-inch wheelbase – is huge. The big, macho, bluffing hood of its ICE F-150 brethren still hangs around, surviving the electrification process. A spacious LED accent light — of rigor for modern EVs, obviously – describes the entirely cosmetic garage door-sized grille, serving as a subtle hint to what lurks inside. The hood that otherwise hides a gasoline engine here shields from view a front storage compartment that marketers like to call a “frunk.” Although it’s not as big as you might think, it does provide useful storage space to keep your luggage away from prying eyes. The spacious cabin, big enough for five of the tallest people you’ll ever meet, is a comfortable living room and equipped with all the cupholders and USB ports a person could want. Not your grandpa’s truck, not even your dad’s, it’s perfectly acceptable for crossing the freeways at extra-legal speed in quiet comfort, with air conditioning well up to scratch despite temperatures during our soaring trip In the 90s.

Image for article titled Road-Trip of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Fenway Park

Photo: Richard Hart

Pull away from the pavement and your initial impressions gather around the smooth, gripping quietness that comes standard in EVs, with effortless power and locomotive-like torque, which isn’t surprising with the 580 total hp and 775 lb-ft of torque from this extended-range machine. . Acceleration is brilliant when pressed: zero to 60 takes around 4 seconds, making it the fastest pickup I’ve ever driven – with power still there, and more when you need it. Regenerative braking helps slow the 6,855-pound behemoth without much need for the friction brakes, although those seem up to the task when called upon. There are times when the Lightning doesn’t feel so big and heavy.

But also, there are times when it seems extremely big and heavy. Navigating tighter turns on the high-speed highway, for example. Body roll is partly controlled by the batteries – which are mounted between the frame rails under the truck floor – but remains pronounced. And because it’s such a heavy mother, the feeling of extreme weight shifting accompanies the ride. Hit a mid-corner bump and the optional 22-inch wheels, which do nothing for ride quality, help underscore your awareness that you’re guiding nearly 7,000 pounds of metal and electrochemistry around. With this weight comes great responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, if cruel fate were to intervene, you won’t just be hitting lighter vehicles or other things you’re not supposed to touch. If you don’t flatten them first, you’ll send them back to the next county.

The Lightning’s mass makes itself known in other equally frustrating ways. Navigating the narrow streets of the city can be a nerve-wracking exercise. Navigating strange parking lots and charging stations, you feel like a novice tug captain. Speaking of charging, which in ideal circumstances is fairly easy and quick – Electrify America, for its part, has been steadily improving – the process has unleashed a whole new set of issues for this veteran EV user. For example, if I was forced to back into a charging spot, the plug didn’t always reach the Lightning’s nearly 20-foot-long single charging port, located on the front passenger fender. For non-Tesla EV owners, charging is already the most important issue in the life of an EV. Faced with charging challenges like these, I couldn’t help but stare longingly at the ID4s, i3s, Bolts, Polestars and XC40s parked next to me at charging stations, reasonably sized machines who did not have such headaches.

Terrifyingly tight pressure, but the Lightning just creaked in that parking lot.  The truck was too big for many other garages, which limited our recharging options.

Terrifyingly tight pressure, but the Lightning just creaked in that parking lot. The truck was too big for many other garages, which limited our recharging options.
Photo: Richard Hart

Worse, at six-foot-seven tall, the Lightning couldn’t fit in many Boston parking lots where EV chargers were located under six-foot-five ceilings. When people talk about investing in infrastructure to accommodate the nation’s growing fleet of electric vehicles, they better invest another trillion dollars in raising the ceilings of indoor parking structures. Field report: We need 7 foot clearance in the parking garages now. In fact, with the way things are going, maybe we should just get out in front of this thing and raise them 10 feet.

Image for article titled Road-Trip of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Fenway Park

Photo: Richard Hart

Three night games at Fenway kept hometown fans happy as the Sox beat first place but suddenly sank the Yankees two of three. As always, in moments of high anxiety or low excitement, Sox fans amused themselves by chanting thoughtful epithets like “The Yankees suck.” And the many Yankees fans in attendance responded in kind. But unlike years past, when such exhibitions evoked feelings of violence, they were now scanned as performative art, a kind of give and take, call and response. Generally friendly overtones suggested a cooling of tensions and the slightest hint of mutual respect. Perhaps the fact that the Red Sox finally broke free from the curse of the Bambino, winning the World Series four times since 2004, made the difference.

Likewise, having not been to the park in a while, I was also surprised to see a large “Black Lives Matter” sign officially adorning a left field loft wall for all to see. Racial tolerance was sorely absent at the Fenway from my memory – I remember the great Smokey Robinson being booed and hearing the N-word shouted in that same stadium when he sang the Stars and Stripes at the 1986 World Series. Sox management and the rump elements of their fan base were notorious at the time for their racial intolerance. So while today’s BLM sign looks a little cynical, it beats the “Whites Only” signs that adorned some of the hotels and dining establishments the Sox organization frequented during spring training tours of the club. team in Florida in my lifetime.

Son Milo keeps an eye on the weather on the horizon during a 1am charging stop in Waterford, CT.

Son Milo keeps an eye on the weather on the horizon during a 1am charging stop in Waterford, CT.
Photo: Jamie Kitman

So change has come to Fenway and we all agree. Same thing with the big American pickup, which has a long way to go, but has headed squarely towards a brighter future. Much of the improvement the Lightning marks: At 70 MPGe, it uses significantly less power than its gas-powered compatriots and is significantly cheaper to run. Our round trip of about 500 miles cost about $55 in charging fees, versus what could have been closer to $250 in gas.

Yes, we look forward to the full electrification of more reasonably sized pickups that weigh less. We look forward to EV pickups with two-door cabs, and ones that can tow without killing their range so completely. And we look forward to cheaper electric cars and trucks in general. Lightning represents change, while alleviating a certain reluctance to change. But as one baseball luminary has wisely pointed out, it’s not over until it’s over.

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