Published in MotorTrend
5 days ago by Ryan Whitehouse
It’s been something of an open secret that Ford was bringing a hybrid-electric F-150 pickup to market, along with a full-electric variant in the not-so-distant future. Well, now it’s here. As part of the best-selling pickup truck’s 2021 model-year redesign, Ford finally has taken the wraps off its first full-size hybrid pickup truck, which the company is dubbing the “PowerBoost” hybrid F-150. You surely have questions, so, luckily, we have a few answers.
While only a few specs were given during the unveiling presentation, here are the basics: The hybrid version of Ford’s pickup pairs the company’s twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission that has an electric motor embedded in it. The PowerBoost hybrid drivetrain will be available with either two or four-wheel drive, and it will be available on every F-150 trim level, from the lowly XL to the glitzy Limited. We don’t yet know which cab styles will be involved, but don’t be surprised if the PowerBoost is limited to the F-150’s four-door Super Crew crew-cab body style.
In the 2021 F-150 PowerBoost hybrid, the twin-turbo gas V-6 engine is assisted by a 35-kW electric motor (that’s equivalent to 47 horsepower, per Ford) that lives inside a special version of the automaker’s 10-speed automatic transmission. The electric motor is fed by a liquid-cooled 1.5-kWh battery mounted underneath the truck, in a location that does not sacrifice any interior or cargo bed space.
And make no mistake, the PowerBoost system represents a “full hybrid” setup, unlike the eTorque mild-hybrid tech offered in today’s Ram 1500 and similarly light-duty arrangement in Chevrolet’s short-lived Silverado hybrid models. What’s the difference? The F-150’s electric motor can more directly contribute to the truck’s forward motion. Ram’s eTorque system, instead of using an electric motor tied into the drivetrain directly (like, say, the PowerBoost’s transmission-mounted motor), has a motor/generator on its engine’s accessory belt in place of a conventional alternator that is linked to a 48-volt electrical system (with a 0.4-kWh battery). The motor can gently assist the engine (again, via the accessory belt drive, which is spun off the crankshaft pulley) when pulling away from a stop and capture energy wasted during braking to deliver extended engine-off capability while maintaining accessory power to save fuel in traffic. Both are hybrids, but Ram’s setup is milder than the Ford’s.
Ford has kept power and torque figures under wraps, for the time being. Instead, they’ve only said that they are targeting the most horsepower and torque of any pickup in the class. If we don’t exclude the high-output 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 found in Raptor and Limited F-150 models (today’s full-size light-duty pickup power champs), we can therefore expect greater than 450 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque from the F-150 PowerBoost hybrid.
Ford claims a maximum range of 700 miles for the hybrid with its 30.6-gallon fuel tank. So, while no official numbers have been released, we can guess a highway fuel economy rating of about 23–24 mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. While our fuel economy estimate is largely on par with the current 2.7- and 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engines, we also expect a more substantial increase in both city and combined EPA ratings, as these are the areas that hybrid vehicles typically shine best.
Ford has also stated that it is targeting more than 12,000 pounds of towing capability from hybrid equipped trucks. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as Ford’s current benchmark for towing prowess, which is rated to pull 13,200 pounds, is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost-powered, two-wheel drive Super Crew model. Nothing has been stated about the rig’s payload, but if we were to guess based on available specs, it should be around 2,500 pounds.
Among the more interesting features coming to the 2021 Ford F-150 is the onboard Pro Power generator. A 2.4-kW generator is standard on PowerBoost hybrid models and the big gun, a 7.2-kW generator, is optional on PowerBoost hybrid trucks. The 2.4-kW-equipped trucks get two 120-volt, 20-amp outlets in the bed while the 7.2-kW-optioned trucks receive those plus a 240-volt outlet.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, with 2.4-kW generator, you can run an electric jack hammer and a compact concrete mixer, at the same time, for 85 hours on a single tank of fuel. And the monster 7.2-kW generator is capable of running a 120-volt plasma cutter, 120-volt TIG welder, chop saw, 1.5hp air compressor, angle grinder, and work light—simultaneously—for 32 hours. Gone are the days of overloading your truck’s single 120-volt outlet simply by trying to charge a laptop.
As we touched on earlier, the 2021 Ford F-150 is not the first full-size hybrid pickup in America. General Motors first offered a hybrid of sorts in the Silverado and Sierra pickups in 2004. These trucks, GM’s first passenger hybrids, functioned in a similar fashion to Ram’s current eTorque setup. This first hybrid used a small electric motor in the transmission bellhousing to perform an early, and rudimentary, engine stop/start function that saved fuel by shutting down the engine at stoplights.
GM’s second-generation hybrid pickups ran from 2009 to 2013 and were more modern two-mode hybrids. These trucks used a 6.0-liter V-8 engine for primary power and were backed by a pair of 60-kW electric motors housed in the transmission. These trucks could be had in either two- or four-wheel drive, and the same drivetrain was offered in the Chevy Silverado, Avalanche, and Tahoe; GMC Sierra and Yukon; along with the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade EXT. GM claimed the setup was good for a combined 379 horsepower.
Fortunately, you won’t have to wait too terribly long to have a hybrid Ford F-150 of your very own. Ford says that 2021 F-150 production will being in the fall of 2020, and we suspect PowerBoost hybrid models will be available on dealer lots before the end of the calendar year.
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