Electrification has reached the flagship full-size pickup truck market with the introduction of the 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid. Ford’s pickup has not only led the market in sales for 41 years, it accounted for 900,000 vehicles last year worth $42 billion in sales.
That makes F-150 alone bigger than corporations like McDonald’s, Nike, John Deere, Coca-Cola or Starbucks. It is larger than the entire refrigerator industry or any pro sports league! Remember, this is only the light-duty F-150, and not the more expansive F-Series line that includes the Super Duty three-quarter and one-ton trucks for commercial customers.
While such all-new pickups have previously arrived with the frequency of 17-year cicadas, recent generations have quickened that pace as competition for this business drives innovation. The outgoing generation introduced aluminum bodywork as its claim to fame. This new truck stakes its claim to electrification, starting with a hybrid-electric drivetrain at launch and progressing to a battery-electric model within two years, according to the company.
The new 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 powertrain comprises Ford’s now-familiar 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline V6 engine supplemented by a new 47-horsepower (35 kilowatt) electric motor drawing on a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. No SAE-certified horsepower or torque figures or EPA-certified fuel efficiency rating are available yet for any of the 2021 F-150’s available powertrains, but Ford says that the goal is to provide the most horsepower and torque available in any light-duty pickup with the PowerBoost system.
Image source: Ford Motor Co.
This will produce a driving range of approximately 700 miles on the 30-gallon fuel tank and 12,000 lbs. of towing capacity. All 2021 F-150s are equipped with 10-speed automatic transmissions, and Ford assures us that the hybrid-electric system is capable of sustained use, even at extreme ambient temperatures and heavy loads.
The new F-150’s electrification extends outside the truck, with an available Pro Power Onboard electric power system gives customers the option of a 2.0-kW 120-volt AC electric power system in trucks with conventional gas engines. The PowerBoost hybrid trucks can be fitted with either a 2.4-kW, 20-amp system or an upgraded 7.2-kW, 240-volt, 30-amp system that can run heavy-duty equipment like welders and compressors in the field.
There is also innovation inside the cab, where the F-150 has a 12-inch instrument cluster display and an optional 12-inch central infotainment display, with an 8-inch display on entry- and mid-level trim levels.
One novelty is a power-folding shifter, which lies flat to clear space for a flat work space for a laptop computer atop the center console. And Max Recline seats in King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models fold completely flat like business class airline seats to provide comfortable sleeping surfaces for the two front seats.
Absurdly high-quality audio is available in the ’21 F-150, including an eight-speaker Bang & Olufsen on F-150 XLT and an optional 18-speaker B&O Unleashed system with speakers in the headliner and front headrests on F-150 Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum, and standard on Limited. You might think such a lavishly equipped truck should well just drive itself, and the 2021 F-150 can oblige that impulse.
The new Active Drive Assist system allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in the U.S. and Canada. It uses a driver-facing camera to track head position and driver eye gaze to ensure driver attention to the road while the truck guides itself with no hands on the steering wheel.
New F-150s will be delivered with the necessary hardware, while the extra-cost software to enable it will come via an over-the-air update during the third quarter of 2021, the company says. Another key new safety technology is Intersection Assist, which detects oncoming traffic while the driver is attempting a left turn. If there is risk of a collision with an oncoming vehicle, the truck will automatically apply the brakes. This will be a crucial benefit to motorcyclists, who are frequent victims of vehicles that turn left directly in front of them.
Ford’s Dearborn, Mich. truck plant and Kansas City assembly plant in Claycomo, Mo. will build the trucks, with delivery to customers this fall. Pricing, horsepower and EPA ratings will all be released later this year.
Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.