There was a guy sleeping in his electric car when I drove up.
I was about to connect up a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning to an EVgo charging station. I’m not one to panic, and I knew it would all work out in the end, but technically I was so low on electric charge that I would not make it back to my house.
I’m not a “true believer” when it comes to electric vehicles, thinking they will solve all energy problems and radically alter the way everyone drives, but I do love the idea. A clean running vehicle that charges like your iPhone? Seems to make sense, as long as we find a way to expand the charging infrastructure.
Today, I was about to test how it all works.
Right after I arrived and spotted the driver who was fast asleep, another guy drove up in a Ford Mustang Mach-E. “Nice that they have six spots available for us,” I said as he plugged in and pulled out his phone. I made the mistake of trying to use my credit card at the terminal, which didn’t work out. “I recommend the EVgo app,” he said. Good call, because, within a few minutes, we were both charging up.
Then a funny thing happened.
The Ford Lightning is a unique truck. It sticks out in a crowd, with a distinctive front and taillights that look like they came from the future. A teenager rolled down his window and said: “Is that really the Lightning!” I nodded and smiled. “It’s hard to find fast chargers these days,” said another driver who was in a Nissan Leaf but said he didn’t even need to charge.
Something about the novelty of being in a Target parking lot, surrounded by all shapes and sizes of electric cars, made the moment feel like a community had popped up in real-time, at about 35% charge. I told the Nissan Leaf drive that I was hoping more charging stations popped up in my area, because the real tipping point for EVs will only come when chargers are just as ubiquitous as gas stations. “I never use the public stations,” he said, meaning he chargers up at home.
That might make sense if you go short distances, I told him, but I had driven to a remote office about 50 miles from my house. I haven’t installed a fast charger in my garage yet, so I was dependent on the public grid. The guy in the Mach-E agreed with Mr. Nissan, but I’m still figuring out what it will take to make electric cars more popular than gas-powered cars and hybrids. I paid my $17 for the “fill” and drove off after only 50 minutes.
During my week-long test, I found some remarkable features on the Lightning. I’ve mentioned this many times before, but after about 800 car reviews in 10 years, you start seeing some of the same features. No in the Lighting. On the massive 15-inch display, there’s a mode where you can jot down notes to yourself. I wrote down “get milk” as a reminder. The truck has a mode where you can use only one pedal to drive (it used to be known as the gas pedal). To brake, you just stop accelerating and lift your foot. The truck will come to a complete stop. To slow down, you just ease off acceleration and the vehicle starts to brake for you. It’s amazing.
And then I discovered something even cooler.
I had heard the stories about the outlets in the bed that can power your whole house. I never imagined I would use one of them to help my son defrost his door lock.
That’s right: He had used the remote start on his Acura TL but the car would not open with the key because the door lock was frozen. I pulled up next to him in the Lighting, and we grabbed a hairdryer from my house. In about 30 seconds, we unfroze the lock and he was on his way.
That might be the weirdest story in the history of car journalism.
It’s also a sign of things to come. I kept finding little, brilliant features on the Lightning, so many that I plan to test the vehicle again and cover more of them. I won’t give anything away on most of the features except to say — I had no idea there was such a thing as a frunk. The front hood lifts up with the press of a button, revealing an entire storage compartment instead of an engine. I won’t say the frunk can compete with the hairdryer story, but it comes close.