Like it or not, electrification is coming. But up until now, electric and hybrid vehicles came in just two versions: Cheap and boring, like the Prius or Leaf, or expensive and fun, like the Tesla Plaid, Porsche Taycan, 918, McLaren P1, LaFerrari, etc.
You’re not going to see many specialty car people gravitate toward the lesser commuter versions listed above, and the expensive stuff lives in rarified air, well above the means of the masses. For your average car-conscious consumer, there’s a stigma that I think options such as the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius have created which seems to be steering a lot of enthusiast opinions about electrification, regardless of how great the tech is getting to be.
You can get more face-smashing acceleration out of a Tesla than you can out of a Hellcat these days, but that’s an experience that you have to have to really understand — and a lot of people haven’t experienced it. Plus, stigma is stigma. The all-electric Leaf is boring. Hybrids aren’t cool.
That is, until the tech boils down into something useful that bridges the gap. Particularly, for us specialty car enthusiasts, I’m talking about something that isn’t boring and is also useful enough in regular life. Something that can haul parts, tow trailers and generally be used all the time — and not break the bank in the process.
And with that, I give you the 2021 Ford F-150 Powerboost Hybrid.
Hybrid trucks aren’t a new thing — GM tried this a few years ago with their Silverado and Tahoe — but the era of them being really good? That starts now.
In Ford’s case, everyone is talking about the all-electric F-150 Lightning, but it’s still a ways out and is going to cost something like $90k when it is available. Plus, while trucks are an American favorite regardless of region, once you get out of the cities, there’s an awful lot of America between here and there — America without a charging infrastructure to keep you from bricking your $100k zippy-zappy F-150 out in the vast expanse of the West.
But a Hybrid truck? That could work.
I wanted to know how good the finished product actually was, so I drove one for a week as my daily, and here’s what I learned.
With this F-150, Ford took its 3.5-L twin-turbo V6 and added on a 1.5-kWh battery pack and a 47-hp electric motor. That combination allows limited battery-only driving and full twin-turbo fury when you stomp the loud pedal. If you think that last line is laughable, consider this: My daily driver is a 2016 GMC Sierra Denali with the direct-injected 5.3-L V8, and the Hybrid stomps it in acceleration. It’s not even close. This F-150 is fast, and it has really smooth transitions from electric to gas power. And it charges its own battery.
When the engine isn’t running, which is more often than you might think, it offers a muted whirr and a gauge on the dash that helps train your foot to be frugal. It’s actually kind of addicting to watch the tach drop to zero while you’re in motion, and that by itself is a revelation — maybe gas engines are best used only when really needed.
Driving through my neighborhood? Whirr. Crusing at 40 mph down the main drag to the store? Tach’s at zero. Merging on the freeway? Twin-turbo boost! Wow, this thing is fast for a truck.
Other useful things to note? The range is 560 miles on a tank of gas. Both city and highway MPGs come back at 24, which doesn’t seem like much until you really think about what you’re driving. Combined power output here is 430 hp and 570 lb-ft. For those of you counting, that’s more than the non-hybrid V6 version. And it can also haul over 2,000 lbs in the bed, or tow 12,700 pounds, both of which are as good as or better than my Denali. That makes it perfect for hauling a car trailer and just about any classic car. The short bed on my tester was smaller than my GMC’s bed, but it was still plenty long to haul the complete steering column from my ’67 C20 project. Bumpers, fenders, dashes? They’d fit.
This truck also had all the typical 4×4 add-ons, with assorted controls, skid plates and the like offered with the FX4 option. It’s as capable as any other F-150.
But best of all? It’s fitted with an on-board generator that gives both 110 and 240-volt options, both accessed from the bed. The system runs the V6 to spin the electric motor, which then provides a good amount of power — up to 7.2 kW. That’s great for a variety of things, including powering your house. Yes, it can do that, too. That’s an innovative way to use the tech in the driveway, and it’s a great addition to something that’s already going to be viewed and used as a tool.
High Point: Capability, accessibility, usability.
Low Point: Cost ($62k as tested, but starting in the mid-$40s with the Hybrid option)
Final Word: Not the first step in an electric direction, but this could be one of the most meaningful ones.
Fun factor / appearance: ****
(****** is best)