To reassure drivers worried about how the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning will handle real-world weather and roads, Ford engineers put a fleet of pre-production trucks through torture testing along an 8-mile strip of I-70 in Colorado.

Ford engineers aggressively tested the Lightning’s towing and off-road capability in extreme temperatures to confirm that longtime customers, as well as new buyers attracted by the battery vehicle, can count on the truck in every circumstance.

Torture testing, as it’s called in the industry, makes all trucks tough, which means they’re put through extreme conditions to withstand extreme abuse. Ford released details of the Lightning’s tests Wednesday.

“We always knew the product was going to be tough and capable,” Dapo Adewusi, vehicle engineering manager for Lightning, told the Free Press.

How tough?
The testing in Colorado included an 80-mile trip that started in Boulder and ended in Frisco, Ford said. Temperatures dropped to 2 below with 2 inches of snow while engineers tested the Lightning’s 10,000-pound towing capacity.

Similarly, to test in hot weather, Ford engineers during summer 2021 took the Lightning to Arizona to tow across the Davis Dam, located on State Route 68 between Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam. The Lightning ascended from 550 feet elevation to 3,500 feet in 11.4 miles in desert temperatures reaching 118 degrees.

Other examples of truck torture testing conducted with Ford, Toyota and Ram trucks have included:

Using driving robots to withstand more aggressive, repetitive punishment human bodies cannot.
Driving the mountains of Japan to the brutal 4×4 trails near Moab, Utah, through the blistering roads of Death Valley to the frigid roads of Alaska during the winter.
Soaking the trucks in salt and brine in humidity chambers to simulate 10 years of corrosion in six months.
Engineers at Ford say five days of the testing equals 10 years or 150,000 miles of use. This is standard in the truck business and key to the sales of these profitable pickups.

Engineers used to truck testing said even they were impressed:

“If you’ve ever driven a (gasoline) truck, towing, coming down a grade or up a grade, the engine is screaming at you,” said Adewusi. “We have a tow/haul drive mode similar to (internal combustion) trucks. You hit the drive mode and the truck holds its speed coming down the grade. There’s nothing screaming at you. It gets to the point where you think the unit is slowing down coming down a steep grade. It’s so effective in maintaining your speed to ensure you are in control of the vehicle.”

The experience, in some ways, feels “surreal” because it’s so quiet and easy, he said.

Engineers used to truck testing said even they were impressed:

“If you’ve ever driven a (gasoline) truck, towing, coming down a grade or up a grade, the engine is screaming at you,” said Adewusi. “We have a tow/haul drive mode similar to (internal combustion) trucks. You hit the drive mode and the truck holds its speed coming down the grade. There’s nothing screaming at you. It gets to the point where you think the unit is slowing down coming down a steep grade. It’s so effective in maintaining your speed to ensure you are in control of the vehicle.”

The experience, in some ways, feels “surreal” because it’s so quiet and easy, he said.

“You always have that power available from a low speed. It’s all there immediately,” Magagnoli said, pointing out that an internal combustion engine (also called ICE) needs to work up to a speed because the energy transfer is just different.

Worst case wind resistance
Ford engineers also used a box trailer with a flat front that created a ton of wind resistance. The double-axle trailers measured 24 feet in length, with frontal areas of 60 square feet. By comparison, a boat or snowmobile will allow air to flow around them more easily. Ford wanted to test the worst-case towing.

“You always have that power available from a low speed. It’s all there immediately,” Magagnoli said, pointing out that an internal combustion engine (also called ICE) needs to work up to a speed because the energy transfer is just different.

Worst case wind resistance
Ford engineers also used a box trailer with a flat front that created a ton of wind resistance. The double-axle trailers measured 24 feet in length, with frontal areas of 60 square feet. By comparison, a boat or snowmobile will allow air to flow around them more easily. Ford wanted to test the worst-case towing.