Ford F-150 Lightning electric pick-up earns its stripes in the US


Cue jokes about electric police cars needing long extension cords or running flat during a pursuit. Now that’s out of the way, here’s why this Ford F-150 Lightning is a sign of things to come for law enforcement. 

Joshua Dowling


The Ford F-150 Lighting electric pick-up is reporting for police duty in the US.

Although this is a concept car for now, Ford has equipped it with heavy-duty hardware designed to handle life on the front line.

Heavy-duty seat coverings, a modified push bar, vinyl flooring, and a redesigned centre console – to accommodate radio equipment and other technology – are just some of the modifications made by Ford’s special vehicles police-car division.

Ford is keen to reverse perceptions that electric cars aren’t suitable for police work amid concerns over range anxiety.

On the contrary, it is rare for today’s petrol-powered police vehicles to go through an entire tank of fuel during a normal shift.

The Ford F-150 Lightning’s driving range of 370km to 500km between recharges (depending on the battery pack ordered) should be more than enough to patrol the mean streets of suburban USA.

Even if the Ford F-150 Lightning found itself being used in urgent-duty driving, it would still likely have enough range to cover an entire shift – before being recharged overnight, or during the day, ready for the next crew.

There is one other attribute Ford hopes will appeal to police: a claimed 0-100km/h time of less than five seconds. 

That makes this three-tonne truck faster than a Holden Commodore V8 or Ford Falcon turbo six-cylinder pursuit sedan. 

What is left unsaid in the Ford media statement, is what this weight and acceleration does to Ford’s brakes. High-performance brakes are as important – if not more important – on police cars as acceleration.

In urgent-duty driving, police need to be able to safely slow down and be ready to stop at every blocked intersection or red light they approach – before speeding back up again. The wear on brakes is brutal.

Nevertheless, with more than 12,000 police departments across the US, Ford is bound to get some precincts to order the Ford F-150 Lightning for a real-world trial.

Ford says the F-150 Lighting could also be used as a power source at a mobile command post.

In a media statement, Ford’s national government sales manager, Nate Oscarson, said the Ford F-150 Lightning “can serve as a mobile power source to light up evening accident scenes on the highway.”

Furthermore, the “frunk”(the front trunk space located under the bonnet, in lieu of a petrol engine) could be used to store tactical or emergency-scene equipment.

Police fleet managers would be well advised to do their research on the options list for the Ford F-150 Lightning.

The standard battery pack delivers a maximum real-world driving range of 370km, while the optional battery pack – which costs an extra $US10,000 – has a claimed maximum of 500km.

In Australia, a handful of electric police cars have been deployed as community liaison vehicles, rather than for bonafide general duties operations.

The one exception: Victoria Police added a Tesla Model X electric SUV to its highway patrol fleet in June 2019 as a fully operational vehicle.

Contrary to perception, the Tesla Model X operated by Victoria Police is not a loan vehicle.

Victoria Police purchased the Tesla Model X as a technology showcase, and so the department could better understand how electric vehicles might be deployed by first-responders in the future.

Joshua Dowling

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for more than 10 years.

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