Watch the video log of the entire trip via this link: bit.ly/45GavxO
Please note: This series is neither an endorsement nor a discouragement for purchasing an EV or using any other company/organization mentioned in the article or the video. This is for informational purposes only, based on personal experience.
In June 2023, Chief Strategy Officer Justis Clifford used the 2022 Ford Lightning electric vehicle to travel to a training session in Madison, Wisconsin, as part of our EVs in rural America testing. The trip is approximately 475 miles and eight hours long, if driven straight through.
The Ford Lightning is rated for 320 miles on a full charge; however, as we mentioned in last month’s article, the way you drive, the on-board electronics you use (radio, heat, AC, etc.), and the speed you travel all affect your range.
On the way to Madison, Clifford decided to be conservative, with three planned stops to reach his destination. He quickly learned the cooler temperature in the early morning affected his mileage differently than in the midday heat. “I only got 1.9 miles/kilowatt-hour in the early morning after I left, when it was 55 to 60 degrees. By the afternoon, I was averaging 2.1 mi/kWh in the 80-degree heat,” says Clifford. This may not seem like a huge difference, but .2 mi/kWh on a 131kW battery truck means the difference of an extra 26 miles to the charge.
Another big lesson he learned was that speed was a huge factor in mi/kWh. Going the speed limit of 70 mph on the turnpike was not “fuel” efficient, as with gas. In fact, drivers see much better mileage in city limits with low speeds and stop-and-go driving, as braking recovers energy via the regenerative wheel braking system. On short trips in a city, drivers can see 2.4-2.8 mi/kWh on average.
By far the most difficult part of the trip, and most problematic in Clifford’s eyes, was the speed and availability of chargers. “I had to plan my route so that I could find a high-speed charger that would get me the charge I needed and not leave me waiting for hours on end,” Clifford says. “I also had to check charging apps to ensure the stations weren’t broken or in need of repair before arriving. Lastly, I had to pray there wasn’t a line.”
On paper, the Ford Lightning can accept a charge of up to 150kW. (Simply put, kW is the speed at which energy is delivered, and kWh is the rate at which energy is consumed). However, he found he was able to charge up to about 175kW, so finding a 350kW charging station over a 100kW station was beneficial, at least for a few minutes. EV batteries don’t charge at a single steady rate. They can be limited by size or the station. EV batteries are charged in a way to maximize life and reduce the risk of failure. This means once you reach 80% charge, the battery will substantially reduce the charge speed. For the Ford Lightning, this means going from 150kW to about 55kW. As you can imagine, this means it takes longer to charge that last 20%. Most manufacturers recommend not charging beyond that 80% to 90% range unless you are going on a long trip and need the miles. This is because every time you charge and deplete a battery, you lower its capacity. (Think of a cell phone that is really old and can no longer hold a charge for long.)
All of these factors are the reason why one cannot get a straight answer when asking, “How long does it take and how much is it to charge?” For the Ford Lightning, specifically, during our trial:
- 7kW (lower level 2 charger) charging speed will yield 12.5 kWh in 2 hours (~32 miles added)
- 175kW charging speed will yield 35.755 kWh in 16 minutes (~114 miles added)
- Public chargers are, on average, about $.48 per kWh.
We encourage you to take a look at Clifford’s video log of his entire trip via this link: bit.ly/45GavxO
Note that this was written solely based on the experience with the Ford Lightning. Other, smaller EVs have different mileage ratings and react differently at charging stations. Additional parts of this series are planned in the near future and will include other vehicles.