A ride in Ford Lightning

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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Hearth Supporter
Jul 11, 2008
8,904
Northern NH
A friend bought a Ford Lightning recently and I had a chance to ride with him on a long ride yesterday. We were over the range of the battery and had to do a recharge. On the plus side, it rides quiet, is quite solid and its built in range meter seems to be quite accurate. I did see a lot of downsides some annoying and some would keep me from buying one. The built in car navigation software was not google maps or Waze quality. Even getting it to recognize a voice search is difficult and using a keyboard when driving is locked out unless its overridden. Even if I, as a passenger overrode it and used the keyboard, it only searches for street addresses. A search for the "nearest Sams club" that is integrated with aps like google maps does not work. It does seem to locate charge stations and gas stations on the screen but no information is available on charge type of capacity. Charger type is very important, a level 1 or level 2 charger will be way to slow for an on the road charge.

My friend knew where there was a Ford level 3 charger location. There were several open charge stations with one EV Mustang parked in a station not charging with the cord not plugged in. Despite it being a Ford vehicle and a Ford charger, there was no electronic handshaking so he had to enter credit card info. He tried a couple of times unsuccessfully and then a employee came out and after a few tries it recognized his card. It sure wasnt smooth. The other issue is that there really were not facilities nearby. I expect if someone needed a restroom they could go into the car dealer.

BTW he has had his truck for more than a month and no ETA on the Tesla adaptor so he is unable to access the Tesla Supercharger network. The Superchargers tend to be located near places with facilities as even with a high speed charger it takes 30 minutes (longer if multiple vehicles are sharing a charger). This would get old very quickly.

The Lightning's have a lot of driver assistance features, IMO excessive, but I guess they need to pack on the tech. What turned me off and would prevent me from buying or renting one was what I consider a large bug. There is a lane assistance feature linked into cruise control and a system that detects if the driver's hands are on the wheel that is also tied into a "hands free" driving mode on limited access highways that was borderline dangerous. In actual use, despite my friend having both hands firmly on the steering wheel, the system goes into alarm mode that the driver is not holding onto the steering wheel. It alarms for a few seconds and then goes into warning mode and then aggressively hits the brakes twice, if someone was following too close they may be eating the bumper. The system then disengages to normal driving mode, it makes using the cruise control not worth the effort and I regard cruise control as essential for long highway drives . We tried multiple iterations and finally came to the conclusion that most of the time, the system regards the driver holding the steering wheel at any other location than on the lower portion, that an internal sensor mounted in the center of the dash regards holding the steering wheel in any other location for more than a second or two as not holding onto the steering wheel. Once we realized the connection, when it went in alarm mode I would watch where my friend's hands were located and inevitably he had shifted his right hand grip to 2 clock. It did not seem to regard the left hand at 10 o'clock as a threat. I do realize that with air bags that the lower 4 and 8 o'clock position is recomended due the potential for breaking an arm if holding at the 10 and 2 position but if they want to enforce the lower grip position they should redesign the steering wheel to make it uncomfortable to hold it at the higher position. Had it been another person driving, I expect that cruise control with hands free was not going to be used again. Maybe there is way around it by my guess is its just an execution bug.

Given the price, its a swing and miss for me unless it is used as a local truck only where highway features are not used. Luckily my friend has an alternative vehicle to use but at 70K I expect everything to work.
 
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I have had a fair amount of experience with nanny state vehicles at this point. Personally I find this tech stuff useless, aggravating and down right dangerous. I am not your average driver/ commuter. I have 100's of thousands of miles driving most anything you can think of 2- 18 wheels. Automatic engagement/ disengagement of brakes and 4 wheel drive systems as well as lane deviation coupled to various sensors are the devils play toys. Particularly with no way to override/disable same. Computer screens in the drivers area while sometimes helpful are more than mildly distracting Not to mention the darned things barking commands at you out of the blue. Maybe its just me being old and more or less set in my ways. ( won't even get into the failure rate of this stuff..........) As an aside customer had a problem with his new keyless unit, he had the little sensor /transmitter in his pocket but the unit would not read it, Quick $200 for a tow to stealership. Saw him a couple weeks later and he was still livid about it. Hadn't gotten his unit back yet due to " supply chain issues".
 
I am a farmer, and have quite a number of vehicles, all of them over 20 years old. They continue to work well with a modicum of upkeep. I suspect these new over-complicated vehicles will not be drivable or discarded within 10 years.
 
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Some tech is useful, but there is surely a risk that it dumbs down vehicle operator behavior.
In my work I have tended to take out interlocks. This did not have risks for human injury, but 10s of thousands of dollars (and weeks of time) damage. Yet my grad students and postdocs learn to focus on the important points that tell them what they can and can't do. And that knowledge is transferable. Relying on automated interlocks doesn't teach them to think and understand how a system works.
 
One of the reasons for my Unimog 1300 purchase several years ago was to skip electronics. I could have bought a newer heavy truck to use as a truck but then I would have worried about repairs that I could not do myself. The Mog is good for two tons of load and will go nearly everywhere. Anything electrical is wires/switches and relays. Still quite complex but it was built for 250K miles of service and even if it acts up, it can usually make it home.
 
Boy, really makes me wanna run right out and buy one of these soon to be mandated EVs.....lol
 
The issues with Lightning arent really EV issues its just the state of current vehicles. There are so many integrated electronics that they are mobile computing centers. There are no simple new trucks on the market.

The EV aspect of the Lighting all seemed to work well, its the charging network and the all the added complexity to sell the truck is the issue.
 
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I am a farmer, and have quite a number of vehicles, all of them over 20 years old. They continue to work well with a modicum of upkeep. I suspect these new over-complicated vehicles will not be drivable or discarded within 10 years.
That is a valid concern, especially considering the rapid changes in battery technology. Cars take a ton of resources to make and should not be considered disposable after 10 yrs. GM's Ultium platform is an attempt to address this. It is alleged to be more battery tech agonostic. We'll see.
 
The issues with Lightning arent really EV issues its just the state of current vehicles. There are so many integrated electronics that they are mobile computing centers. There are no simple new trucks on the market.

The EV aspect of the Lighting all seemed to work well, its the charging network and the all the added complexity to sell the truck is the issue.
Poor implementation and design is just that. I had a conventional F150 and there were a few designs in it that rubbed me wrong. In particular they had UI snafus that may have fit a visual designer's ideas, but in practial use they were a pita. The heat/ac controls in particular were bad. They were crammed into a compact cluster that one had to take eyes off the road to use them.
 
These guys are building a Diesel-Electric Retrofit Kit for Pickups. They sound kind of interesting.

 
Not getting a decent nav system is telling how much was spent on the driver interface. I can tell you most of the issues you described Tesla had figured out 8 years ago regarding the UI.

There will be requirements for ensuring driver attention until full level 3 get approved.
 
And most of those issues seem to have been hugely improved upon in the Chinese brands as compared to Tesla...

I was in that Tesla yesterday and was not impressed by the screen, its usability, and the amount of useless info that was distracting us there.
 
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That conversion is roughly 1/2 cost of new vehicle. In other words some $ 25-35 grand.
 
And most of those issues seem to have been hugely improved upon in the Chinese brands as compared to Tesla...

I was in that Tesla yesterday and was not impressed by the screen, its usability, and the amount of useless info that was distracting us there.
I don’t love it. I wish it could be customized. But it does have good voice recognition and can navigate to chargers.. So +1 for Tesla. And remember my experience is on 8 year old hardware that got its last big software update 4 years ago.
 
I think every car has it's pluses and minuses. Personal preferences often go beyond specific features and user interface.
 
The desire for ultra complex electronics baffles me a bit, almost everyone has a smart phone these days. Just give me a touch screen that is an extension of my smart phone, and let the phone do the work. And solid buttons for all other vehicle functions.

That way a 10 year vehicle could still have the latest and greatest tech as a person's phone is updated far more often.
 
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The problem is that the car companies want to go on subscription model for services. GM has been trying it for years with On Star but failed. Reportedly GM is going to a mandatory subscription model for services soon. If you dont pay the monthly subscription, the car will either not run or will only run in a very basic mode. They are dumping Android and Apple support for their own proprietary system under the guise of safety. Ford tried that with the Sync OS and managed to tank their customer satisfaction numbers for a couple of years as Sync was crap.
 
I suddenly have a strong urge to buy up a bunch of 15-20 YO vehicles...
 
It is getting harder and harder to find them without electronics. I have a 1987 Bronco that has been parked since 2000. I did the majority of the mechanical repairs but its the first year Ford went to fuel injection. The computer controls a lot of the vehicle, and they havent built new computers for 30 years. There are so called rebuilders of the computers but IMO they are just pulling junk ones, cleaning them up, supposedly testing them and selling them for a premium. I have the full Ford dianostic gear and manuals but took me 6 months of going through all the tests and I got it run once using the old computer verus a rebuild that has never worked. I parked it over a winter and have never been able to get it running again. Every indication is that the computer just isnt in the mood to compute.
 
It is getting harder and harder to find them without electronics. I have a 1987 Bronco that has been parked since 2000. I did the majority of the mechanical repairs but its the first year Ford went to fuel injection. The computer controls a lot of the vehicle, and they havent built new computers for 30 years. There are so called rebuilders of the computers but IMO they are just pulling junk ones, cleaning them up, supposedly testing them and selling them for a premium. I have the full Ford dianostic gear and manuals but took me 6 months of going through all the tests and I got it run once using the old computer verus a rebuild that has never worked. I parked it over a winter and have never been able to get it running again. Every indication is that the computer just isnt in the mood to compute.
I could pull the one out of my 90 bronco if you think it would work. I swapped over to holley controls because I got annoyed with not being able to change anything in the computer
 
Thanks for the offer but the early ford EFI computers is specific to the year and running gear of the model. Unlike newer computers, they didnt have a basic computer with a replaceable EPROM with the specific vehicle data.

I will give it another try this summer. The bummer is compared to the old pre EFI 6 cylinder, the EFI motor had more HP and better fuel economy.
 
Thanks for the offer but the early ford EFI computers is specific to the year and running gear of the model. Unlike newer computers, they didnt have a basic computer with a replaceable EPROM with the specific vehicle data.

I will give it another try this summer. The bummer is compared to the old pre EFI 6 cylinder, the EFI motor had more HP and better fuel economy.
Oh it's the straight 6. I know 5.0 and 5.8 are compatible but definitely not the 6. Absolutely great motors though. I have a complete 95 4.9 with computer and everything. I just got the truck for the trans and axles