Car News

Overhauled 2021 Ford F-150 Debuts with Hybrid Model, Hands-Free Driving

Whether you’re looking for the ultimate tailgating rig, a worksite companion that can help you through a busy day, or a pickup that can steer itself down the highway, Ford has a solution for you with the 2021 F-150.

Electrification – but no EV just yet

Electric power has arrived for the best-selling pickup truck in North America, but it’s not the all-electric F-150 we’ve been waiting for, which Ford says will arrive sometime in the next 24 months. For 2021, the F-150 will offer power in two ways: the new PowerBoost Hybrid model and Pro Power Onboard – an optional power generator that will be available on select F-150s.

Ford’s hybrid won’t be a low-power fuel-economy-focused model either. PowerBoost pairs the 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 with a 35-kW electric motor integrated into the transmission; a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack sits underneath the bed of the truck, keeping the cab the exact same size on the hybrid model as other trucks in the lineup. No fuel economy or power outputs have been announced, though Ford is making some claims: the hybrid model will have best-in-class horsepower, torque, be able to tow 12,000 lb, and will be able to travel 700 miles (1,126 km) on a single tank of fuel.

All other powertrains remain for the F-150 with two notable changes: the base 3.3-litre V6 is now paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission; and the 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 now has cylinder deactivation to help with fuel economy. To further fuel efficiency, the 2021 F-150 features an active air dam that lowers at highway speeds and active grille shutters, in addition to being “the most aerodynamic F-150 ever.”

The second electrical system is Pro Power Onboard, standard on the hybrid model and optional on other models with either EcoBoost engine or the 5.0-litre V8. Acting as an on-board generator, the system pairs two 12-volt batteries wired in series with a power inverter to harness electricity from the engine.

The basic 2.0-kW version provides enough juice to power a mini-fridge, blender, portable speaker, TV, and heater all at once. Or in a work setting, you could run an eight-inch circular saw, a reciprocating saw, and a battery charger at the same time. That power is accessible via two plugs located in the bed of the truck.

Standard on hybrid models is a 2.4-kW system, though even more juice can be had with the upgraded 7.2-kW system. This setup includes four plugs in the bed and one 240V plug, which makes it capable of powering a plasma cutter, TIG welder, chop saw, air compressor, grinder, and a work light – all at the same time.

Designed for Work

With use as a work truck in mind, Ford has also engineered in some other helpful features, like the new tailgate. Tie-down points, C-clamp pockets, and a specially designed work surface that houses pens, pencils, and tools helps the tailgate to double as a work bench. Upgraded bed lighting now covers the entire tailgate surface as well, so when working at night, the tailgate will be fully lit. Zone lighting on the 2021 F-150 is upgraded overall, with 360-degrees of coverage around the truck.

Moving inside, it’s clear that Ford tried to make this a mobile office. A new folding gear shifter allows for a massive flat work surface, creating a desk right beside the driver while the truck is stationary. On top-trim models, new “Max Recline Seats” fold totally flat, even lifting the bottom of the seat up to meet the back, making as comfortable a bed as you’ll find in a pickup truck.

In the rear of the cabin, there is still a flat load floor, but a new storage bin has been added that runs the width of the truck and pops up out of the floor when you need it.

Advanced Infotainment and Safety, with Self-Driving on the Way

Technology has arrived in a big way to the F-150, with every single trim now equipped with over-the-air update capability, allowing Ford to push software upgrades to vehicles without drivers having to visit a dealership. Big screens are onboard as well, with base models receiving an eight-inch screen while upgrades trims get a 12-inch screen, both of which run SYNC4, Ford’s latest infotainment system. Through the FordPass app, the F-150 has more mobile controls than ever before, including a screen to monitor power usage if you’re using the generator, a trailer light check function, a trailer theft alert, controls for F-150’s exterior zone lighting, and more.

Driver assist features have been upgraded, with even base models now offering pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and automatic headlights and high-beams. “Active Drive Assist” is the biggest news here, allowing F-150 drivers to go hands-free on specific, pre-mapped sections of highways. Exact locations will be revealed, but for now, Ford says there are 160,000 km of highway currently available for hands-free driving. For safety reasons, the system is deactivated if a trailer is connected to the truck. And drivers will still need to keep an eye on the road: the system monitors the driver’s head motion and eye gaze to make sure they are still paying attention.

When the 2021 F-150 goes on sale this fall, buyers can order the Active Drive Assist prep kit, packing all the necessary hardware to make the system run. The software, however, won’t become available until the third quarter of 2021, and will be downloaded into the truck using an over-the-air update that will incur an additional fee.

The truck will be assembled in Dearborn, Michigan, and Kansas City. Pricing and power will be announced closer to the truck’s on-sale date.