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My Ford Lightning CAMPER, and first 2000 miles observations

3678 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Kstype
I got my Lightning Lariat ER 2 weeks ago now and have already put about 2000 miles on it. We have had EV's for a long time now, 4 teslas (including the original Roadster), a Rav4 EV, a Fiat 500e, as well as a Volt and Prius in the distant past. I have been anxiously waiting for a pickup though as I need one often for work, so I have reservations for the Lightning, Rivian, Cybertruck, Silverado, and even the Canoo! When I found out Ford wasn't going to make more than 60k Lightnings this year (I believe) I decided I had waited long enough, found a reasonable deal on a Lariat out in Indio (we live in Phoenix, so about a 4hr drive) and traded our Model X for it straight-up since we live in this weird world now where our used car had increased in value the past 2 years.

The truck has been pretty great so far. I have rented U-Haul trailers twice and it tows fantastic, but I don't expect we will be towing with it very often. I LOVE the ventilated seats here in Phoenix. The infotainment system takes a little getting used to but have not had any issues with lag or anything, seems to work great and its my first vehicle with Apple CarPlay which is fantastic I have to say. It does drive like an F150, in that it has some bounce to it on bumps and around curves but that's to be expected I think.

I installed an Adventure Trailers (AT) Habitat camper shell on top - not the most aerodynamic of camper shells but this is truly a camper and not just a shell - the entire roof folds out into a 4 person tent for our family of 4 (kids are 5 and 7) which we tested out last weekend at the Grand Canyon and worked flawlessly. This still allows me use of the entire truck bed which was a big deal. I was a bit nervous about the effect on range but it does not seem to have affected it much. On the climb from 1500 to 7000ft from Phoenix to Grand Canyon we got about 1.6mi/kWh while doing about 70mph. On the way down we got about 2.3. I had taken a trip without the topper up to Prescott AZ (6000ft) and got about the same both directions. I also took a trip towing this camper shell on a UHaul trailer (about 2500lb total) and as others have mentioned the range was cut about in half, though I think I still got about 1mi/kWh while towing. Glad we won't be doing that often if ever again. I purchased a custom-sized wind fairing from Colorado Fairing Company to mount to the top of the front of the camper to try to reduce some of the drag on it further too. Around town I pretty consistently get around 2.5-3mi/kWh. Most of your efficiency comes from accelerating slowly it seems, and keeping your speed down.

We have a dual-zone Dometic fridge/freezer that we put in the bed of the truck for the camping trip. I plugged it into the outlets just to see how it would drain the battery and it seemed to take about 1 mile of range per hour. I think a better thing to do is going to be to purchase something like a Jackery which can charge from the truck while we are driving, and then unplug it from the truck and plug the fridge into that while we are camping so the truck battery doesn't need to be used.

Bluecruise takes a little getting used to but I actually like it a lot, I'd say its different but comparable to Tesla's autopilot. Some things I like better, some less. It does seem to give you reminders far too often about hands on wheel or eyes on the road but I think this is the price you pay to get the NHTSA to approve these kinds of systems.

I will say that the guess-o-meter is fairly accurate compared to our Tesla's - with the Tesla I always had to make sure I had a good buffer if we were taking a road trip to make sure we made it there on time (though not a big deal since there are so many superchargers all over out west). With the Lightning, I am starting to feel pretty confident in the predicted range. If anything, I think if you drive carefully you can often better that prediction especially if you're willing to reduce your speed a bit or find someone to draft behind. The key difference is the Tesla range is based on battery health ("ideal range") while basically every other EV manufacturer seems to use your past driving habits to predict your actual range. I think Tesla does that because people would complain about their range "dropping" (which I've already seen on this forum a lot) if they saw how their driving habits affected their range.

The only gripe I have with the truck so far is the upholstery on the seats seems kind of loose and I worry that it will eventually start to wear poorly. Coming from a Tesla, the charging network definitely leaves a lot to be desired but we have been early adopters before and believe that it will get much better in the coming years. I'm disappointed Ford didn't put a faster charger on the truck - its odd to be next to a little Kia that can charge at 350kW and I'm typically in the 125kW range at best. But, with little kids you need breaks on the road anyway so not a big deal. I wish there was an air suspension on board too, but that's probably "planned obsolescence" from Ford to get us to buy the model that adds that in a few years. Its a business, so I get it.

Overall very pleased!

Photos of the truck and topper coming...
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A lot of cringy flexing in this post, but more power to you op. Glad you're enjoying yourself.
No idea what that means, but i guess i apologize? On an EV forum, background of the owner is always important. I thought perhaps others on the forum may be thinking about a similar camper setup so I wanted to try to be a contributor not just a user of the site. Guess there is no place on the internet free of trolls.

hopefully our family’s experience is useful for the kinder folks on the site.
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That's a good sized tent! Pretty cool that it also allows you to utilize the bed. Does it utilize a ladder as a leg on the opposite end that overhangs?
Good question - the tent usually is "open" over the bed so you can climb up through the bed and then sleep on the overhanging portion. However that only gives you sleeping space for two. Since we have two little ones we needed the optional additional sleeping platform that goes above the truck bed and we just use a telescopic ladder to climb up from the side of the truck. You could move those platforms out of the way and climb up from inside the tent but we found getting in from outside was easier than moving everything around every time. The tent has windows/doors that open on all 4 sides so you could do it from any of those areas. Its pretty hard to find any kind of roof top tent setup that will sleep 4, so we are pretty happy with this one!

I failed to mention that AT advertises that the top is about 350lbs, but after lifting it with 3 other guys to get it on the trailer when I towed it up to Prescott for installation I feel like it must be heavier than that so I'm not 100% sure.

I am very curious to see how much of a difference (if any) the wind fairing makes. It will be a few weeks before I have it installed and can report back on that.
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@scoobie any updates on this setup? Curious what mi/kWh you count on when highway cruising?
We’re debating something like this vs pop up towable.
Well my battery went completely dead about a month ago, Ford is replacing the battery. So I haven’t gotten to do as much driving as I had hoped. Hopefully have it back next week the battery just arrived.

But freeway driving in the lightning is definitely much less efficient than around town. Around town didn’t really notice any difference got at least 2.2 mi/kW pretty consistently. But on freeway it went down to 1.7 on average I would say - depended on weather climbing much or going downhill. If you keep your speed below 65 it makes a big difference vs 75-80mph. You might be able to get 1.9 if you take it slower on the freeway. I did put the big custom wind fairing on it but don’t really think it made much of a difference. I can update more once I get it back and get some more miles on it. Not sure what others are getting on the freeway without any type of camper with higher speeds? Maybe it’s similar.
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