Ford is working on an electric F-150 pickup truck. We know this, and you’re expecting it. But the electric pickup world is a new one, and Ford is probably aware that it’ll take some tricks to win over F-Series buyers used to powerful gas or diesel engines—and the plentiful, easy-to-find fuel that powers them—and get them overcome the range anxiety and charging challenges of the EV world. Which is what makes a Ford patent that recently came to light so interesting. The patent is for a range-extender unit that can be fitted to an electric pickup truck’s cargo bed—where it’d resemble a toolbox or some other innocuous component but provide for extra driving range per charge.
Automakers keen on lending their electric vehicles additional driving range without investing in huge battery packs (expensive!) or Tesla-style charging infrastructure to make up for lower-capacity batteries (doubly expensive!) have pretty much one choice: Range extenders. Think of these as generators, similar to what you might use when your electricity goes out in your home, that can either recharge an EV’s batteries on the go or provide electricity to directly power the vehicle long enough to reach a charging cord. BMW offers one in the i3 hatchback. In that model, the tiny gas engine and onboard fuel tank provide enough electricity to help the i3 scoot a little further beyond its modest electric-only driving range to reach either a gas pump (to keep running the range-extender) or a charging station to top off the dead battery.
From the looks of Ford’s patent, the electric pickup range-extender would work exactly the same way, with a twist: All of the generator-related components, from the engine to the fuel to the hookup to the vehicle’s power system, would be contained in a box-like unit that could be removed from the truck. The modular design would allow the power unit to be transferred between electric Ford pickups—think of the usefulness for, say, a commercial fleet owner with multiple F-150 EVs which occasionally might need extra driving range for specific tasks. With a boxy design, the range extender has the potential to be “disguised,” as the Ford patent puts it, as an in-bed toolbox.
Now, Ford doesn’t specifically mention the F-150 EV, or any other production or future electric vehicle in which this range extender setup could mount. (The patent even notes it could be used in conceptually similar form in non-pickups, perhaps in a briefcase-style brick that’d mount inside a car’s trunk—we’re paraphrasing, but you get the idea.) Still, with the all-new 2021 Ford F-150 landing in dealerships soon with a new PowerBoost hybrid model, and the promised F-150 EV well on its way, it’s difficult to imagine Ford not seriously considering the developments described in this patent for the eventual electrified F-150 pickup.
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