Ford may be well ahead in its plans to produce a hybrid model of its F-150 pickup truck – and a plug-in one, at that.
According to a spy photographer who snapped a number of copyrighted shots of a semi-camouflaged F-150, at 35 mph the engine was heard to shut down while an electrical sound of a hybrid powertrain seemed to take over.
As a further giveaway, on the passenger’s side front fender of a copyrighted (thus not posted) photo, is clearly a filler door – located where a charge port should be, not a gas inlet.
Ford executives have for some time now said plans for an F-150 hybrid are underway for 2020, and as far back as 2011 Ford had entered into partnership with Toyota, but that relationship ended in 2013.
Ford’s hybrid efforts have crossed paths with Toyota before, and the companies mutually patented system architecture each independently developed in the middle 2000s. Ford’s present full hybrids, the Fusion and C-Max, are technically similar to what Toyota does with its Hybrid Synergy Drive.
The Prius is the world’s best-selling hybrid, but the F-150 is America’s best-selling vehicle, bar none, and sells an order of magnitude more than the Prius.
A hybrid variant might be merged with Ford’s 10-speed transmission instead of a CVT, ventures AutoGuide, and the truck would be intended to serve in the half-ton class for towing, and load hauling.
Ford took a chance with aluminum bodies a couple years ago, and if it goes to the trouble of electrifying its incredibly successful truck, the vehicle will need to meet certain minimum criteria for actual work duty.
And this would be most welcome by enthusiasts, assuming it comes to pass. No hybrid pickups are now sold in the U.S., and the only plug-in hybrid pickup is converted by third-party company VIA Motors, which removes new powertrains from GM light-duty trucks and retrofits plug-in powertrains.
These are commercial fleet vehicles, and not sold to the general public. They are claimed to get upward of 100 mpg with electric assist, and up to 40 miles EV range.
The underbody of a truck is ideal for stowing away traction batteries and extra hardware for a PHEV. As such, and because mpg saved on low-mpg vehicles saves more fuel than on compact econocars, electrification advocates have been saying for years what VIA has done is what major manufacturers could and should do.
This said, Ford has not confirmed what its specific plans are, but if the rolling prototype is what it appears to be, the company is ahead of a 2020 F-150 hybridization timeline, with plug-in capability as an extra added bonus.
If we learn more, will let you know.