The electric vehicle market continues to transform at a break-neck pace, with automakers from across the globe engaged in a proverbial gold rush for the hearts and minds of not-so-early adopters. As more and more OEMs dive in, the market for battery-electrics is growing more and more diverse. Look no further than this year’s crop of contenders for Best EV.
Covering a price spectrum from $58,000 to $154,000, range figures from 266 to 516 miles, and outputs from 320 horsepower to 1,000, there was almost an EV for everyone in this year’s contest. The body styles reflected that diversity in price, range, and output, too. We had a works-for-everyone hatchback with retro-tastic styling, a brutalist off-roader, a workhorse truck, and two full-tilt luxury products. And after a week of driving, charging, and yes, performance testing, the winner might not be what you expected. Read on to find out why the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning is InsideEVs‘ Best EV.
The most important qualities in modern EVs are range, price, and charging speed. How vehicles balance those qualities, though, is open for debate. In particular, range is dependent not just on the efficiency of software managing the motor(s)/battery pack, but on the aerodynamics. And of course, we considered novel features, be it hands-free driver aids or alternative ways to use the onboard electricity (such as Ford’s ProPower Onboard system).
GMC Hummer EV | BMW iX | Lucid Air | Hyundai Ioniq 5 | Ford F-150 Lightning
If Best EV were merely a question of which vehicle makes the biggest personality statement, the Hummer EV would be the undisputed champion. Three motors draw power from the biggest battery pack on the market to produce a staggering 1,000 horsepower, allowing the 9,600-pound brute to blitz its way to 60 miles per hour in an even 4.0 seconds according to our data logger. With looks and size and character in excess, there’s plenty to love about the Hummer EV.
Unfortunately, few of those things have any bearing on its goodness as an EV. Yes, this big thing can charge at a very high rate, thanks to its Ultium battery technology and 800-volt architecture. According to GMC, zipping from 20 to 80 percent on a 350-kilowatt charger takes just 24 minutes. But saddled by its immense weight and a design that’s as inefficient as Congress, the Hummer EV’s huge 200-plus-kilowatt-hour battery pack can only deliver a modest 329 miles to a charge, or only 9 miles more than the Ford F-150 Lightning’s 131-kWh pack.
There were other issues too. The lack of an Eco driving mode, the confusing settings for regen – there are options in the infotainment, an L on the gear shifter, and a paddle on the steering wheel for on-demand regen – and the general unwieldiness on the road made the Hummer EV a tough vehicle to recommend.
BMW’s first all-electric crossover has the range, charge speed, and EV credentials to appeal to any consumer. The 105.2-kWh (net) lithium-ion battery pack is enough to cover 315 miles on a charge while riding on 22-inch wheels (the base 20-inchers extend the range to 324), while the iX can guzzle electrons at a peak rate of 195 kilowatts. At a suitable DC charger, the iX will go from 10 to 80 percent in 40 minutes, although it’s worth noting that both the charge rate and the time it takes to get to 80 is among the worst in this group.
The iX pairs its overall EV competence with an unmistakably BMW driving experience. Agile and entertaining on canyon roads, it’s also an unquestionably good luxury vehicle, with a smooth ride and a well-appointed cabin. Performance is ample (see the 4.0-second sprint to 60), and as we recommended during the first drive of the sportier M60 model, there’s little reason to upgrade over this xDrive50 variant.
The iX is held back not by things that qualify as a good EV, but broader overall issues. The price is high for a vehicle with relatively modest charge speeds – our tester starts at $84,000 and then adds $20,000 in optional extras. And the polarizing exterior styling remained an issue for some of our judges. Still, as a luxury electric SUV, the iX is a hard vehicle to beat.
Speaking of vehicles that are hard to beat, we have the Lucid Air Grand Touring. The most expensive vehicle in the group at $154,000 to start, the Air makes a case for itself with the most range, the sharpest straight-line performance, confident braking, and the fastest charging of this group. The on-paper case for the Air is incredibly strong.
And yet, we struggled to overcome that high price tag. Moreover, there were real-world concerns with the Air, from occasionally finicky technology to a seating position that some of our judges struggled to adapt to, with one particular editor regularly smacking their head getting in or out of any of the Air’s doors.
While we specifically invited the Air GT because it was new, a common refrain during deliberations was how much stronger of a case the less expensive Air Pure or Touring would make. With a sub-$100,000 price tag, 410 miles of range, an ample 480 hp, and the same high-speed charging architecture (it adds 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes of charging), the Air is a much more compelling EV as a base model.
Of all the cars in our Best EV competition, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is the one that would work the very best for most people. The accessible starting price ($42,475 including a $1,295 destination charge) and variety of trims, battery sizes, and motor configurations give the Ioniq 5 wide-reaching appeal.
For our test, though, we opted for the same Ioniq 5 configuration that earned high marks after a one-week review. The dual-motor Limited packs 320 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque, along with a so-so 266-mile range and an excellent DC charge rate when paired with a 350-kW box. Every Ioniq can zip from 10 to 80 percent charge in just 18 minutes.
Combine that with a delightful visual character, useful real-world features such as a V2L plug, and a spacious cabin, and it’s easy to understand why the Ioniq 5 came so close to winning this year’s competition.
The Ford F-150 Lightning is a good EV that happens to be nearly indistinguishable in driving character and appearance from the best-selling truck on the planet, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s also an unconventional choice for our winner. And that’s because we chose it not based on its range, charge speed, or price (although those categories did play an important role). Instead, of all the vehicles contending for our Best EV crown, the Lightning won because it has the potential to both change the way work is done while also converting an entirely new demographic to the EV cause.
Which makes the fact that it’s such a simple package all the more surprising. Available with dual motors standard, two battery options, and four trims, there’s a Lightning for everyone from general contractors to urban cowboys. It looks like an F-150 both inside and out, and operating this half-ton is barely any different than its gas-powered siblings. This familiarity is the key to its success – there is no learning curve in the Lightning or trick to get the best out of it. Much like the standard gas-powered model, you simply hop in, press the start button, and start doing work.
Our tester was the popular Lariat trim with the larger 131.0-kWh pack, which returns an EPA-estimated 320 miles. Paired up with standard dual motors, the Lightning outguns even the F-150 Raptor, with 580 hp and 775 lb-ft – 60 miles an hour arrived in just 4.1 seconds during our testing. The charge rate, though, is admittedly modest at 150 kilowatts on a DC charger. But there’s more to this package than what the spec sheet might indicate.
“I’ve driven pretty much every production electric vehicle made since 2010 and in my opinion the F-150 Lightning is the most important EV since the Tesla Model S,” InsideEVs Senior Editor Tom Moloughney said. “I believe if Ford failed to deliver a great vehicle, it could have set back EV adoption for years. America loves pickup trucks, and the Lightning is everything customers love in the F-150, except it’s more powerful, quieter, and less expensive to fuel and service, and it offers an overall better driving experience. Ford nailed it with the Lightning, and it’s why I bought one and gave it my vote for Best EV.”
All in all, the F-150 Lightning’s conservative approach to electrification overshadows just how important a vehicle it is. But it shouldn’t. By making electrification feel familiar rather than foreign, Ford is laying the groundwork to initiate a new breed of EV consumer. And for that reason, it’s InsideEVs’s Best EV of 2022.
Star Awards, Day 2:
The InsideEVs’ Star Awards start with vehicles that received the highest Star Ratings throughout the year. Our awards consideration set starts with vehicles that are either all-new or significantly revised over the last year. From there, we invite the best vehicles to join us for a week of head-to-head testing.
During the year we let data take the lead in our rating system, but the goal of Test Week is to compare vehicles head to head – on the road, on the track, or in the dirt as the case may be – to see which competitor in each segment stands out with unmissable value, incredible technology, and impressive real-world behavior. Any vehicle invited to participate in Star Awards is excellent, but only the very best in each segment can claim the title.
Photo Credit: Logan Zillmer
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range
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