Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

RVelectricity: First mpg towing tests with F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid

Dear Readers,
If you’ve been watching any of my social media you may have seen some of this information about my towing tests with the Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid already. But if not, here it is…

After towing a few different trailers and driving solo for more than 2,500 miles, I now have some basic mpg numbers for my loaner F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid with the 3.5L gasoline engine and 35kW traction motor.

And, yes, my loaner truck had the built-in 7,200-watt inverter generator which is powered by the 1.5kWh traction battery that’s recharged by the gasoline engine via the 35 kW electric motor/generator. Seems confusing at first, but it’s all so well-integrated that you don’t have to worry about it at all. Just drive it and reap the rewards of a hybrid truck with a built-in generator.

About that mileage…

This column will focus on the basic mpg I was able to achieve on the highway at standard speeds. For the non-towing test I averaged around 75 mph in normal traffic on my way to Nashville and back.

Click on the image or HERE to see the final leg of my drive back to Funkstown.

For my towing tests with the Rockwood Geo Pro and Safari Condo Alto trailers, I maintained 65 mph on the interstate. Yes, some of you will drive faster with a trailer, and some will drive slower. And for my EV towing tests I’ll be doing the same 80 mile run at 55, 60 and 65 mph to see how that affects battery range. But this first test was quick and dirty … just fill up the tank and GO!

Test #1: F-150 PowerBoost alone

The good news is that all by itself the PowerBoost truck uses a combination of the gasoline engine and 35kW electric traction motor to get 22 mpg over 1,200 miles. And I wasn’t treating it easy. Yup, this was a demo truck so I was doing the full “demo ride” by putting my foot into it for accelerating and blasting along (safely, of course). Since this truck has the 33-gallon gas tank, I could drive up to 600 miles on a tank, and then refill.

I could hardly tell any difference in the mpg with the 7,000-watt load bank in the back ON or OFF. I’m guessing it might cause you to lose 1/2 mpg on the highway, at most. However, when you’re in the city driving with the generator turned ON, and the computer should be shutting off the gasoline engine and letting you drive around on the electric traction motor alone, since the traction motor is now in generator mode it can’t drive you around.

So you lose hybrid mode when the generator is on. That makes sense when you think about it. I’m sure that 99% of the time nobody is going to be driving around with a big load bank in the back.

F-150 PowerBoost towing a Rockwood Geo Pro G-19FBTH trailer

Since this is an 8-ft. wide by 10.5-ft. high trailer that weighs perhaps 4,000 lbs., I did expect the gas mileage to drop a good bit compared to bareback driving. So I wasn’t surprised when the dashboard display dropped to 10.1 mpg at 65 mph. And over that 1,300-mile trip I was able to squeak out 10.3 mpg according to the gas pumps.

As I’ve always said, TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). So pulling a big air-dam trailer down the highway at interstate speeds is going to reduce your gas mileage by at least 50%. It would be interesting to add a fiberglass cap with a wing to see if that would increase highway mpg, but I only had the loaner truck for 2 weeks….

F-150 PowerBoost towing a Safari Condo Alto trailer

I was hoping for significantly better gas mileage while towing this cool Alto trailer, and I wasn’t disappointed. Over a 200-mile interstate run at 65 mph, I achieved 14.5 mpg.

Yes, this is a much smaller and lighter trailer (1,800 lbs.) that clamshells down into a teardrop shape for towing. But the Alto trailer does open up to 6.5 feet of headroom for camping. That reduced wind drag on the highway from this unique trailer design really did the trick with keeping the gas mileage up.

More generator stuff

Yes, I did confirm that the F-150 PowerBoost truck with the optional 7.2kW generator will indeed power a single 50-amp RV, or a pair of 30-amp RVs while boondocking.

And the generator does indeed operate while driving down the highway at 70 mph under full load. Here’s a pic of the dashboard screen showing the generator power output on L1 and L2 of the L14-30 twist-lock receptacle in the bed of the truck. I was using my 10kW load bank for this test.

With the proper adapters it should be possible to fully power your RV’s electrical system – including the air conditioner(s) while towing it. But more on that in a future article.

Yes, it’s only an F-150, but…

Yes, I know that many of you want to know when this same motor/generator hybrid setup will be available on an F-250. But I’m not privy to any of that information.

However, while this F-150 with the trailer package is rated for towing a 12,000-lb. trailer, I’m not sure I would take it up to that limit. But I suspect that with the proper load-equalizing hitch you could comfortably tow an 8,000-lb. trailer up to a reasonable length, and be able to power its air conditioner (and a friend’s RV air conditioner as well) for a weekend of fishing or dirt biking in the wild. All without bringing an extra generator or cans of gasoline.

It offers a trifecta of uses

So this is a basic F-150 work truck you can use during the week to power the tools for your contracting business, take it out pulling your trailer on the weekend with the kids for some boondocking fun, and then use it to power your house for days if the local electricity goes out.

Yep, more on how to properly integrate this kind of truck (and any portable generator) into your home electrical system in a future article.

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.

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Curt Rissmann
1 month ago

I know I am comparing apples to oranges here, however not a big camper and still not great fuel mileage. 6.7 Cummins diesel, 34 ft 5th wheel and 14 ft trailer with side by side. 65 to 70 mph and I average 12 mph. Easily over 20 mph when not towing. Still a good test, however not impressed, thanks for information.

Gregg
1 month ago

Thanks for doing all this Mike!
I’m not that impressed with this truck though…
I have a 2020 Ram 4×4 with the EcoDiesel, get around 22 mpg around town and 30 mpg (unladen) hwy, including through the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Towing my inTech Sol Horizon (8′ x ~9.5′ and ~4k# with gear) I’m getting 18 mpg on those same highways.
I’m very happy with this setup!

Andy
1 month ago

That’s no better towing a similar trailer than my 2010 F-150 with the 5.4 V8. Not towing it’s better, but not by much.

Bob M
1 month ago

Thanks for the article on the F150 Hybrid. How did the backup assist work out?

Bryan Farrell
1 month ago

Thanks Mike for doing an excellent and thorough job of this. I too wonder of the benefits of additional aerodynamic would have made. Glad you had a safe trip

SteveC
1 month ago

Honestly I’m not impressed by the mileage figures. I have a 2020 F150 with the 3.5L Ecoboost, and I avg 22mpg driving back and forth over the Continental Divide to work. When towing my 7500 lb (loaded) Arctic Fox 24′ travel trailer, I still averaged about 13mpg.

I AM intrigued by the built in generator, though….that would have been really nice on my trip up to Grand Teton/Yellowstone in June……

Sokol Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  SteveC

Mileage on the highway won’t improve with a hybrid vehicle compared to a similarly powered conventional gas vehicle. But if you did a lot of driving around town, especially with stoplights, it would improve dramatically. And yes, the built-in generator is a real game changer.

Karel
1 month ago

Thanks Mike. Your work and education is invaluable. With your help, I think I am making a much better decision about my tow vehicle and trailer. Kudos to you.

Gary
1 month ago

I got the same 22mpg mileage in my 2014 5.3L Silverado driving from N. Texas to Iola KS and back and I don’t drive slow.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gary
Mike Sokol
1 month ago

I just confirmed as of July 2021, Ford has dropped its 3.0L diesel from the F-150 engine choices. They’re pushing the PowerBoost gas Hybrid since that’s what their buyers want. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a37001047/ford-f-150-power-stroke-diesel-discontinued/

david j hanley
1 month ago

This system would be best with the diesel engine, but they don’t even offer that in the 1/2 ton now. But maybe they will throw that v6 diesel in the f-250–with a hybrid assist that may be enough.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  david j hanley

I think Ford just dropped the Diesel engine option in the F-150, but nobody will comment if there might be a PowerBoost Hybrid version of the F-250 with the 7.2kW generator option.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike Sokol
Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

That diesel was designed several years ago for the Range Rover and the technology is not there to compete with Ram and GM. Ford did everything they could but couldn’t make the engine perform as well as the competition.

Gary b.
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Ram,stellentis! Don’t make their diesels and Gm needed help from Isuzu.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  david j hanley

That would be a great combination, especially if they put in a larger traction battery. I think upping it from 1.5 kWh to maybe 4 kWh would increase time between engine starts while powering the generator, as well as give you more all-electric driving time around town.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Mike’s comments on a shell and a wing really hit home. I hope he has time to test towing trailers using a shell, and a shell/wing combination to see the difference in gasoline mileage.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago

I have several colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National labs who could do digital modeling and wind tunnel tests on a few shell/wing cap designs which I could mock up and road test. But I would need a pretty serious grant to make that happen. However, I do think this would really be important data for the RV industry.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike Sokol
Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

In order for any kind of wing to benefit it has to be mounted with in a few feet of the trailer. Commercial trucks are built with aerodynamics in mind and the fairing is designed to be within a few feet of the trailer leading edge. This requires the tractor/trailer to be coupled fairly close, this also puts more weight on the front axle resulting in a rougher ride. Most company drivers prefer a smoother ride and position the 5th wheel further back defeating the aerodynamics.

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