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Ford F-150 Lightning Switchgear Pickup Is a Hi-Po EV Off-Roader

ford f150 lightning switchgear
Ford Lightning Switchgear Is a Hi-Po EV Off-RoaderFord
  • Ford revealed the F-150 Lightning Switchgear, the brand's latest electric performance demonstrator, in North Carolina today.

  • A collaboration with RTR Vehicles, the electric pickup has an unmodified 580-hp powertrain but sports unique bodywork and off-road equipment.

  • The suspension is beefed up with Fox off-road dampers, while 37-inch tires contribute to a much improved ride height.

Many car enthusiasts are wary of the impending switch to electric cars. Can EVs incite the same thrill as gas-powered sports cars, despite hurdles like hefty curb weights and a lack of auditory stimulation? Ford thinks they can, and has spent the past few years trying to prove so with a series of demonstration vehicles.

After a 1400-hp electric Mustang-based dragster and the F-100 Eluminator restomod came the Mustang Mach-E 1400, an angry-looking take on the brand's mid-size electric crossover with seven electric motors. Next came a new iteration of Ford's legendary Supervan, with over 1400 electric horsepower helping the van conquer last year's Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Now Ford has unveiled its latest project, the F-150 Lightning Switchgear, at an event in Charlotte, North Carolina, today.

ford f150 lightning switchgear
Ford

A joint effort with drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s company, RTR Vehicles, the Switchgear is based on a F-150 Lightning with the extended-range battery. The dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain is unchanged from the stock car, pushing out a potent 580 hp and 775 pound-feet of torque. The 131.0-kWh battery, rated for 320 miles of range in the normal Lightning, also remains the same.

"We Want to Own Off-Road"

Two versions of the Switchgear exist, one tailored to on-road performance and one designed for getting off the beaten path. Details are light on the pavement-spec Switchgear, with Ford currently focusing on the off-road variant. "We want to own off-road," Ford CEO Jim Farley told media in Charlotte. "If Porsche has been the dominant brand in road racing, we want Ford to be the dominant brand in off-road racing."

The first thing you'll notice about the Switchgear is that it doesn't look like your ordinary F-150 Lightning. Instead, that snazzy motorsports livery is plastered onto custom bodywork, with beefier carbon-composite fenders that conceal an increase in track width. The front and rear track now measure 80 inches, up from roughly 68 inches on the stock Lightning. This results in better stability when traversing rough terrain, and the widened track sits behind a steel fabricated front bumper on the off-road model. The street-spec Switchgear wears a carbon-composite front end.

ford f150 lightning switchgear
Ford

The biggest changes Ford and RTR implemented were on the suspension. The Switchgear utilizes a custom double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear suspension, with stabilizer bars at each end and droop limit straps to keep suspension and wheel travel under control. The truck is also fitted with Fox 3.0-inch-diameter internal bypass dampers, and Ford says the truck has 11 inches of front wheel travel and 13 inches of movement at the rear.

The upgraded suspension and chunky 37-inch Nitto Ridge Grappler tires on 18-inch forged aluminum alloy beadlock wheels provide the off-road Switchgear with 13.5 inches of front ride height and 11.0 inches of clearance at the rear. The restyled front and rear bumpers also improve approach and departure angles. The road-spec truck, meanwhile, wears Nitto NT420V 305/55R20 rubber on flow-formed aluminum alloy wheels, with ride height listed at 7.0 inches up front and 5.0 inches at the rear.

ford f150 lightning switchgear
Ford

Other goodies to enhance the Switchgear's off-road performance include steel fabricated rock rails and a front skid plate, while a rack in the bed carries two spare wheels and tires. The track-oriented truck comes with carbon-composite side skirts and a tonneau cover. The cabin, meanwhile, is fitted with five Recaro sports seats with six-point harnesses and a gigantic hand brake for executing tire-squealing drifts.

Ford says the Switchgear will serve as a test bed for exploring the possibilities for electric trucks and to show customers the fun side of driving. "We don’t want to do generic vehicles anymore," declared Farley. "We want to sell race cars for the road. Lots of them."

If the F-150 Lightning Switchgear and the other electric demonstrators are anything to go by, Ford has some tricks up its sleeve that hopefully will result in some truly unhinged production-spec electric performance cars. The F-150 Lightning Switchgear will make its first public appearance on January 25 at the King of the Hammers off-road race in Johnson Valley, California.

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