Ford’s Electric Truck Is First F-150 With Independent Rear SuspensionThe EV pickup kills the F-Series’ usual live axle dead.See all 19 photosMonica GondermanAuthorManufacturerPhotographerSteven PhamPhotographerMay 20, 2021
The electric 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning fully ditches the full-size pickup’s internal combustion engine, leaving in its place a frunk—you know, a front trunk. The amazing frunk is perhaps the most obvious visual result of the F-150’s electric transformation, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wholescale changes that Ford had to incorporate underneath the bodywork. A change in the F-150’s rear suspension was one of these monumental modifications necessitated by electrification.
That’s right—the new Ford F-150 Lightning is the first (and only) Ford F-150—and only full-size pickup, actually—with independent rear suspension (IRS) in place of traditional leaf springs and a live rear axle. Most manufacturers (including Nissan, Toyota, Chevy, GMC, and Ford) use time-tested leaf springs for suspending the rear of their solid-axle pickup trucks.
An exception would be Ram, which suspends its live axle with five links and coil springs on the 1500 pickup, a setup the upcoming 2021 Ford F150 Raptor will emulate. Oh, and of course, drop down a size class, and you’ll find the independently suspended (and unibody) Honda Ridgeline (go further down, and the new Hyundai Santa Cruz almost-pickup also sits on a fully independent suspension.)
See all 19 photos
The electric F-150’s rear will utilize a semi-trailing arm suspension setup with progressive rate coil-over springs and a stabilizer bar. These types of setups typically feature a single lower trailing arm on each side that rigidly locates the wheel and brake, pivoting on an axis that’s angled relative to the vehicle and axle center lines. A computer illustration shows what looks like a load-leveling device at the top of the shock, which would certainly help shoulder the projected max 2,000-pound payload and tongue weights associated with the 10,000-pound maximum towing capacity.
The suspension change was spurred on by the packaging challenges of the electrified system rather than fundamental qualms with the traditional underpinnings that pickup trucks have had for many decades. Mounting a motor to a live rear axle with leaf springs would have posed durability challenges with the motor and its wiring, as well as packaging challenges to the large battery pack. (Even so, supplier Magna is working on a motor-on-axle setup.) The independent semi-trailing arm rear suspension should offer improved ride quality, reasonable wheel articulation in off-road conditions, and excellent handling since there is not as much transfer of impact from one side to the other.
How will a factory IRS pickup truck hold up under real-life conditions, including off-roading, towing, and hauling? We’ll let you know, but we don’t expect Ford or its competition to introduce IRS on gasoline and diesel trucks, as scaling this design up to handle the top payload and towing capacities would be challenging. We can’t wait to put this electrified powertrain—and new suspension—to the test, because our ride in a Lightning prototype hints that it could work well.