One of the biggest benefits of owning an EV is waking up every morning with a full charge. Or so they tell me. I have driven daily MotorTrendLong-term 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning for a few weeks now and I still haven’t been able to install a Level 2 home charger, which means I’m relying exclusively on public chargers. But it’s not for lack of trying. As it turns out, installing a charger at home—especially if you’re interested in using your Lightning’s Ford Charge Station Pro two-way charging capability to enable both charging your truck and powering your home with the truck—it’s not as easy as it looks. Poor communication and a staggering $18,000 price tag have left us cold for what promises to be the next frontier in EV technology.
How to use F-150 Lightning to power your home
Ford’s proposal for a home charging solution is definitely expensive, but it’s still genius; while most EVs simply take electricity from your house and store it in the car’s battery for use on the road, Ford’s system, built in partnership with solar power giant Sunrun, also lets you export power from the F-150 Lightning back to your home via downtime. Called the Home Integration System by Sunrun and Intelligent Backup Power by Ford, the system uses the Ford Charge Station Pro Level 2 charger included in our extended Lightning range and an inverter installed by Sunrun to power your home. Although originally intended for power outages, Sunrun and Ford have clear intentions to use the Lightning batteries as “virtual power plants” to sell power back to the grid during periods of high demand. Two pilot projects, one in northern and central California with PG&E and another in Florida with Duke Energy, are actively testing such a system.
Set up your home for smart backup power
If this all sounds like it has the potential to be terribly expensive or complicated, you’d be right. Early reports from online Lightning customers hinted at this, and soon after our Lightning arrived, I contacted Sunrun to see how much it would cost to install Ford’s Pro charging station and home integration system in my home—a pretty typical one-off product from 1950s family structure with detached garage.
The process started out simple, but it escalated from there. Our first call with Sunrun went well. A helpful agent confirmed that we were Lightning owners and that we had received our Charge Station Pro. She then said the base price to install just the Charge Station Pro charger is $1,650, while adding the home integration system would increase the price to $9,400. However, she added, none of the costs include any necessary upgrades to the home, such as an upgraded electrical panel—something I will certainly need given that I have a total 100-amp electrical panel and the charger on Lightning draws up to 80 amps. The home inspection will determine what upgrades I will need and my true cost.
Two weeks later (and two days after when they said they would arrive) a Sunrun technician showed up to check. His site survey was quick. He looked at my electrical panel, then took pictures of every circuit, the place in my garage where the charger would be placed, my central air conditioner, and the two air lines that feed my house and my detached garage. He said he suspected my home wouldn’t need any upgrades and was “good to go,” but added that an electrical engineer from Sunrun would be in touch next week with more information.
After being ghosted for almost two weeks, I followed Sunrun. The new rep I spoke with told me, “The project is currently in stage five” and “Once it reaches stage seven, you will receive a call back to schedule the installation to begin.” You might be wondering what “stage five” and “stage seven” are (and what happened to stage six?). I’m also. Still do not know. I asked the rep and he went back and forth about what the stages could mean before saying that someone who knew more would get back to me on the phone next week with my quote.
They never did, but two weeks later I checked my email and found three DocuSign contracts from Sunrun. The first was a quote for the installation of just the Charge Station Pro and home integration system: $9,400, payable upon completion. A clause on page four notes: “We may find that your home requires additional work or upgrades to make it suitable for the equipment (“Home Upgrades”). For example, your main electrical panel may need to be upgraded to handle the additional power for the equipment. If your home needs a home upgrade, we will provide you with written notice.”
This included the second document. For an additional $7,940, Sunrun will upgrade my panel from 100 amps to an unspecified amperage ($5,500), move some circuits ($840), and do some “Other Work” ($1,600 – yes, really, “Other Work” is all the detail Sunrun gave ). The paper also notes: “Further work is also needed (which is beyond the scope of this paper). This work is specified in the scope of work document managed by the client.’
This brings us to document three. This document lists two items “out of Sunrun’s scope of work” that I must complete before Sunrun installs the system: a trench to bury the air line feeding my garage, and “removal of items around electrical and/or gas equipment”. which I suspect refers to the small handful of garden tools leaning against my garage wall where I’d like to install the charger, though I have no way of knowing. Haven’t heard Sunrun yet. Regardless, that’s an estimate of at least $17,340 to give our $80,889 Lightning the ability to power my home in an emergency.
About 1,000 of the 13,258 new F-150 Lightning owners have opted for the home integration system so far (according to a Sunrun spokesperson), but we won’t be among them. If we need a workaround to power our home in an emergency, we’ll do what other Lightning owners have done by using the Pro Power Onboard system and a manual transfer switch, effectively turning the Ford into a fancy mobile generator.
How we charge our F-150 Lightning
Instead, I’ll do what MotorTrend recommend that most people do. I’m going to have an electrician upgrade my panel to 200 amps, install a subpanel and a NEMA 14-50 outlet in my garage, and plug in a level 2 charger like the Wallbox Pulsar Plus we just reviewed (or the Ford Mobile Power Cord , which also came with our Lightning) in it. While this won’t be able to power my home during a power outage or charge as quickly as the Charge Station Pro, a 50 amp charger in a NEMA 14-50 outlet should easily charge the average EV battery overnight. It also has the added benefits of being easily replaceable and portable if I move, and offering the ability to charge plug-in hybrids. (One of the biggest downsides to the Ford Charge Station Pro is its use of a Level 3 style CCS1 plug, which won’t fit into the standard J1772 Level 2 slot that most PHEVs use, like my wife’s Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. )
I got a quote for the above job from a local electrician that I trust and it is an expensive but still much more reasonable $6,000 before any applicable federal, state or local incentives. While I arrange to have our charger installed, I’ll continue to make do with public chargers in the meantime — a bit of an inconvenience, but hopefully not for long.
Looks good! More information?
For more on our long-term 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat:
|2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat at MotorTrend|
|OPERATING LIFE||3 months/3076 miles|
|BASE/AS TESTED PRICE||$69,269/$80,889|
|SETTINGS||511A Equipment Group ($10,000: Extended Range Battery, Blue Cruise, Tow Technology Package, Dual Panel Sunroof), Max Tow Package ($825: Onboard Scales with Smart Hitch, Integrated Trailer Brake Controller); Toughbed spray in bedding ($595); tray-style floor mat with carpeted mats ($200)|
|EPA CTY/HWY/CMB FUEL ECON; CMB RANGE||78/63/70 mpg-e; 320 miles|
|AVERAGE MILES/KWH||2.17 miles/kWh|
|COST OF ENERGY PER MILE||$0.19|
|MAINTENANCE AND WEAR||$0|
|OUT OF SERVICE/NO LOAN DAYS||0/0|
|PLEASURES||Relatively frequent OTA updates; the center console that turns into a desk; with pickup bed.|
|Irritations||The range reading does not seem reliable; using the heater breaks the range of the truck; controlling the HVAC with a touch screen is tedious.|