Ford has sent two electric F-150 Lightnings to help with flood response in Kentucky, providing mobile power for crews to help bring 10-15 families home per day.
Heavy floods hit Kentucky at the end of July, with 37 people killed so far and tens of thousands of Kentuckians losing electricity. Water levels have set all-time records in the region, and the flood is described as a “thousand-year flood,” with the National Weather Service stating that such weather has only a 0.1% chance of occurring in any given year. .
Extreme weather events such as these are becoming more common due to the climate crisis, with “thousand-year” events occurring more frequently than they should due to disturbed weather patterns due to human influences on climate.
Electric vehicles reduce carbon emissions from transportation, which helps reduce humans’ impact on our climate. If all transportation were electrified, extreme weather events like these would be less common than if we continued to burn fossil fuels for transportation.
But that’s not the only way electric vehicles are helping clean up these disasters. As recovery efforts begin, power outages mean disaster response crews must find a way to get their own power to the sites. The new F-150 Lightning has provided that for some of its crews.
The F-150 Lightning electric truck comes equipped with what Ford calls “smart backup power,” which allows the truck to be used as a power source for the home. It also has multiple outlets in the trunk of the truck to connect power tools to (Ford calls it a “Pro Power Onboard”). These technologies are commonly referred to as “vehicle-to-home” or “vehicle loaded”.
The truck can optionally provide up to 9.6 kW of power through ten 120-volt outlets and one 240-volt outlet (the base model has 8 120-volt outlets capable of 2.4 kW). With the 98 kWh primary battery, that power can last 10 hours at full drag – but much longer than that in practical use, because crews won’t increase the vehicle’s drag for hours on end.
This allows crews to operate power tools, lights and fans to help remove debris from roads and perform “dirt removal” from flooded homes. The truck platform is easier to set up than the generator, which reduces crew downtime. In addition, it eliminates the noise, odor and additional emissions of portable gasoline generators.
The nonprofit Rubicon Team, which manages natural disaster response efforts, says each F-150 Lightning can support a crew of 5-7 workers who can bring 10-15 families home per day, according to the Detroit Free Press. For today’s effort, Ford offered two F-150 Lightnings and two F-150 PowerBoost hybrids.
Team Rubicon used F-150 hybrids in previous hurricane relief efforts that can also be used as mobile generators to power tools, although this includes starting the truck’s engine.
A common question for electric vehicle owners/advocates is “but what do you do when the power goes out” or in the event of a natural disaster. We’ve seen many times that electric vehicles can be more resilient in disaster situations. Gasoline distribution networks are complex and more prone to blackouts — and gas stations don’t run when the power goes out, anyway.
For example, in Hurricane Sandy, gas stations took longer to get back online once power was back, with some owners using their electric cars to help neighbors get food or get to doctor’s appointments while gas stations were still out of order. In Hurricane Harvey, long queues at gas stations continued for some time after power was restored, which electric cars can skip by charging at home.
Natural disasters provide another example of the strengths of electric vehicles, especially when they are equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle loading systems such as Ford’s F-150 Lightning and other vehicles such as the Rivian and Ioniq 5.
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