The new 2021 Ford F-150 is ushering in a new era of pickup capability, but there's more to it than the introduction of the PowerBoost hybrid. While that new powertrain is certainly the truck's headlining element, the supporting electrical architecture enables a level of utility that hasn't been offered in past consumer half-tons.
The true party trick is Ford's new "Pro Power Onboard" feature, which is essentially a built-in generator that provides juice for the 2021 F-150's rather robust in-bed power station. This system is available even on gasoline-engine models, but its utility is maximized with the electrified powertrain. ICE models equipped with the option max out at 2.0 kilowatts, while the PowerBoost hybrid can be had with either a 2.4- or a whopping 7.2-kilowatt inverter.
The idea here is that the F-150 can essentially stand in for a high-output portable generator. In a worksite example provided by Ford, a PowerBoost model with the 7.2-kW upgrade and a single tank of fuel could provide 32 hours of power for an 1,800-watt compound miter saw, a 1,000W circular saw, a 1,200W battery charger, a 1,200W hammer drill, and a 1,000W air compressor with hundreds of watts to spare for lighting and other accessories.
But even without the Pro Power Onboard option, Ford's new bed setup enables more versatility than in previous models. The new Tailgate Work Surface option adds a flat work area with integrated rulers, recesses for pencils or small tools, and even a stand for a personal device.
Ford is neither the first to offer an auxiliary power outlet in a half-ton pickup bed, nor was Ford the first to introduce a more feature-rich tailgate. GMC's MultiPro tailgate was a major innovation on that front, and while it is geared mostly toward improving the cargo utility of the bed, it can also be customized with 12-volt power and even an accessory speaker system. The Ram 1500 is also offered with both a multi-function tailgate and AC power in the bed, though the latter option is limited to models with the RamBox cargo package.
As half-ton pickups approach levels of towing and hauling capability that begin to blur lines with heavy-duty offerings, it's clear that automakers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves without stepping on their own bigger trucks' toes. These new bed and tailgate innovations may yet be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to full-size pickup versatility.