For the first time ever, the AutoTrader Awards are recognizing more than just the vehicles Canadians drive but the stuff that sets them apart.
Well, that’s always been the case, since that is what makes them award-winning vehicles in the first place; but it was time for technology to be acknowledged all on its own. And quite frankly, the timing couldn’t be better. Innovation has long been a hallmark of the auto industry, but the hits have been coming hard and fast these days, with tons of new technology that’s designed to make life easier, or the in-vehicle experience more enjoyable (or both).
Ford was up against some seriously impressive innovations in the inaugural tech awards, but it was by a nearly unanimous margin that the brand’s new onboard inverter available in the F-150 pickup – an award-winner in its own right – took home top honours as the 2022 AutoTrader Best New Technology Innovation.
Technically, built-in inverters are nothing new – and they can be had in more than just trucks these days. They’re what turn direct current to alternating current and allow anything from a smartphone to a small fridge to be powered on the go. What makes Ford’s version of it, dubbed Pro Power Onboard, so impressive is the sheer scale of that power and what can be plugged into it.
While most truck inverters hover around the 600-watt mark, the optional one in the gas-powered Ford F-150 has a 2,000-watt capacity, while the hybrid comes with a 2,400-watt unit that can be upgraded to 7,200 watts. But that’s just a bunch of numbers, and they don’t really mean much on their own, so consider this: that 7.2-kW inverter that’s optional in the gas-electric F-150 makes a standalone generator all but obsolete, with the ability to run power tools (including an arc welder) on the job site, or even plug a camper trailer in while it’s being towed so the beer in the fridge stays cold.
“There’s no secret launch code required to run the onboard inverter – simply start the ignition and it’s ready to power whatever’s plugged into the various outlets inside and out,” your humble author wrote in his review of the F-150 Hybrid.
Those include a couple inside, as well as four grounded household outlets in the bed alongside a 30-amp twist-lock outlet with the upgraded inverter – the same kind used to connect to a powered campsite. The truck’s generator mode is accessed through the touchscreen infotainment system, which shows how much power is being drawn in real time, while the same information can be pulled up on a connected smartphone.
Should a trailer be plugged in on the road, Ford says the inverter doesn’t impact powertrain performance at all, so no need to worry about losing steam while towing around the Cabot Trail. And when parked and in generator mode, the system works by first using any reserve energy in the battery pack before engaging the engine intermittently as required.
It’s a simple technology compared to the other nominations up for this award like the so-called hyperscreen or augmented reality head-up display introduced by Mercedes-Benz, or even the onboard scales offered in the F-150 that provide a live look at how much of the truck’s payload or towing capacities are being used. But more importantly, it’s a game-changer that has real benefits for real people. And that’s what makes this onboard inverter a winner.