I’ve had mixed experiences with multifunction instruments and tools. On one hand, they can save cost and space by eliminating overlap and redundant blocks, reduce weight and volume, and simplify set up and work arrangements with simplified cabling and probes. On the other hand, the individual functions and capabilities they offer can easily be just “adequate” or “pretty good” rather than the “really good” you need. It depends on the specifics, of course: a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman-type of tool is not as good as dedicated screwdrivers or pliers, for example, but you are perhaps more likely to have it with you, while combining an oscilloscope with a spectrum analyzer can offer some synergy benefits though the pairing can be limiting and frustrating due to reduced flexibility. There’s no single answer; it depends very much on the instrument and user specifics.
That’s why I was intrigued by the recently introduced 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Yes, it has all sorts of impressive truck features. Among the options on the powertrain side is a 3.5-liter PowerBoost Full Hybrid V6 engine delivering 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque. The smart 10-speed transmission has many advanced features and operating modes and with that engine, the transmission is specially modified to include an integrated 33-kW electric motor.
I’m not going to call out the many other specifications and features of this pickup truck (and References), but instead look at one: the totally and seamlessly integrated AC generator options in three capacity ratings: 2 kW, 2.4 kW, and a huge 7.2 kW — the latter offering four 120 V/20A outlets and one NEMA L14-30R 240V/30A outlet, with a run time of up to 32 hours on a full tank. That’s a lot of delivered power, and you can use this generator subsystem while the truck is stationary or even on the move, within limits.
This generator is not an add-on to a base design. Instead, the entire generator subsystem is tightly integrated electrically and mechanically with the main hybrid power plant and power train, and the driver console’s flat-screen information. That’s pretty impressive systems engineering, no doubt about it. Keep in mind that the truck must also meet safety and performance mandates and regulations for both motor vehicles and electrical generators. Understanding what that means in design and how to achieve it must have taken a large team of compliance experts working with the design team and doing a lot of “what if” meetings.
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