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Plug-in Hybrid Ford F-150 Spied Testing?

Could be our first look at the hybrid pickup truck.

Using aluminum to shed weight wasn't enough for Ford F-150 engineers. The next step on the journey to improve the best-selling pickup truck's fuel efficiency is adding hybrid technology, and these spy photos may provide our first look at a plug-in version of the F-150.

We've known for some time that Ford plans to electrify the F-150; late in 2015, Ford CEO Mark Fields told NPR that a rear-wheel-drive F-150 hybrid would debut by the end of the decade. But he had said the truck would have a traditional hybrid setup, rather than a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

These spy photos appear to show a Ford F-150 prototype testing with what could be the door for a charging port on the truck's front-right fender. Our spy photographer says the truck was undoubtedly a hybrid because the gasoline engine could be heard turning on and off, with the whining and whirring of electric motors audible as the truck drove in suburban stop-and-go traffic. If a plug-in F-150 is on the way, it would likely adopt the Energi badge of Ford's other PHEV models.

There are very few details so far about the potential powertrains for a hybrid or plug-in-hybrid Ford F-150, though it would most likely use the company's 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine and the new ten-speed automatic that will debut in the F-150 Raptor. Check back soon for more details.