The new Mustang Mach-E marks the most aggressive move yet by Ford into the emerging market for electrified vehicles – and it certainly won’t be the last considering it plans to invest $11.5 billion in the technology between now and 2022.
The automaker is developing an array of all-electric models, along with conventional and plug-in hybrids, and company officials, including Chairman Bill Ford Jr., offered some insight into the company’s plans following the well-attended debut of the new, all-electric SUV on Sunday night.
The Mach-E will play a critical role in moving forward, Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, told TheDetroitBureau.com. “It has galvanized our internal teams, and it tells the world we are serious about electrification.”
Ford Motor Co. actually was one of the first automakers to explore what battery-based technology could deliver, launching an array of hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles during the past decade, including versions of its Ford Escape and Lincoln MKZ. But BEVs, such as the Ford Focus EV, were limited in range and performance and were largely designed to do as little as necessary to meet the strict zero-emission vehicle mandates enacted by the state of California. Indeed, the original plan for Mach-E called for a much less striking and sporty “compliance car,” Ford officials revealed.
In its final incarnation, however, it offers a much more compelling design, Porsche levels of acceleration and, at 300 miles, the Mach-E with its biggest battery option, should help address dreaded range anxiety.
“Ford has taken a lot of heat for being behind on EVs, but the Mach-E could be just the thing the company needs to quiet the naysayers,” said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst with Edmunds.
The question is where Ford goes next. Some of its competitors – including archrivals General Motors and Volkswagen – are focusing almost exclusively on BEVs going forward. GM hopes to have nearly two dozen in global showrooms by mid-decade, VW twice that many when factoring in its many brands.
For its part, Ford will offer a broad mix of battery-based products, Ted Cannis, the head of global electrification, told TheDetroitBureau.com in an exclusive interview.
“Not everyone adopted smartphones and HD TVs in one day,” he explained, and it’s going to be the same thing with battery cars. Not everyone is ready to go all-electric. And even if they were, it could prove difficult in some parts of the country where there isn’t a solid charging infrastructure. So, added Cannis, “The way we can help more people get there is by having a broader portfolio of solutions.”
Offering a mix of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric models might seem more of the same. But the Mach-E suggests Ford isn’t just staying on the same path.
“It’s important that (future products) aren’t compliance-car fuel-sippers,” Cannis stressed, promising upcoming models will offer “a lot of excitement.”
One example is the new Lincoln Aviator. The standard version’s 3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V-6 makes a robust 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. But the plug-in hybrid pumps that up to 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft – while also yielding about 20 miles of all-electric driving range.
Ford also plans to have a number of pure battery-electric vehicles, including a version of the next-generation F-150 pickup, its best-seller and, indeed, the number one vehicle overall in the U.S.. There will be at least two BEV models for Europe, and a large SUV for the home market, company officials confirmed.
There are expected to be several more that Chairman Ford said Sunday he wasn’t ready to discuss. But he said “of course” when asked whether the second-largest Detroit automaker is giving serious thought to electrifying the more familiar coupe version of the Mustang, adding you, “Never say never.”
Ford actually gave a hint of what that might look like at the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas where it debuted the Mustang Lithium concept vehicle. Using an advanced, 800-volt drivetrain similar to what’s in the new Porsche Taycan, the concept Mustang can punch out 900 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque. It could also cut charging times in half.
Several senior Ford officials stressed that the Lithium is what a press release described as a “one-off prototype.” But the automaker also noted that the electric coupe will serve as a “test bed,” something Ford insiders also confirmed. In other words, it will give the company insight into what it might take to fully electrify the pony car.
Ford clearly would like to have a classic sports car to rival Porsche’s Taycan, but there are a number of challenges. An 800-volt drivetrain is extremely expensive, as reflected in Taycan’s price, starting at over $100,000. And even with a more cost-effective, 400-volt system like the one in the Mach-E, there would be challenges such as keeping the car’s ride height low enough.
So, other options are under study. That could include anything from a mild hybrid – adding a boost of torque at launch – to a plug-in hybrid. Ford might also replace the conventional turbocharger on its base Mustang with an electric turbo that would bring boost on more quickly. It might also electrify the supercharger on a future Shelby GT500. That blower adds a tremendous burst of power – but it also takes about 125 hp, roughly a sixth of what the muscle car makes, to drive the supercharger.
Significantly, the Mustang Lithium was largely the work of supplier Webasto – which also was actively involved in the development of the electrical system on the Mustang Mach-E.
Meanwhile, one, and possibly two, European Ford BEVs will be based on the new all-electric MEB architecture developed by Volkswagen which entered into an EV joint venture with Ford earlier this year. Separately, Ford has also invested $500 million in EV maker Rivian. It plans to use the start-up’s technology for an SUV and possibly other future products, Ford has confirmed.
“We can’t do everything alone and we won’t,” Bill Ford told TheDetroitBureau.com on Sunday.
By gaining access to technology developed elsewhere, Ford insiders added, the automaker will be able to draw from a larger toolbox and should also benefit from greater economies of scale, in the process coming out with better and more affordable products that could finally help drive battery-electric technology into the mainstream.