With Ford doubling its commitment to electrification, and a hybrid version already under development, CEO Jim Farley signaled an all-electric version of the rugged SUV could be coming.
The Detroit automaker recently announced plans to double its investment in electric drive technology, to $22 billion. Its first long-range all-electric model, the Mustang Mach-E, is generating strong demand and an all-electric version of the big F-150 pickup, dubbed Lightning, will be revealed on May 19.
The question is what’s next? And there have been signs that the Bronco is on the short list of products that will go all-electric.
As part of a series of tweets, a Ford shareholder directly raised the question, asking CEO Farley If Ford “is truly committed to EV in the future, why don’t we have an EV opinion on the new product like the Bronco?”
“Why do you think we don’t (sp)?” Farley replied.
Ford was an early mover in electrification with products like the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and Ford Focus EV. Its full battery-electric vehicles generated little traction, however, analysts blaming their limited range and high cost.
Ford has shifted direction. It is launching new plug-in hybrid models like the Lincoln Aviator Touring, and will rapidly roll out long range battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, like the Mustang Mach-E.
Shocked, shocked, I say
“I would be shocked” if Ford didn’t electrify the Bronco, said Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst for Guidehouse Insights in Chicago.
Indeed, former CEO Jim Hackett confirmed in 2018 that a hybrid version of the Bronco was in the works. But that left open a number of questions. For one thing, would it be a conventional hybrid or a PHEV capable of operating in all-electric mode at times? And would the electrified driveline be used for the small Bronco Sport that debuted late last year, for the bigger Bronco set to launch in the coming months — or both?
A plug-in would allow Ford to take direct aim against Bronco’s key rival, the Jeep Wrangler. A PHEV model — the Wrangler 4xe — went on sale last month. It can run 21 miles in all-electric mode, according to the EPA, while Jeep noted the 4xe can operate for at least three hours on batteries alone while off-roading.
But there are growing expectations — now backed by Farley’s tweet — that Ford won’t stop with a hybrid version of the Bronco. The automaker, noted analyst Abuelsamid, already announced plans to go all-electric with its so-called “icon” models. That group includes the Mustang and F-150. Bronco is the other icon model.
Timing may be the real question
“I have no doubt we’ll see an all-electric bronco,” said Abuelsamid.
The other question is one of timing. He thinks a prototype could show up as soon as “the next year or two.”
Stephanie Brinley, the principal analyst for IHS Markit, agrees that an all-electric model will be “a long-term part of Bronco,” but she thinks it won’t join the family for “another five or six years.”
There’s another reason to expect Bronco will go fully electric. The automaker announced in February that it plans to sell only plug-in or all-electric models in Europe by 2026. Starting in 2030, meanwhile, it will offer only BEVs on the Continent. Since versions of the new SUV will be sold there they would have to fit into that timetable.