Despite Cheap Gas, Ford Sees Big Future for Electric Cars
Gas may be under two bucks a gallon near you, but that’s not stopping Ford Motor Company from announcing a major electrification initiative for its future cars. By the close of 2020, the gigantic American automaker says that it will have 13 newly-electrified models in its global lineup, a $4.5 billion investment that’s less of a gamble and more of a guarantee than you might expect.
Today, Ford’s lineup includes just a handful of models that boast electric technology, either in fully electric (as in, no gas required) or gasoline/electric hybrid — namely, its Fusion Energi hybrid sedan and its C-MAX small minivan hybrid. A few other models permeate its lineup, including fully-electric versions of its Focus compact hatchback and the aforementioned C-MAX Energi.
At the end of 2020, Ford says that 40% of its lineup will offer some degree of electrification.
Here’s how Ford plans to get there.
Coming soon: The next Ford Focus Electric
Following in the footsteps of Nissan, which recently upgraded its all-electric Leaf, Ford says that by the end of 2016, its dealers will be able to sell you a new Focus Electric. Running solely on power supplied by its battery pack, the next Focus Electric will offer DC fast-charge capability to 80% charge into its lithium-ion battery in just 30 minutes.
Moreover, with a full “tank” of electricity, the Focus Electric will have a 100-mile range.
That sounds impressive, but it’s worth noting that the 2016 Nissan Leaf currently on the market offers up to 107 miles of range for about $35,000. Ford hasn’t yet announced pricing on the second-generation Focus Electric, but it will likely be highly competitive with the Leaf.
It’s worth noting that the Focus they’re talking about today is the next-generation model, not the one you can currently buy. Even with hefty incentives from state, federal, and sometimes local governments, plus those offered up by Ford’s finance arm, the current Focus Electric is, to say the least, not a big seller. Unlike the Leaf — or, for that matter, the much pricier Tesla Model S — the Focus Electric can only be charged via a Level 1 or Level 2 charger. That means that charging either takes all night (Level 1) or four hours (Level 2). Moreover, its battery may take up most of its trunk, but the Focus Electric can only go about 75 miles on a single charge.
The next-generation model makes a big step in the right direction, but Ford says it is merely a small part of its increasingly electric strategy.
Where’s that $4.5 billion going?
No drop in the bucket, Ford’s $4.5 billion investment promise centers largely around the development of new battery technologies.
A multi-million dollar laboratory at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, about a 45 minute drive from Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, will spearhead new battery development. At its own facilities across the globe, Ford is feverishly working on adding various degrees of electrification to its lineup.
What you can expect to see is electrification implemented in three different ways:
- Fully electric vehicles (EVs): Other than the Focus and the existing C-MAX Energi, Ford offers no EVs. Those two account for a tiny slice of overall sales, but more electric models may be coming.
- Hybrids: Ford offers a variety of hybrids currently, and while the brand says more are on the way, its big emphasis is going to be on plug-in hybrids.
- Plug-in hybrids: These are models that boast a special battery that allows them to drive a set distance on purely electric power before the charge is depleted and the gas motor kicks in. For some drivers, plug-in hybrids would allow basic tasks — like commuting — to be completed solely on electricity. The big difference compared to a full EV is that they’re not range-limited; that is, once the battery is depleted, you can continue filling the vehicle up with gas to make a trip limited only by the driver’s bladder size.
Ford indicated to The Cheat Sheet at an event at its headquarters that the third option will be its primary growth market over the next few years.
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