Now that I’ve had some time to noodle on Ford’s minimal announcement yesterday..
In case you missed it: Yesterday Ford announced a large investment in EVs including some details on the next Focus Electric (2017). I was pretty shocked that Ford had done something! Really they have been mum on plugins and EVs since the launch of the Energi products (Fusion and C-Max).
I’m guessing that their fly-by night drop of a press release isn’t exactly what you we’re expecting (let me see if I can find the press release…yup here it is). Lets take a look at the bullet points from that release:
- Ford is investing an additional $4.5 billion in electrified vehicle solutions by 2020, including the new Focus Electric with all-new DC fast-charge capability, which delivers 80 percent charge in an estimated 30 minutes and projected 100-mile range
- The company is adding 13 new electrified vehicles to its product portfolio by 2020; more than 40 percent of Ford’s nameplates globally will be electrified by the decade’s end
- Ford also redefining how future vehicles are created, moving from a features-based product development to a customer-experience-led process, applying insights from social scientists
$4.5 B over ~5 years (so just under $1B/year) not too shabby. (Digging around I can find evidence that they’ve spent more than that on Ecoboost engines since 2009–unfortunately I don’t have a reference though.)
13 New electrified vehicles (“electrified” in Ford terms means hybrid, plugin-hybrid, or EV thus they could still only be selling 1 EV).
Not sure exactly what the third bullet point really means; its kind of a word-salad that seems to sound good but could actually mean nothing LOL.
Instead I’m sure many FFE owners (and EV enthusiasts) would have liked a huge production showcasing at least one new (or upgraded) vehicle either at or like an auto show event. I don’t think something like that would ever happen with Ford and EVs and I think I know why…
Look at what Ford has done to date with “electrified vehicles”: All of them have been built in existing vehicle lines (Focus, C-Max–existing in Europe, Fusion, Escape). There are many who proclaim that it can’t be a really good EV unless it was built from scratch as an EV. They use the Leaf, BMW i3 and the Teslas as examples (ignoring the fact that the Tesla Roadster was a conversion; and I don’t think the Leaf was a clean slate..I’m sure someone within Nissan did a “Save As” from a previous vehicle’s blue prints). The counter point to that, however, is the great VW eGolf.
Now the eGolf is the kind of model I think Ford is going for: an EV is just a powertrain choice, not a vehicle platform. Thus the release yesterday makes sense. Ford was describing their investment in a new line of powertrains–not vehicles. I bet the “13 new electrified vehicles” being added will simply be existing Ford vehicles with an added powertrain option.
Thus instead of a Chevy Bolt, you’ll be able to order a Fusion Energi, Fusion EV, Focus EV, Focus Energi, and perhaps even an F-150 Energi, or F-150 EV. Just like you can order an Ecoboost Escape or an Ecoboost Taurus (Taurus SHO) today.
In that light the announcement makes sense: “Here we are making an investment in a new powertrain”.
Now onto the specs of that 2017 Focus Electric:
- ~100 mile range
- CCS fast charge (80% in 30 minutes)
Not much else different and slated to start production in late 2016. Interestingly the Chevy Bolt (200 mile range) is also due for production in the same time frame. The next generation Leaf is due around the same time and has also been projected to have ~200 miles of range. It will be hard to compete against those two with a meager 100 miles of range.
Here is the thing though: I don’t think Ford really cares about sales for the FFE. Take note of its current sales: approximately 100 per month +/- a few since it first went on sale back in 2012. Many pundits call that a failure. I don’t think Ford thinks it a failure–if it was they wouldn’t keep selling them and wouldn’t announce this updated Focus. By that measure I bet Ford will continue to sell 100 or so 2017 Focus Electrics a month and be perfectly happy with that. Now with the announcement of the 2017’s enhancements will sales plummet? to 90 a month? LOL
Update: The Detroit News also has a report about Ford’s announcement. Much of it is the same, but the last quote from a Ford employee says everything about Ford’s intent with EVs:
“About 200 miles seems to be the rule of thumb, but that doesn’t mean 100 can’t satisfy people,” Brinley said. “That can propel sales.”