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Published on December 11th, 2015 | by Tina Casey

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Ford Stirs The EV Pot With $4.5 Billion For New EVs, Batteries, Fast Charging

December 11th, 2015 by  


Just in time to undercut the threat of an “affordable” Tesla EV, the Ford Motor Company has pledged a massive five year, $4.5 billion — that’s billion — investment including 13 new EVs, bringing its electrified vehicle portfolio up to more than 40 percent of its global nameplates. To be clear, new plug-in hybrids are included in the EV group, but Ford is highlighting a new 100 percent electric fast-charging Focus Electric with an anticipated range of 100 miles.

For you Tesla fans out there, yes we know that 100 is not 340 (or 400, for that matter) but considering that the average daily drive in the US is about 37 miles, there seems to be plenty of space in the market for a reasonably priced all-electric vehicle with less than optimal range. Ford also has the cushion of a hybrid lineup to attract and hold customers who value the electric experience but don’t have consistent access to charging stations, or who need (or simply want) the convenience of longer driving distances and quicker fuel-ups.

Ford EV investment 2

Ford And The COP21 Paris Climate Talks: So There, Jim & Ted

When an iconic US auto manufacturer goes all in for the EV market, you know the days of the gasmobile are winding down. We’re thinking it’s no accident that Ford announced a major investment in the future of electrified vehicles in the last days of the COP21 Paris climate talks, as negotiators scramble to reach an agreement on carbon emissions before the clock runs out. Here’s a subtle reference to the talks in Ford’s press release:

Ford’s shift to add electrified vehicle solutions answers increasing global trends calling for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Though US Senators Jim Inhofe and Ted Cruz have been doubling down on climate change denial,  the world has been moving right along toward another mobility paradigm, and auto manufacturers are moving right along with it.

The Mobility Company

Speaking of new paradigms, Ford expects to create a competitive edge in the future EV market by positioning itself as a mobility company that invests significant research dollars in social science-based research to anticipate social trends affecting the future auto market. The difference is that instead of doing conventional customer surveys, Ford has been sending research teams out in the field to observe and catalog vehicles in use.

The user experience model has already resulted in Ford’s “Smart Mobility” plan, which the company rolled out last January as a package of mobility projects that blows up the driver/owner model, especially as it relates to urban mobility.

Ford also used COP21 as a platform to promote its “Dynamic Shuttle” collaborative ride-on-demand service tailored for corporate campuses and other institutional environments. The shuttle launched as an experiment earlier this year, and on December 10 Ford announced that it has just moved into the pilot test stage.

Moving forward, part of Ford’s $4.5 billion investment is also going to a sea change in the way it develops new products, as summed up by Raj Nair, the company’s executive vice president for product development:

The challenge going forward isn’t who provides the most technology in a vehicle but who best organizes that technology in a way that most excites and delights people…

[snip]

We are using new insights from anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists and designers, along with traditional business techniques, to reimagine our product development process..

The New Focus Electric

That wide-ranging attention to R&D is already evident in the new Focus Electric, which Ford anticipates launching into production some time next year.

According to Ford, the new Focus Electric will sport a new fast-charge capability for an 80 percent charge in half an hour, a good two-hour improvement over this year’s model, and new interfaces for maximizing efficiency, including regenerative braking.

As for that 100-mile battery range, that could be just the beginning of a new line of longer range, lighter weight EV batteries from Ford. Here’s a nifty infographic illustrating its full investment package, featuring battery R&D on the top line:

Ford EV investment

More And Better Batteries

Ford is expanding its EV battery R&D with an eye on the global marketplace. Among its other COP21-timed announcements, Ford also had this to say on December 10:

Ford is expanding its electrified vehicles research and development program in Europe and Asia this year, creating a “hub and spoke” system that allows the global team to further accelerate battery technology and take advantage of market-specific opportunities.

Ford expects the new arrangement to leverage virtual real-time testing for EV batteries that reduces the need to produce expensive prototypes, so we’re thinking that Ford’s development of its 3D printing resources will also come into play in addition to its experience with HIL (hardware in the loop) systems.

As for the future-future, next week CleanTechnica will be chatting with a Ford engineer to catch up on the company’s fuel cell electric vehicle program, so stay tuned.

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Image credits (all): via Ford Motor Company.


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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