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Published on December 13th, 2015 | by Kyle Field

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Ford Teases January Reveal of New Plug-In SUV

December 13th, 2015 by  


Ford recently blasted out news of a $4.5 billion dollar investment in “electrified vehicle solutions,” which aims to electrify existing models, adding 13 new plug-in vehicles to the Ford stable by the end of the decade. Looking at the news in light of its current offerings, and it’s likely that the core of this effort is comprised of adding plug-in hybrid powertrain options to existing vehicles as it has done with the Energi lineup. In addition, buried in the announcement was a very interesting tease of a big reveal coming to the 2016 North America International Auto Show.

Ford specifically shared a few teaser photos and a little teaser clip that I don’t think you’ll be able to watch just once. I’ve been over it a few times and still want to go back for a few more rounds to see what unique details I can pick out. The high-level specs seem fairly obvious — Ford is announcing a new plug-in SUV at the Detroit Auto Show on January 11th. The clip clearly shows the same plug-in port as the other Energi models, with the rotating door and location just in front of the driver’s door. I’m leaning towards it being a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), as it does not appear to have fast charging, just a normal J1772 plug. That lands this new creation in Ford’s Energi line, right next to the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi, which sell quite well compared to other plug-in cars in the US.

Wide Headlights!

Size-wise, this thing looks wide! I initially thought it might be an updated, plug-in version of the Ford Edge, but after comparing photos and stop-frame footage of the shrouded mystery vs the new Edge in parallel, this new plug-in is a lot wider! The official video is below, as well as a promo photo of the covered vehicle that is obviously a new full-size SUV that plugs in.

With the plug only being a standard J1772 port, it only makes sense for this to be a PHEV, as an all-electric SUV of this size would require quite a large battery to go any reasonable distance, which, in today’s market, would require a DC fast charging option. I would love to see an all-electric SUV from Ford, as 2016 is sure to be the year of the electric SUV — as the Tesla Model X ramps up to full production and starts arriving on streets en masse.

Notable exterior features include bold headlights that barely hang on to the outside corners of the car, pulling the visuals wider still. The posture is very aggressive with the height slightly above what a sedan might sit at, stretched to what must be near the maximum width for a standard lane. Front to back, the long hood eases back into a sloped windscreen. The profile below feels like the raised front of a Ford Fusion tacked on to the rear of a BMW X6. It has similarities with Ford’s Vignale Concept as well, but nothing stands out as a dead ringer.

coming-to-ford-naias-2016

The US SUV market is in desperate need of some mileage efficiency improvements, which makes the prospect of a plug-in hybrid electric SUV promising, though I’m not going to lock in my final position until I see some numbers. Specifically, we need as many electric-only miles as possible from a PHEV to maximize the gas-free miles that drive meaningful reductions in fuel use. 30 miles would be great, as that covers the majority of commutes… anything beyond that would be gravy.

Also on my wish list for Christmas from Ford, I would love to see a diversion from the typical integrated gas/electric drivetrain used in most PHEVs to more of a range-extended electric vehicle approach like the Chevy Volt. This approach builds all the fundamentals of an EV — including an all-electric powertrain supported by a gas-powered generator in the back, which exists only to charge the battery.

What are your thoughts? What do you think Ford has under the wraps? Here, I bet you can’t just watch it once:

All images and video credit: Ford





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  • Pamela

    Sure looks like a Fusion to me.

    • Jim C

      It is a Fusion. it is the 2017 re-design of the Fusion Energi. a new Platinum edition will be offered with lots of driver assist technology. All models include LED headlights, Sync 3, and some other refinements. I am the Fleet Manager for a Ford franchise dealership. Disappointed it was not an SUV.

  • Will

    Am I the only one who thinks that the author is wrong in his interpretation that this vehicle is an SUV? Look at the roofline; it follows what looks most likely to be a Fusion.

    • brianm0122

      agreed about not an SUV. Doesn’t look like an SUV at all.

    • Kyle Field

      I disagree 🙂 The lines along the sides are much higher than a sedan. Maybe some would style this a compact utility vehicle but it just looks way too big to me to be anything but an admittedly awkward SUV. Like a big Honda Crosstour or something…

  • Ross

    Bonus point for marketing effort. Are those things mirrors or wings?

    • Steve Grinwis

      We’re looking for an SUV for my wife shortly, and the Outlander PHEV isn’t quite big enough. It’d be awesome if this was a plug-in hybrid Explorer. 40 mile electric range would mean my wife would essentially use zero fuel, but we still have the ability to get around if the power is out (My car is electric, so we’re a little single source dependent right now)

  • Harry Johnson

    Most everyone drives less than 50 miles every day and to build hundreds of millions of heavy SUVs and pickup trucks with a 200-300 mile range requires 4 to 6 times the battery material that is rarely ever needed. Hybrids are complex and perhaps a range extender is the answer to largely eliminating oil use and providing consumers with what they think they need. The superior electric motor is inevitable no matter.

    • markogts

      Yes, that’s how I see it. Plus, PHEV can’t be boycotted by local hater politicians who don’t want charging stations anywhere.

    • Jamset

      Yes. That is why Better Place was a good idea and viable in Norway, HK, Singapore (if SG was logical), London, several cities in China.

      Maybe they should have made a Tuk Tuk version to start with.

  • Shiggity

    People currently underestimate how good ‘hybrid’ powertrains can be.

    We’re 3-4 generations ahead of the Toyota Prius now. There used to be trade-offs, pretty soon there will not be. You will attain the great low end torque from electric drive, the efficiency of electric drive, the acceleration of electric drive, and the high end towing performance of ICE, and the high end top speed of ICE. 4 wheel drive with torque vectoring will become standard.

    Car powertrains are jumping in effectiveness insanely fast right now. They’re jumping so fast they’re becoming like computers where it’s like if you wait 18 months you can get one that’s twice as good.

    • Ross

      So wait a couple of 18 month cycles and not need the ICE at all? Tesla Model S doesn’t seem to need it.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Nor will the Model 3. Wife drove the Leaf to work today. Thought she had a half-day early-mark after Christmas party lunch. 5 minutes from home she gets a phone call – emergency meeting.
        She’ll probably make it home, but it will be tight. It’s fear of this type of situation that makes the bigger battery so desirable. It’s not what you do most days, it’s the corner cases.

        • Mike333

          There’s also UBER and Taxi’s.
          You shouldn’t buy something 200-1000% more than you need for corner cases.

          I see your point emotionally, but if there’s taxi service you’re still good.

          • Michael Dinsmore

            Suggesting that I need factor in taxi service when shopping for a new car is a non-starter.

            That’s like saying that I should buy a tent when I buy a new house.

            The fact is that the existing solution has capability for edge cases, so the competition needs to as well.

            My requirements: I can get round trip to work, which is 70 miles; after 30% battery degradation due to age; after 30% degradation due to heating the cabin, I live in a moderately cold climate.

            That means that I’m buying a batter almost 2X as large as I need. Fortunately, my current job has a charger available so I could realistically get by with just a 35 mile one-way trip.

        • markogts

          Already said this: people don’t buy the car for the average use, but for the extreme: you don’t need wipers, 500 liter boot, chains, all wheel drive, 200HP, even the 12V plug, on 99% of the situations, but still most people would not accept a car without these features.

          That’s why a PHEV is such a good idea IMHO and in my experience: is that lone public charging spot busy or out of order? Who cares, I’ll make it home anyway. But still, I drive all electric very often.

          • Carl Raymond S

            Well, time will tell. I think the KISS principle will win out and we’ll find that putting in a bigger battery is a lot simpler than putting in a second power system.

            Hybrids might find buyers for a small window of time, but there will come a point, measured in dollars per kWh and kWh/kg, where the battery wins. And we may well find that point has arrived the day the gigafactory reaches max output.

            The existing manufacturers are desperate to see an engine in your next car. Otherwise they lose all that revenue from servicing. Which is precisely why I think consumers will opt out of engines – one man’s revenue is another man’s expense.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The people who study this stuff carefully find that as battery prices drop EVs will be less expensive to manufacture and sell than will ICEVs, hybrids, and PHEVs.

            Economics should make the ICE obsolete. Once we have long range EVs selling for less than same-model EVs the market for the more expensive cars should dry up.

            The horizontal axis is battery pack price. Both GM and Tesla should have battery prices below $200/kWh within a year.

          • Carl Raymond S

            Thanks, great chart – and it only represents the economic case. In the real world, there’s also the convenience factor – nobody wants to visit petrol stations or drop the car in for service. There’s also the fun factor, the peacefulness factor and the clean air cities factor.
            If the chart origins were 0,0, those hybrid wedges would look even smaller.
            So it really is ‘sink or swim’ time for the traditional brands. Reminds me of the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. Interesting times indeed for the ICE industry.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Back about 15 years ago when I got my first digital camera it was obvious to me that if they could increase the resolution enough to allow large, high resolution prints that film was dead.

            The convenience of shooting and seeing, not having to wait to finish a roll and get it processed. The ability to shoot as many pictures as one wanted at essentially no cost. People would pay a premium for a camera like that.

            I have the same feeling about EVs today. Get the 200+, $35k EVs ready to sell and it’s over for the ICEV. A few years will bring lower cost EVs and the world will basically quit buying petroleum fueled engines.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “The ability to shoot as many pictures as one wanted at essentially no cost.”

            This is my favorite aspect of a digital camera. Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, look at the pictures, throw out the ones you don’t like. My second favorite aspect of digital cameras is that their output is digital. It’s already on my computer, ready to be attached to an email and sent to anyone I want, any time I want.

            If EVs turn out to be even half as much of an improvement over ICVs as digital cameras are over film cameras, ICVs are dead. They just haven’t laid down yet.

          • markogts

            I agree with you on the big picture, but am a bit perplexed about the timing. I’d like to buy another battery for my e-bike, and the retail price is about 1500€/kWh. And, there is no charging plug when I go skiing, for example. How do you defrost a car after a night in the woods below freezing, without some liquid combustible? So many situations where KISS is having some pistons and fuel on board, rather than searching for a plug in the desert.

          • Carl Raymond S

            That e-bike battery price is about 10 times the price per kWh that Tesla hope to achieve from the gigafactory. It’s something we have to be careful of – demand products with standard commodity form factors (like the D,C,B,A,AA,AAA cell standards), lest traders play the monopoly game – as they have done with ink cartridges.
            In this country (Australia), if you wake up, your car is snow covered and you have no power point (all outlets are 240V here), then you are on one of three mountains. Chew a few kWh to defrost and coast to the nearest charge point.

  • crevasse

    What I’m not so jazzed about with these ev + ice vehicles is the prospect of having to maintain both sets of motors and batteries. What I want is to not ever have to get near oil, grease, belts, timing chains, starters, keys, alternator, etc, again. All of the stuff that breaks in today’s cars.

    • Kyle Field

      I’m with you on this. PHEVs seem to be more than twice as complex (full gas drivetrain, full EV drivetrain + integration).
      I’m with you on the low maintenance benefit of EVs – I love not having to worry about oil changes. Just tires, washer fluid, brake fluid every 15k miles and probably pads eventually…but no nagging change this, fix that nonsense every few months 😀

      • No way

        Most PHEV owners can testify to that it’s rather half as complex (or less) to own. It’s like having an ICE but with much less maintenance because the ICE parts are not used as much.
        It won’t beat the simplicity of the BEV in the long run, but for almost every car owner out there today a PHEV would be a lot less trouble than they are used to.

        • Jamset

          Exactly.

          If you only drive 50 km per day, the petrol engine would hardly ever turn on.

        • Kyle Field

          I agree with what you’re saying. I would argue that they are experiencing most of the benefits of an EV which is where the warm and fuzzys come from with only a lingering tingle of the not so great ICE world. Having said that, the car still has way more technical complexity than a full BEV while also having an ICE that, as you noted, will get much less use and thus, require only a fraction of the maintenance.

        • TedKidd

          The problem with most PHEV’s is they end up being really crappy EV’s. Sure, they’re great when compared to ICE vehicles, but most things are compared to the best rather than the worst characteristics.

          My buddy’s CMax – for example, runs out of juice 8 miles into his commute – and we have had an unusually warm winter.

          A car that goes 8 miles on electricity needs to be plugged in A LOT if you want to drive it as an EV. Not only does this present a PITA for the owner – it becomes really annoying for people at charge points who NEED to charge because these crappy cars ALWAYS need charging because they are perpetually out of juice. So they are always hogging charge spots.

          Tesla folks are watching this fight between crappy PHEV’s and range deficient EV’s unfold, and shaking their heads.

          • No way

            Say hello to the perfect gateway drug for most. 🙂 I’m very sure that a demand for peoples second PHEV will be more range. Some might even be ready to go full on BEV.

            In between the short range PHEVs and BEVs we will also be having EREVs picking the cherries from both worlds.

          • TedKidd

            I just hope that the continuous need to charge, and resultant charge congestion, aren’t self defeating.

            Me, I’ll never go back to ice, nor will I ever have another car with less than 200+ miles of range.

          • No way

            I don’t think it will be. I believe it will rather make people just charge at home (and at work only if they have a dedicated spot or if there are more charging spots than EV’s)
            I think people will rather accept that part of the commute/daily driving will be driven by the ICE until they get their next car and then they will go for longer electric range.

            No ICE at all? Or just not ICE only? Right now no ICE at all would mean you’re in a Tesla then.

          • TedKidd

            If you had a 20 gallon gas tank, how often do you stop to fill up?
            Once a week? Once a month? If you can fill at home, maybe you never stop when out and about – not necessary, not worth the trouble.
            Now imagine the tank is 1 gallon.
            You fill at every opportunity.

            One car is hardly ever attached to public resources, the other is attached whenever possible.

            I have a Smart now. When I go to a garage and the chargers are all taken by PHEV’s – cars that need to plug in everywhere they stop if they want to stay in EV mode, it sends the message that these cars actually create a barrier to pure EV adoption. Why?

            Because I can’t go beyond round trip range. I can’t take a 40 mile trip if the chargers are likely to be unavailable because without adding +/-5 kwh, I won’t get home.

            And with all these tiny battery cars out there clogging up the charging infrastructure, I can’t count on being able to charge. These “hybrids” that “need” a tiny amount of juice, and may be taking the charge space well after they are fully charged, block cars that may truly need charge.

            So yes, my next car will be a Tesla or a car with equivalent range and Supercharger network access. It will be a car that need never depend on 220v public charging, even if I’m a long way from home, because these short range cars are always going to “need a charge.”

      • Mike333

        Also, an ICE as just a range extender is actually quite simple.

    • markogts

      On my Outlander Phev, there is no clutch, no gearbox, no central differential. The engine is the 300HP engine of the Lancer Evo, derated to 120HP, and it runs one third of the time.

      I’m pretty confident it will last…

      • Jamset

        Oh yeah. Good point.

      • Carl Raymond S

        What’s the service schedule like? If it only runs one third of the time, they only service it every 30,000km… ??

        • markogts

          No, the service schedule is as usual, 20.000 km or one year.

          • Carl Raymond S

            A hybrid may need two meters, one for the engine miles, one for the car miles. Service car parts (e.g. brake pads) against the car meter, and the engine parts (e.g. oil change) against the engine meter.
            Or just ditch the engine and use a bigger battery.

      • Mike333

        Speaking of Mitzu. Doesn’t this look like CONSPIRACY in the auto industry?
        -Mitzu had to wait 3 years before they were “allowed” to sell their PHEV SUV into the US.
        -They Finally announce they will bring the PHEV over in March
        -And ALL of a Sudden, Ford has a PLUG-IN SUV.
        -Which typically takes at least 3 years to develop.

        What was the quid-pro-quo?

        • markogts

          The Outlander PHEV has a drawback for the US market: a bit slow off the line. Now in the 2016 model seems like they addressed the issue.

          • Mitsubishi was also on the verge of pulling out of the US, and it reportedly couldn’t get enough batteries to supply demand in Europe (where it topped the EV sales charts) + Japan.

        • Steve Grinwis

          This had nothing to do with ‘allowed’. It had everything to do with the fact that they literally couldn’t produce enough batteries to send any to the U.S.. Especially when the U.S. wasn’t likely to like the former underpowered version…

    • Brooks Bridges

      My lawn mower, weed trimmer, chain saw, the outboard on my sail boat – all electric (also use a manual lawn mower). I detest gas powered stuff.

      Bought a used Prius as a “bridge” car and pleased but can’t wait for full EV – but needs to be Prius sized – which is as big as my old VW Passat. I have enormous respect of Tesla but the Volt shows GM could be a serious competitor if they really work at it.

      • ROBwithaB

        My lawnmower is beer-powered.
        (Presumably with significant efficiency losses in the intermediate conversion process to man-power. But nonetheless my preferred technology.)

        • Brooks Bridges

          Hah! Well, sometimes my manual mower is too.

  • Kraylin

    Seems to me the major manufacturers will prefer PHEV for a time still… Makes sense, it allows them to continue selling and maintaining ICE vehicle components while still giving us what we want (kind of)… Compliance vehicles…

    Kick their ass Tesla, I won’t feel bad for any left behind!

    • Kyle Field

      I just wonder what would happen if one of them had put out a sedan with Tesla like range 2 years ago and just sucked it up and ate the battery price for a bit but were able to build up their brand (or a new sub brand) until sales, R&D and scale made up the gap. Similar to what Nissan did, but with a full size 200mi range vehicle. It feels like most of them are doing that now…but for smaller vehicles for the most part.

      Anyhow, for today…it’s Tesla or bust…and likely will be for the next 2 years even if some of the other promises hold true. The Chevy Bolt will be great but it’s not a “Tesla fighter” (hah!).

      That could be another article…the legend of the Tesla fighter! It really does make me laugh because a Tesla isn’t just a 200mi range EV…the Model S changed everything. different approach to design, manufacturing, sales, user interface, safety, everything. Anyhow…I’m all for Tesla 🙂

      • Schumpeter

        Hear hear!

        What will be relevant in this race the coming is time to market. Can manufacturers keep their expected launching dates and scale up production.

      • dogphlap dogphlap

        “wonder what would happen if one of them had put out a sedan with Tesla like range 2 years ago” kind of depends on whether the dealer network would have supported it, stocked it or sold it for a start.

        • Kyle Field

          Great point and just one more reminder that Tesla does not just represent a luxury EV…but a completely new approach to the auto industry as a whole.

  • Definitely looks interesting. A nice departure for Ford, it seems. Eager to see it for real.

    And, yeah, as much as I wish it would be a fully electric SUV, I’m guessing a PHEV… and hoping for but not expecting more electric range than the other Energi models.

    We’ll see! 😀

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