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Published on June 29th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


There’s Electric Car Leadership … And Then There’s Ford

June 29th, 2016 by  

Ford Fusion Energi 6Okay, granted, Ford late last year announced that it was investing $4.5 billion into the EV ecosystem, and that is great(!), but the company’s market leadership today has left plenty to be desired, and a recent Ford press release just ticked all the wrong buttons. The press release spins so hard it basically spins itself off the table, and it certainly doesn’t make Ford look good. Here’s the title: “A Cure for Range Anxiety? New Ford Fusion Energi, With EPA-Estimated 610-Mile Range, Can Go Further Than Any Plug-In Hybrid.”

Ugh. Here are a few issues I have with this title:

  • It reinforces the massively overhyped “range anxiety” meme.
  • It makes it sound like Ford made a big leap forward with its key plug-in model, when it actually didn’t improve the electric range at all.
  • It makes it sound like the Fusion Energi has an electric range to be proud of, when it’s actually one of the lowest electric ranges on the plug-in market.
  • It skips focusing on so many wonderful aspects of electric cars (and the Fusion specifically) to focus on … >600 miles of driving range, 96% on gasoline, which is really not going to inspire many people (anyone?) to jump into an electric car.

It’s not just the title that flubs here. Nearly the whole press release is focused around the range of the car! When is the last time you heard a non-EV enthusiast talk about buying a car because of its gas range? (Note: This is not a knock on the Fusion Energi or its many buyers, by the way — if you have a need/strong desire for a large car and can’t afford a Tesla, the Fusion Energi is probably the first car I’d recommend.)

If Ford was only targeting people who were already EV enthusiasts (which I obviously wouldn’t recommend), it’s still a flub. Studies, like our first EV report, have repeatedly found that EV early adopters want more electric range from their cars, both pure EVs and PHEVs. They don’t say they want more gas range! Bragging about the Fusion Energi’s “market-leading range” (sarcasm, not a direct quote) and then — after several paragraphs — admitting that the EPA-rated range is only 22 miles is most likely just going to piss EV enthusiasts off.

If that didn’t take it far enough, though, here’s “industry leader” (sarcasm) Ford “raising awareness” about electric vehicles:

Ford – the No. 1 seller of plug-in hybrids for 2015 and year-to-date 2016 – is leading the way in raising awareness of the advantages these vehicles offer. Through April, Fusion Energi sales are up 58 percent.

Kevin Layden, Ford director of electrified powertrain engineering, says Fusion Energi is a great option for people who might not live, work or play near electric-vehicle charging stations, or who take trips to places where the electric-vehicle infrastructure is not yet established.

“Fusion Energi gives them both the freedom to go gas-free for shorter trips and the fuel efficiency of a gas engine for longer trips,” he says. “And it’s very affordable.”

Fusion Energi is on sale now. Its 610 mile range is nearly triple that of the upcoming Tesla Model 3, which Tesla says has a projected total range of 215 miles. The Model 3 doesn’t run on gas, so it also must be recharged immediately when its battery is depleted.

Yikes. Ford, which took 4 years before putting out a commercial about its Focus Electric (which I’m sure most people still don’t know exists), is “leading the way in raising awareness of the advantages” of EVs? In that super-late commercial and Ford’s second one nearly a year later, I was so irritated by the weak sell that I felt I had to call out Ford. Now, after claiming leadership in a place where it has been a laggard, how does Ford demonstrate its leadership? Which great EV advantages does it focus on?

Ford Fusion Energi 3Acceleration/instant torque? Convenient home charging? One-pedal driving? The smooth and quiet drive? Lack of maintenance?

Nope, none of those. Ford basically 1) tells us that we need to live, work, or play near EV charging stations in order to drive a fully electric car (not helping a lay person to know that you can plug your car into the electricity socket in your garage, or a home EVSE), 2) promotes going gas-free just for “shorter trips,” 3) praises the B.S., nonsensical “fuel efficiency of a gas engine,” 4) acts as if the minimum 215-mile range of the Tesla Model 3 is somehow inadequate, and 5) seemingly attempts to scare the reader with the shocking note that the Model 3 “must be recharged immediately when its battery is depleted.

Hmm, at least it calls the Fusion Energi affordable….

Apologies if I come across as unforgiving, but this is so hypocritical and counterproductive that I couldn’t let it slide. This makes it seem like the people promoting electric cars at Ford have no clue what is actually attractive about an electric car; like they are consciously pushing fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about EVs to keep people away from fully electric models; and like Ford is more eager to claim leadership than demonstrate it.

I think it’s wonderful that Ford is putting $4.5 billion into competing in the car market of the coming years (the EV market). That it aims to make “more than 40 percent of Ford’s nameplates globally … electrified by the end of this decade” also comes across as a positive thing — but not if it’s going to be pushing low-electric-range plug-in hybrids (and maybe even conventional hybrids?) as supposed electrification leadership.

I think Ford can do a lot better. I hope Ford will do a lot better. And I’ll be one of the first to throw huge praise on Ford if it brings a compelling fully electric car to market. In the meantime, I think it would be better for Ford’s brand as well as a transition to truly cutting-edge and exciting electrified transport if Ford didn’t tell us it was a climate hawk by only polluting the world 96% of the time (er, 588 miles out of 610).

Photos by Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the CEO of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he offers no investment advice and does not recommend investing in Tesla or any other company.

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