Cars

Published on June 29th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan

65

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

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.



  • Marley

    I think the Fusion is beautiful, but my next car won’t have an exhaust system, or radiator, or . . . . You get my point. But if Ford wanted to develop an EV from the ground up (no batteries in the trunk) I think the Thunderbird name plate would be a good place to start.

  • Jamez

    I just bought (leased) my first BEV: a FFE. It’s being made in the next few weeks and should arrive in the beginning of August (up here in Ontario Canada).

    Thanks for the article, and I agree. I’m ticked that Ford doesn’t do more. Don’t get me started on them fearmongering vs the Tesla. The ICE would need to be fueled immediately upon running empty too.

    Even though I am new-to-EV world, the FFE still has a decent place (IMO) although slipping rapidly when the others are increasing their range and features.

    The thing is, buying a FFE is a tech play – you have to treat it as a planned obsolescence product and plan the financials accordingly.

  • Martin Lacey

    I think Ford is going the way of the horse, which it’s Model T replaced. How ironic that it could be another vehicle called the Model 3 which kills them off!

  • Way to call them on their BS, Zach. I hope that their Board reads the specifics you listed. Multinationals usually change slowly, but motivation can be instigated by a free and vibrant press. Go team.

  • super390

    Ford now seems to believe that a car buyer is actually an F-150 buyer who is forced to have a trunk lid.

  • emc256

    Ford’s statement should be penalized as false advertising.

  • Robert Pollock

    When you decide to buy rather than lease, the expensive battery becomes yours and you look into the technology a little more. You can make the batteries they sell us now, last a long time or you can cut their usable life by more than half, by not paying attention to how you (abuse) it.
    Bottom line is bigger is better. Batteries (like almost everything) work best when they’re half full. They don’t suffer as much stress internally when they have room to stretch. Heat to a battery is what Kryptonite is to Superman and it comes from parking the whole car under the desert sun (bad) or charging and discharging fast.
    More capacity moderates these problems but range is resolved by buying a car/battery that suits your particular driving habits. If you only drive 20 miles every day, you can establish regular charging habits. Like once every two days at night while you sleep, or at work, using a private 120 Volt charger so access is reliable. Your car is always ready and you won’t be bothered by range.

  • Robert Pollock

    You’re preaching to the choir. I never liked Opera and wondered at Deniro, crying over an Italian opera in that scene from “Al Capone”. Now I get it, from watching the auto-manufacturers playing out their tragic-comedy opera. But not tears of sadness, tears of laughter.

    • Yes, but I’m also preaching to the people at Ford who likely read this. I may not get invited to their next sponsored press event, but will hopefully help them to improve their game.

  • dperreno

    I agree with the author 100%. I work for Ford and I own a Fusion Energi and I love it, but to focus on the total range as the selling point is ludicrous. I do everything possible to minimize the amount of gas that I use, not maximize it! Ford’s EV marketing is tone-deaf and misdirected at best, and it is a complete turn-off for many potential PHEV and EV buyers at worst.

    • Thanks! Great to hear from an Energi owner that I’m not off my rocker!

      I think the Energi is the best option on the market for a subset of the market, and that is one reason it sells so well, but the electric range should be improved a lot, and if it isn’t by the time an actual class competitor comes in, Energi sales will get slammed.

      And, yes, whoever is running the advertising doesn’t seem to really know much about EVs, unfortunately.

      Thanks for chiming in! And enjoy your Energi! If you ever want to write up a review, would be happy to publish it!

  • hybridbear

    Such a shame. I know someone who went from driving an EV to an F-150. Some people are so stupid. And some companies like Ford are so stupid. Once my Focus Electric lease is up in August there will never be another Ford in my house.

    • Would love to feature a review of the Focus Electric if you feel like writing one. I don’t think we’ve ever published one here, and I haven’t even gotten the chance to see one of these EVs.

      • hybridbear

        I’ll try to work something up. Do you have any suggestions to make it the most useful for readers?

        • Great! I think you are a regular enough reader to know which stories interest you, so I think going on your own guidance for what you’d find interesting and useful would work well. Will send you an email so you can get in touch there.

  • Vance Vance

    Oh, no, advertising never came from an engineering mindset–Ford advertising is aimed at the masses, the greatest possible number of potential customers. It was no mistake that long ago, they included the phrase, “road-hugging weight” to simplify how secure a car felt while tracking through a curve while subconsciously sneering at lighter, more nimble vehicles. Pandering (selling) to the lowest common denominator has always been a necessary evil whenever profit is derived from production volume.

  • Larry

    Entrenched engineering mindsets die hard. “But we’ve always done it that way” is a mantra for some. I suspect the CEO at the buggy whip factory was always anticipating an upturn in future sales

  • Bob Vittengl

    Biggest stumbling block for Ford is its own dealer network , if they are not sold on ev’s (which 99%are not) game over . They just can’t get enough f150s and SUVs . Unless this attitude changes the ev and atunomus cars will disrupt dealership business model.

    • Some people can’t help but to shoot themselves in the foot. That’s just life.

      • If only there was a way to avoid holding a loaded gun pointed at your foot. 🙂

  • eveee

    It’s simple. Ford is feeling massive pressure from the Model 3 on their current lineup, particularly their plug ins. Other EV and plug in sales are not that good right now. They want to wear the green mantle but have nothing to stop Teslas onslaught, unlike GM whose Bolt failed to stop 3s massive reservations. So both have resorted to the only thing they have left, jawboning. The big brass said yikes, the command got tossed downstairs, and out came the adds. Along with new messages changed from, EVs are not good enough, to we will have one in X years.
    Behind it all, they are trying to extend their ICE investment by transitioning to hybrids. IMO, that’s a non starter. It’s too late now. It didn’t work with model S, where the ELR flubbed, and so far it looks like 3 reservations are large enough to negatively impact other car makers and no hybrid style BMW 3 equivalent is going to stop it. Hybrids are no competition for EVs thar are simpler, lower maintenance, and better acceleration.

  • dRanger

    Good article, Zach. To point out the advantages of an EV is to point out the disadvantages of an ICE, something Ford and most other traditional automakers are unwilling to do.

    • Hmm, yeah, I guess my article could have been much shorter and just said that. 😀

      • dRanger

        Nahhh, where’s the fun in that? 🙂

  • Kevin McKinney

    Hypocritical, or just inept? Either way, a fail.

  • Timothy A Clawson

    I wouldn’t buy a electric or any car from Ford, GM or Chrysler. These big three spent the last 20 years blocking EV technology. Give your business the the Japanese or Tesla

    • bwollsch

      I think you mean the Chinese or Koreans. Only Nissan is working on batteries. Honda/Toyota seem to be stuck on hydrogen vehicles.

      I’m not for rewarding bad behavior, but if one of the US manufactures builds a decent EV, I’m willing to give it a look. Take the Bolt for example, since it’s a longer-range EV hatchback and will be here sooner, rather than later. If enough people consider them, the manufacturers may change their tune. Otherwise, they’ll just say “see, we told you no one wanted these electric cars.”

      • Timothy A Clawson

        Whoever. US manufacturers don’t build EV’s Most of the Volt and Bolt is made by the Korean company LG. American manufactures build largely gas guzzling SUV’s and haven’t changed even after their bankruptcy in 2007. I thought it was a joke when president Obama said “We will be able to buy fuel efficient american made cars” American manufactures don’t build energy efficient anything, not even LED light bulbs.

    • Yeah…I would clarify that. Nissan or Tesla. The germans area also making a nice move into electric with the i series from BMW and Mercedes doing ok to date with big plans coming (maybe). VW could also be moving into the market for real in the next year or two.

    • Agreed. Of course, leadership and the people who benefit from your purchases do change, but I agree with your point nonetheless.

      This is one obvious reason Tesla is so loved — no compromises, not even a natural gas connection to the Gigafactory!

      That said, I think encouraging large companies as they stick their head out and try to be leaders is worthwhile, which is why I’d consider a BMW, Nissan, or **maybe** even Volkswagen or GM down the road if they got serious enough about bringing change, and kicked out enough of the pollution lovers. 😀

  • Harold Thiers

    I own a Focus Electric, and love it, dispite Ford and the Ford dealer network. I own the only FFE sold by the dealership, they don’t stock one period. The Energi would be a great concept if it drove further on EV power alone. The Fear mongering has to stop and I believe this position is solely because they need to protect and capitalize on the investment bets that Ford has made, Plug-in Hybrids and not EV.
    VW is in big trouble with dieselgate and are shifting as fast as possible for the obvious business reasons. Ford has no such pressures. Marketing people are spin doctors and paid to pull the wool over our eyes. CleanTechnica makes sure they can’t thanks for the article

    • Thanks! I just signed up another Focus Electric owner to write a review, but honestly, we could have a couple. If you are interested, let me know! 🙂 And you can certainly work in these points going beyond the “review.”

      • Harold Thiers

        Zachary, I’ll write something up for you on My 30,000 miles in a Focus EV.

    • Pamela

      I love my FFE too! I also put in my reservation for a Tesla model 3 on 3/31/16. I’ll still keep my FFE since they will be worth basically nothing with the other vehicles available at that time the model 3 actually ships. I bought mine in 2014. I had to “import” my FFE from Wisconsin which is a couple states away from me even though I live within 50 miles of the factory where they are built. The other alternative was to get one from New York. I did have a semi local (40miles away) dealer finally offer to order one for me but I already had a deal to order one with the Wisconsin dealer which was the rare dealer that was actually trying to sell the FFE. I wholeheartedly agree with the feeling of never going back to a gas car. There isn’t much maintenance beyond wipers, wiper fluid, and tires. I may eventually have to replace brakes but 90+% of braking is done by regen. Ford really had a chance to compete with the leaf. I’d consider another Ford EV but between the model 3 and my FFE I don’t foresee buying another car for a decade or two after I get my model 3. I fortunately have a very short commute and enjoy traveling on two wheels in the summer so I don’t put very many miles on my car. The range is no problem for me since it’s plenty for everywhere around town I would go.

  • Charlotte Omoto

    I get my tires for my Tesla at my local Ford dealership which poo poos electric cars even though all the service guys came out to check it out! They don’t sell any plug-in Fords because Ford requires them to spend all kinds of $ for training and setting up charging stations.

    • Adrian

      Heh. In 2014 Ford’s CEO said there was nothing special in a Tesla, and Ford could build one.

      Tick, tock… Mid 2016, still waiting…

      • Bug S Bunny

        But bear in mind there is a difference between “could” and “would”.

        • Funny…it’s the same difference between a current auto market share leader and the future auto market share leader…

  • AaronD12

    It’s amazing to me that Ford is comparing their vehicles to pre-released Teslas. They truly are scared.

    “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.”

    Tesla stated that the Model 3 will have a MINIMUM range of 215 miles, not a total range. The word “total” doesn’t even make sense since Teslas don’t have range extenders.

    • eveee

      If it doesn’t come with a lavatory, a 610 mile range vehicle is useless to me. 🙂

      • Yes, I almost worked in criticism around that, but just left it be. 😛

  • Jason hm

    It takes close to a decade to put in place the infrastructure to produce batteries on a massive scale and low per Kwh cost. Battery production requires chemical and material processing you cannot just set up another line with off the shelf cnc and robotics manufacturing equipment in 16 months. Musk has paced a Giant long bet that no one else appears ready to make.

    • sault

      Or you can just license the battery & other EV technology to become competitive.

      • eveee

        Yes. That’s a start. then it can switch to in house tech to differentiate and compete as it grows.

    • Bob_Wallace

      LG Chem is ramping up to almost Gigafactory size (90% as large). BYD is going big, possibly bigger than the GF. Sanyo is ramping up. VW is talking a GF sized factory.

      • Greg Hudson

        Daimler/Mercedes is also investing big in batteries…

  • Adrian

    Under Mullally Ford showed signs of hope. Under Fields, not so much.

    So long as people keep buying F150s and S/CUVs, Ford isn’t going to meaningfully change.

    • Bug S Bunny

      True, but as long as the price of regular is <$2 a gallon, those folks will continue to buy those F150s and S/CUVs. From a money-making standpoint (which is why any business is in business), can you REALLY blame them?

      • eveee

        Is it gas prices? Maybe not. Gas prices seem to have little impact on Model 3 reservations.

        • Kraylin

          I agree reservation numbers were still great but maybe Model 3 reservations would have been even more insane if gas prices were substantially higher?

          The great news is EV’s, solar, etc are becoming price competitive even with cheap energy prices. A couple more price decreases from the renewable energy camp and a possible rise in gasoline and other energy prices and the transition to renewable energy should speed up nicely!

          • eveee

            Here is where I agree with Mr Cox. Once EVs are cheap enough, people will realize maintenance on ICE is as expensive as gas or more. And gas is still more expensive than electricity. For the same reasons that oil and gas are used rather than coal or wood , no matter how cheap. There is a reason the Saudi oil minister said the Stone Age did punt end for lack of stones. EVs are now seen as more modern, convenient, clean, and enjoyable than dirty, smelly, noisy, vibrating, unreliable, high maintenance ICE cars. And people would rather buy a Model 3 and wait for it than buy a 3 series BMW. At least the early adopters. But the early adopters will grow to a swell over time.
            After a while, nobody will want ICE no matter how cheap they or gasoline become.

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          • Robert Pollock

            A grimmer reality that’s becoming clearer is that an EV alone isn’t enough. My perspective is a little extreme because it was 123F here a week ago. We need PV to generate electricity, but also to deflect, shade and convert all the heat energy that’s raining down on our house. Immovable battery storage was always the weak link in buying/building a system until recently, but now it’s mandatory too so we have a three component solution that is very expensive;
            Car; $20k after incentives
            PV system (7kw @ $2/w) $14000
            Battery backup (15 kw @ $175 kw) $15k++

      • Carl Raymond S

        Agree, the failure is systemic; dividends for the shareholders and bonuses for the board, now; rather than due to any lack of insight.
        Not sure where they plan to be when the shite hits the fan though.

        • Robert Pollock

          These weather events aren’t going to ‘calm down’, they’re going to increase in frequency and force, now, this year. And next will be worse. I see the stick frame houses on the news being blown out like detritus in front of my (electric) leaf blower.
          123F last week, it was the first day of summer. The real heat here usually doesn’t start until mid-July. It’s already to hot mid-day, for weaker people to walk around.

          • Robert Pollock

            But when I go for a swim at the Mission Hills Country Club, home of the 1st annual WPGA event where they jump into the water trap on the 18th on tv every year, there are always CC deniers to talk to. “Oh you should have seen what it was like here in the ’60s!” they say. “Much worse than this”)

          • Bob_Wallace

            It was, for them. They didn’t have air conditioning and they had to experience the temps they now hide from.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Within five years EVs should be cheaper to purchase than ICEVs. They are already much cheaper to operate.

        I’m going to guess that a portion of the car market would like to do something to help fight climate change. If they can buy an EV and save some money I suspect that’s what they will do.

        Let’s say that’s 25% of the market. Could be higher.

        Another portion of the market will be value buyers. Once they realize how much money they would save driving an EV they’ll switch. Another 25% of the market.

        It will take a few years to build enough battery factories to supply that 50% portion of each year’s new car market. And while that is happening the capacity of batteries is likely to keep rising and the cost falling.

        When we get to 400 Wh/kg (~250 right now) and $100/kWh (<$145kWh now) someone is going to market a pickup that will absolutely smoke Bubba's F-150 and snatch the bass boat out of the water a lot quicker.

        Bubba will come around….

        • Robert Pollock

          I’ve met only a few EV drivers, all but one say they’d never go back to ICE. A friend took advantage of the incredibly cheap FIAT deals a few years back, to cover his Boston commute each day. It involve renting a battery that increases the cost the longer you have it, and the range was abysmal. He simply said, ” I’ll wait until the infra-structure is better”.

      • bwollsch

        I’m not sure it’s gas prices, I think it’s more of a lack of alternatives. If you need a truck, you HAVE to buy a gas version because there is no alternative. Even the yet to be released PHEV VIA only has 40 miles of electric range (400 total miles). At $75,000, I don’t see too many takers. Likewise for S/CUVs – no Escape/Expedition/Excursion alternatives except the Model X.

        I do blame them for not thinking ahead. I was just watching “Decades” on TV. They had a story about how Ford spent $250 million dollars in 1957 to develop the Edsel because they were trying to reach the middle income buyer. If they would do something like that now, i.e. develop a fully electric truck and S/CUV, priced competitively, with fast charging capabilities , I think they could rival Tesla.

        • super390

          The question is, why do so many more Americans “need” to buy a truck now compared to 30 years ago? It’s not like there’s a lot more of us needing to haul bales of hay to the barn.

    • I think Tesla has its eye on disrupting the truck market fairly soon. 🙂

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