Ford Mustang Electrified — Big News … Or Maybe Not

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Last night, an email from Ford flew in. Ford had a hot new press release to share. This was the headline: “FORD ADDING ELECTRIFIED TRANSIT, MUSTANG, F-150 BY 2020 IN MAJOR EV PUSH; EXPANDED US PLANT TO ADD 700 JOBS.” I was super excited — “Yes, Ford is finally in the game!”

The first thing to dampen my enthusiasm was realizing that “2020” was in the title. I guess it’s not fully in the game yet, just putting its socks and boots on.

The bigger letdown?

That the electrified F-150 and Mustang won’t come with plugs — they’ll just be conventional hybrids. Yes, as Chris DeMorro points out, this is a huge deal in the world of Mustang fans (and F-150 fans), but it’s also a very non-big deal in other ways, imho.

For one, not having a plug means the drivers don’t get the wonderful benefit of convenient home charging. With a plug, electrified Mustang and F-150 buyers could have gone months without finding their way to a gas station. With hybrids, you can’t fill up the battery from an electricity outlet in your garage. But it seems no Mustangs or F-150s with plugs will be coming to market.

Additionally, a plug would imply a larger battery, which would imply more power, but I guess Ford didn’t feel compelled enough to jack up the amps. My experience with hybrids: they are not fun to drive. My experience with real EVs: they are a freakin’ blast to drive! Alas, we will get a hybrid Mustang rather than a fully electric, insane instant torque Mustang.

Making a hybrid Mustang is a huge deal in a historical sense. The Ford Mustang is one of America’s iconic vehicles of the 20th century. As Chris writes:

“We’re just three days into 2017, and Ford has already put out what could be the biggest announcement of the year by declaring that it will build a hybrid Mustang by 2020. Ford’s future electrification plans go much deeper than that, but a the promise of a hybrid Mustang will be a divisive issue among performance car fans of every brand.

“Indeed, the addition of a hybrid drivetrain to the iconic Mustang will be the first application to a mass-produced sports car from any of the major automotive brands. Sure, there are cars like the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari that utilize complicated hybrid drivetrains derived from Formula 1 technology, but those vehicles also come with seven-figure price tags.”

However, history is not the future. Hybridizing the Mustang is an amazing step looking backward, but I’d contend it’s not at all an amazing step looking forward. The Mustang may still be an iconic car or even dream car to much of the population, but how many millennials really give a crap? I’d guess that the millennials who care about powerful cars are much bigger fans of the blistering acceleration Tesla’s electric models offer — and those people largely understand that Tesla vehicles have plugs. A Tesla is not a Prius, but a Prius is a hybrid, and so is the coming “electrified” Mustang.

Ford Mustang sales beat out Tesla’s global sales of the Model S and Model X in 2016, but what happens when the Model 3 comes to market? What happens when all of these sleeping consumers discover that electric cars = instant torque and a measly hybrid Mustang can’t compete with that?

I personally don’t see a big market for a hybrid Mustang by 2020. Maybe I’m wrong — I’ve been surprised about American taste and depth of research in the past. Maybe I just don’t walk in Mustang circles. But if the Chevy Bolt is winning “Car of the Year” awards from The Detroit Free Press and Motor Trend, what is really around the corner? I would make a bet right now that Motor Trend and Car and Driver give the Tesla Model 3 their “2018 Car of the Year” awards … but I think I’d have a hard time finding someone who would take me up on the bet. “Car guys” may be the first to walk away from non-EV offerings that are completely missing or light on instant torque, and that includes hybrid or completely non-electrified Ford Mustangs.

The hybrid Ford F-150 news is grand — a hybrid F-150 is sure to cut a lot of pollution compared to a normal one — but, again, I’m not sure if a non-plug hybrid pickup truck in 2020 is a strong approach to the future or a lame attempt to delay the future. I’ll leave that to James and others to discuss.

I’m excited to see Ford’s other announcement (article from James coming), but I’m disappointed that Ford’s $4.5 billion electrification push is so lacking in plugs so far. Consumers aren’t going to be thrilled with hybrids, imho, and Ford is still behind the curve if it thinks a 2020 hybrid without a plug is genuine leadership.

Perhaps greenwashing is fun, but I don’t see it selling a lot of cars in 2020.

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Zachary Shahan

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, chief editor, and CEO. 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], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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