Although it gave us a great little electric vehicle (EV) and pushed its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Energi platform seriously for a few years, the recent auto event shows the company’s still focused on gasoline engines, SUVs, and pickup.
Is Ford Dropping The Ball With Non-Electric Self-Driving Cars?
Ford pushed its electrification work moderately for roughly 5 years. It entertained a frenetic media and blogosphere for some time, and then — poof, nothing. The Ford Focus Electric has since then gone through the obligatory facelift, but its range hasn’t changed much. The Fusion and C-Max, both on the Hybrid and Energi platform, have also somewhat been left to the wayside. Going to auto shows, Ford proudly displays its SUVs and pickups and doesn’t mention is “Power of Choice” anymore. Remember that Power of Choice that promised us one car, many drivetrains?
So, when I read on Automotive News that the company is testing autonomous vehicles that will be new hybrids in 2021, I couldn’t help but wonder. After all, most are working on electric self-driving cars and are betting on an electric future. So why not Ford?
The answer is in the details. Of course, anyone is allowed to have an opinion, but when that opinion differs so much from other carmakers, we can only wonder why. According to Ford’s Jim Farley, President of Global Markets: “Picking a hybrid over an EV will allow it to stay on the road longer without charging, he said, and designing a new vehicle to be autonomous instead of converting an existing nameplate, as GM has done with the Bolt, should better serve commercial businesses.”
Indeed, in many ways, Ford has shown more interest in PHEVs and hybrids than its local rivals. Although the strategy is in stark opposition to GM, which plans to have more and more EVs on the road, Ford decided to keep a PHEV platform since it means a longer potential time on the road. That is a fair assessment of today’s technology.
But Farley defends Ford’s point of view by saying that, although companies are choosing to go the electric route, Ford estimates that it’s important to verify the business model and that it would have to be executed well. We can’t disagree on that point. However, Farley stumps us when he adds: “It won’t focus as much on miles driven, Farley said, as it will on the customer experience.”
What he seems to be alluding to here is that GM is focused on ridesharing in a normal automobile framework with Lyft while Ford wants to focus on a somehow improved personal car experience. But it’s the electric drivetrain that offers a smoother, quieter, more peaceful experience. …
One of the healthier things an industry can do is to diversify and tackle new technologies in various ways. But is Ford right in believing that this alternative, seemingly more conservative vision is a better long-term business plan? Most indication seems to point to electric autonomous vehicles. This could potentially leave Ford at a disadvantage as less and fewer millennials feel a need to buy cars when they can hail a ride.
In 2012, we asked many executives how they would tackle the millennials’ lack of desire, and finance, to buy new cars. One executive enthusiastically believed that when they would have babies, they would want to buy cars. History needs to prove them right or wrong. Will they go down this path for too long and get left in the dust? Or are other companies jumping the gun?
Ford Bets On Long Hour Strategy With Autonomous Cars
Ford’s bet is audacious. The company wants its vehicles to be on the road for roughly 20 hours a day. Farley believes EVs can’t do that yet and that it would thus make little business sense to go electric.
To be fair, Ford is planning an electric crossover with a 300-mile range that will be built in Mexico. It is also going gung-ho with EVs in China (where that’s required) and making sure this administration knows about it.
We welcome various strategies in the uncertain autonomous car market that’s emerging, but we still believe that 2021, which is four years away, will bring enough range and good enough battery chemistry for autonomous electric vehicles.
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.