Ford Pro Aims To Be The Tesla Of Electric Commercial Vehicles

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In May of 2021, Ford announced the creation of a new division — Ford Pro — dedicated to serving the needs of commercial and government fleet operators. According to Reuters, the company expects to increase its revenue from selling hardware and related services in that market to $45 billion by 2025, up from $27 billion in 2019.

Ford also said it will develop lithium-ion and LFP batteries under the IonBoost brand for its electric commercial vehicles in conjunction with battery manufacturing partner SK Innovation, and expects to cut battery costs by 40% in the next 3 years. “This is our biggest opportunity for growth and value creation since Henry Ford started to scale the Model T,” Ford CEO Jim Farley told investors during an online Capital Markets Day event. “Our ambition is to lead the electric revolution.”

Ford also announced Blue Oval Intelligence, an in-vehicle technology stack that allows fully connected and updated software, enabling the automaker to interact with customers after the vehicle sale. It sees the market for connected functions like driver-assist technologies, upgraded software content, and EV charging becoming a $20 billion a year business by 2030.

Ford E-Transit Production Begins

Ford has started production of the E-Transit cargo van at its factory in Kansas City, Missouri, with first deliveries expected within weeks as it begins to fill the first of the 10,000 orders it has on the books. At an event in Sonoma, California, this week, CEO Jim Farley said, “This is a first move by Ford to really start to scale and commit serious resources to digital software and service based revenue,” according to Autoblog.

The US and European commercial vehicle markets are fragmented, Farley said. Ford can use its position as the leading commercial vehicle brand in the United States and Europe to be a leader in pulling the pieces together as commercial fleets go electric. “We are the Tesla of this industry,” he said.

Ford Pro is now ramping up a commercial electric vehicle charging business based on the charging startup Electriphi, which the company purchased last year. Ford Pro is partnering with Salesforce to digitize billing and other paperwork for businesses that deploy people to jobs where the vehicle also serves as office space.

Ford Pro Chief Executive Ted Cannis said in an interview that the unit has 125,000 active accounts, and a 40% share of the US commercial van and pickup markets. With Ford’s stable of small and medium-sized business customers, “I’ve got 125,000 golden tickets,” Cannis said.

Farley and Ford executives said connected vehicle technology — including telematics systems that give Ford a pipeline to receive data from its vehicles — gives the company a firmer foundation for recurring revenue from subscription services. It also permits software to be the primary driver of its vehicle repair business. By tracking its vehicles, it can alert fleet owners when it is time for vehicle maintenance.

Ford plans on creating a robust charging network for its electric commercial vehicles. With the data it collects, it can analyze how many miles the vehicles in a fleet drive and where they are parked. That data will allow it to design hardware and software that permits recharging at a central depot, at a worker’s home, or both, says Muffi Ghadiali, former CEO of Electriphi and now head of the Ford Pro electric vehicle charging business. “Because of telematics we can give them a very precise plan based on how the fleets operate,” he said.

It’s Show-Me Time

Ricart Automotive Group is a major Ford commercial vehicle dealer. Owner Rhett Ricart says Ford executives have “done their homework” on Ford Pro. Now it must deliver electric vehicles that do not leave business customers stranded. “Those vehicles have got to be flawless. People will have trepidation. They know what they’ve got with internal combustion engines. They know where to get gasoline,” he says.

Ford recognizes that challenge and is planning its fleet charging system to address such concerns. Commercial vehicles tend to drive routes that are highly predicable, which makes figuring out how, where, and when to charge them simpler than meeting the needs of private vehicle owners who want to know they can drive 500 miles to shoot the curl off the beach in La Jolla after work if they so choose.

For those of you with a half hour to spend, below is the splashy E-Transit video Ford used to introduce the E-Transit. Most CleanTechnica readers know the future is electric and that the world is depending on the EV revolution to significantly reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Tesla has chosen to avoid the commercial sector, leaving it wide open for Ford and others to exploit. Will the E-Transit be a hit or a miss with commercial customers? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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