In addition to the whack of electrified vehicles in its future stable, Ford will pursue three different paths, with intriguing partners, to get them all to market.
Ford is investing $11.5 billion to introduce 40 electrified vehicles by 2022, of which 16 will be fully electric; the rest will be hybrids or plug-in hybrids. In addition to engineering its own electric vehicle architecture, Ford will use Volkswagen’s electric vehicle platform to expand its European lineup and is working with tech company Rivian in the U.S. on larger vehicles.
“They’re all teaching us different things, and the platform rationalization may come years later,” Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett said in an interview with MotorTrend.
Working with Rivian
Ford has invested $500 million in Rivian and will use its skateboard chassis that provides a full electric powertrain complete with battery pack, electric motors, suspension, axle, and other key components to power a vehicle for about 400 miles. “Rivian is a really special thing that’s teaching us about merging not only the powertrain, but the architecture that the ECUs [electronic control unit] and other things connect to,” said Hackett. “So think of it as architecture for the operating system of the vehicle.”
Ford will develop its own body to wrap around the skateboard.
“You shouldn’t go down the path of assuming it’s a pickup,” Hackett told MotorTrend, which has us assuming it will be an SUV. Many of the details are now finalized. “At the senior levels it’s pretty close,” he said. “I think a lot of that has been settled, but not ready to talk about.”
Rivian will build the skateboard and likely assemble the entire vehicle. “It would be counterproductive for us to try and make what they have capacity to do in the beginning here, because they’ve got a factory in Illinois that meets a lot of our criteria,” Hackett said.
Hackett said overall he likes Rivian founder RJ Scaringe’s clean sheet approach and thinks tapping into the tech company’s engineering will speed up Ford’s rollout of smart vehicles.
Electric vehicles with VW
Ford is collaborating with Volkswagen, too. It will use VW’s new MEB architecture, a global modular platform designed to underpin millions of electric vehicles for the Volkswagen Group (VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda) as well as other interested automakers.
Ford is the first major carmaker to tap in. The agreement gives Ford the parts and components it needs to build a small front-drive electric vehicle at a Ford plant, starting in 2023. It would be for the European market. “The small cars on MEB are not for N.A.,” Hackett confirms. A second vehicle could be added as part of Ford’s plan to sell 600,000 MEB-based vehicles in Europe over six years.
All Ford utility vehicles in the future will offer a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or both. Ford has vowed to be the top producer of hybrids by 2021, jumping ahead of Toyota, with plans to offer some degree of electrification on every mainstream vehicle.
Adding batteries and motors to Mustang will enhance performance. There will be a Mustang hybrid, and a pure electric SUV with Mustang styling is due to launch in 2020.
For trucks, electrification adds capability and efficiency. An F-150 hybrid is due in 2020, and Ford is working on an electric F-Series pickup. No time line has been given for that model.
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