Ford and Electric Vehicles—And, Yes, the Mustang Mach-E
Given the levels of excitement and attention being lauded on the Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV, you might think that this is the first time that Ford has had an electric vehicle. It isn’t. Not by a long shot.
And we’ll get to to the Mustang Mach-E in a moment, but first, let’s look at
Mustang Mach-E: Coming in 2021 (this and all pictures: Ford)
some of the vehicular roots that the company has in EVs.
What is interesting to know is that Clara Ford—wife of Henry—actually drove an electric vehicle—not built by Henry.
According to the curators at The Henry Ford Museum, Clara Ford drove a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47 Brougham, which was produced by the Anderson Electric Car Company of Detroit. They note, “In the years before World War I many women chose electric cars because they started instantly without hand cranking and had no difficult-to-shift transmission.”
One liked electricity (Thomas Edison, left) and one preferred gas (Henry Ford, right)
Apparently, when fitted with an Edison nickel-iron battery, a Detroit Electric had an 80-mile range, which is the sort of range that electric cars 100 years later were achieving.
Why the ICE Won
With the burgeoning availability of gasoline back then (the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey had become so big that in 1911 it was broken up under the Sherman Antitrust Act), the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering, and a lower cost for a vehicle with an internal combustion engine compared to a electric vehicle (according to the U.S. Department of Energy: “By 1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster sold for $1,750”), the electric car was readily eclipsed by one with an internal combustion engine. Henry Ford essentially made his friend Tom’s batteries irrelevant. But Clara Ford still silently buzzed around Fair Lane in her EV.
Ford EVs of Late
In 1997 Ford offered the Ford Ranger EV. Model year 1998 had a lead-acid battery and a range of about 65 miles and the following year a switch was made to nickel-metal hydride batteries, which increased the range to 82.4 miles.
The Ranger EV went out of production in 2002. Is it a coincidence that the assembly plant the vehicle was built in was located in Edison, New Jersey?
In 2011 Ford started building the Focus Electric at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, where it was also producing non-electric versions of the Focus, as well. The Focus Electric wasn’t a big seller: for the eight years that it was available in the U.S. market there were about 9,200 sold. The vehicle, by model year 2017, had a range of 115 miles.
And to note another potential coincidence: when the Focus production ended at Michigan Assembly, Ford spent $850-million to retool it. . .to build the Ford Ranger.
The Ford EV of Right Now: Mustang Mach-E
So now there is the 2021 Mustang Mach-E. An all-electric vehicle that offers a range of from 210 to 300 miles, depending on the configuration. A vehicle that offers a 0 to 60 mph time around ~3.5 seconds (this would be the GT Performance Edition, which offers 459 hp (342 kW) and 612 lb-ft of torque (830 Nm).
Long hood, short rear deck, strong haunches: Yes, a Mustang.
One of the immediate things one can’t help but see when climbing behind the wheel is a 15.5-inch screen oriented in the portrait mode in the center of the IP. Not only is this a swipe and pinch interface that is now seemingly hardwired into every one, but what is notable is that knowing that not everyone who is going to be getting a Mach-E is a digital native, there is a large, physical knob located near the bottom of the screen—to turn up the volume.
Yes, that’s a big screen. 15.5-inches. This next-gen SYNC system uses machine learning that can provide the driver with the types of information and inputs that are typically requested. Oh, yes, and that’s a volume knob in the lower portion—a physical knob.
Ford is taking $500 refundable deposits for the vehicle. By the time you read this it will probably have far more deposits for the crossover (yes, this is a four-door crossover, not a Mustang with an electric powertrain—this isn’t a variant of the Focus Electric approach by a long shot) than it sold Ranger EVs). Deliveries will begin in late 2020 (“First Edition” model), with the other four variants following in 2021.
The vehicle will be produced at the Ford Cuautitlan Stamping and Assembly Plant in Mexico. It was developed by Ford people in Dearborn. People who were a part of “Team Edison.”
People Behind the Product
I had the opportunity last month to meet with several of the team members at the Ford Product Development Center in Dearborn (literally down the street from where Clara Ford used to drive her Detroit Electric). Specifically:
- Ted Cannis, Enterprise Product Line director, Global Electrification
- Jason Castriota, Global Brand Director, Mustang Mach-E (who has experience working for Ferrari and Maserati, so he knows more than a little something about sophisticated performance)
- Darren Palmer, global head of Product Development for BEVs
- Phil Mason, User Experience
- Christopher Walter, Exterior Design Manager (when growing up his dad had two ’66 notchback Mustangs, a ’65 convertible and a ’67 fastback)
- Josh Greiner, Senior Interior Designer (growing up he spent time in his mom’s ’65 Mustang, so he knows more than a little something about that)
- Ron Heiser, Chief Program Engineer
- Sue Hong, electrified powertrain Systems Manager
And what became clear to me from talking and listening to this enthusiastic group—and they were nothing but, dare I say, charged up about their jobs—is that early on in the development program there was the pursuit of something that would have been more like the approaches taken with the Ranger and the Focus—as in, “Let’s stick an electric powertrain into something”—that, under the direction of CEO Jim Hackett, a man who probably receives less credit than he deserves for his transformative vision for Ford, became the Mustang Mach-E—as in, “Let’s show the world what we can really do when it comes to EVs”
That is, it wasn’t the pursuit of something ho-hum but rather something that is truly bad-ass.
Not a Regulatory Roller
As Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer—and a man who, perhaps not coincidentally, was the chief engineer for the model year 2005 Mustang, the vehicle that brought Mustang back to what enthusiasts knew that it could be—put it about the vehicle, “The Mustang Mach-E wholeheartedly rejects the notion that electric vehicles are only good at reducing gas consumption. People want a car that’s thrilling to drive, that looks gorgeous and that can easily adapt to their lifestyle—and the Mustang Mach-E delivers all of this in unmatched style.”
Not a compliance car—by a long shot.
Historically OEMs have, by and large, offered the market EVs that are called “compliance vehicles,” meaning vehicles that exist purely so as to meet the regulatory requirements of the California Air Resources Board.
One of the primary reasons why Teslas sell so well, comparatively speaking, is because these are desirable vehicles that just happen to be electric. Consider: through the first three quarters of 2019 Tesla delivered 208,265 Model 3s. And as Tesla said in its Q3 2019 update: “In Q3, we were able to deliver nearly as many Model 3 vehicles as we were able to produce.” Not a whole lot of cars sitting on lots.
Which is what Ford hopes to achieve with the Mach-E.
And which it probably will.
As previously mentioned, one of the reasons why the internal combustion engine trumped the electric motor for vehicles was because of the infrastructure, the availability of gasoline. So Ford is completely cognizant of the importance of providing Mach-E customers with the availability of charging. It will be offering a Ford Connected Charging station for home charging (some 80% of EV owners charge at home) and it is working with Amazon Home to provide installation. Using a 240-V outlet, an extended range, rear-drive vehicle will get an estimated 32 miles per hour of charge with the system. There is a mobile charger that comes along with the vehicle; it can provide 22 miles of range per charging hour.
Ford is addressing the infrastructure issue, helping assure drivers that they’ll be able to readily get where they want to go.
The navigation system will provide drivers with information regarding available chargers in their driving vicinity as well as provide information regarding when charging should occur.
And there is the FordPass Charging Network, which encompasses some 12,500 charging stations, including DC fast chargers which can provide 47 miles of range within 10 minutes for the aforementioned battery/vehicle configuration.
This has long been an industry based on technology. And an industry based on product. And with vehicles like the Mustang Mach-E, it is an intersection of the two.
Sleek, stylish, sophisticated, electric—and a Mustang.
Ram Truck chief exterior designer Joe Dehner talks about how they’ve developed the all-new pickup. “We’ve been building trucks for over 100 years,” he says. “Best I could come up with is that this is our 15th-generation truck.”
Chrysler pioneered the modern-day minivan more than 30 years ago and has been refining and improving that type of vehicle ever since.
A young(ish) guy that I’ve known for a number of years, a man who spent the better part of his career writing for auto buff books and who is a car racer on the side, mentioned to me that his wife has a used Lexus ES Hybrid.