We haven’t heard much about Ford lately. What is the Dearborn Gang up to, anyway? Turns out they have been busy preparing a major assault on the electric car market, one that will see 13 new electric or plug-in hybrid models in Ford showrooms by 2020. In all, Ford expects 40% of its models will be electric in 5 years. Ford CEO Mark Fields announced on Thursday his company will invest $4.5 billion over the next 5 years to fund developments in plug-in hybrids, traditional hybrids, diesel fuel powertrains, EcoBoost technology, and battery electric propulsion. “We actively see plug-in hybrids as the highest growth for consumers by 2018,” he said.
According to AutoBlog, one of the first fruits of all this labor will be an all new Focus Electric. Ford’s engineers have come up with an improved DC fast charging system that can replenish the battery to 80% capacity in just 30 minutes. That process takes 2.5 hours for today’s Focus Electric. The new car is expected to debut in 2017 and have a range of 100 miles. Ford product chief Raj Nair said features like the fast charger will help smooth the adoption of plug-ins, which carry the stigma of not having enough range.
Wait….what? Ford is going to introduce an electric car with 100 miles of range the same year the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 come to market, both of which are expected to have twice as much range? That hardly seems like news to make a car enthusiast’s pulse race, does it?
Part of Ford’s investment will be devoted to improved batteries that are lighter and more durable. Research will take place at its Dearborn based R&D laboratory as well as facilities in Europe and Asia.
Ford will also use some of that money to push forward with social science research. Observing how consumers interact with vehicles will help the company gain new insights into the cognitive, social, cultural, technological and economic nuances that affect product design.
“This new way of working brings together marketing, research, engineering and design in a new way to create meaningful user experiences, rather than individually developing technologies and features that need to be integrated into a final product,” Nair said. “We are using new insights from anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists and designers, along with traditional business techniques, to re-imagine our product development process, create new experiences and make life better for millions of people.”
Is that a bold strategy or what?
Photo Credit: AutoBlog