Ford Model E Will Be All Things To All People

Ford says it is committed to spending $4.5 billion in coming years to bring electric cars to market. CEO Mark Fields promises an all electric car with at least 200 miles of range to compete with the upcoming Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. The time frame for these new models is 2019 to 2021. When they get here, many of them will be marketed as part of a new group of Ford cars known collectively as the Model E.

Ford Electric car

According to industry sources, the Model E will be produced at Ford’s new factory in Mexico. You may recall that earlier this year presidential hopeful Donald Trump castigated Ford for building its newest factory in Mexico instead of Detroit, proving beyond any doubt that he has no idea how international commerce works in the era of free trade agreements.

The Model E has sparked other controversy as well. For years, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has been hard at work fulfilling his dream of jump starting the electric car revolution. Believe it or not, Elon has a playful side. He wanted to have a lineup of cars that spelled S-E-X-Y. He has the Model S and the Model X, but somewhere, somehow, while creating SpaceX and SolarCity and the Hyperloop, he forgot to trademark the name Model E. Someone at Ford picked up on the oversight and beat Tesla to the door of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Musk sulked for a while and accused Ford of wanting to “kill sex.” But the bottom line is that Ford owns the rights to the Model E name and Tesla doesn’t. Tesla has had to content itself with designing a logo for its Model 3 that looks more like the letter E than the number 3. The Model Y, presumably, will be a derivative of the Model 3, just as the Model X started out as a derivative of the Model S.

One of the factors holding back the advent of the electric car era is a lack of electrified crossovers and SUVs. That’s understandable because both are bigger and heavier than a sedan. They also tend to be less aerodynamically efficient. Weight, size, and aero drag are all enemies of long range for electric vehicles. But the market has spoken. People want crossovers and SUVs. They want bigger vehicles with more space for people. pets, and assorted paraphernalia.

Ford will give them what they want. Not only will the Model E be a sedan, it will offer a crossover version as well. It will also cover all the bases when it comes to motive power. The chassis underpining all Model E vehicles will be capable of accepting a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric powertrain. Three powertrains and two body styles equal half of the 12 new electrified models Ford says it will bring to market shortly.

All of which begs the question — isn’t a car that is designed to work with three different powertrains a compromise that will not be capable of shining in any one area? Elon Musk has challenged the world’s automakers to build “compelling electric cars.” Will an electric that can also be a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid ever be “compelling?” Musk would argue the answer is, “No.”

But there is more to the equation. In order for the green car revolution to progress, people have to be able to afford to buy these wondercars of the future. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are cheaper to produce than battery electrics, which means more people will be able to afford them. Hybrids never get plugged in and plug-in hybrids can be recharged overnight at home without expensive charging equipment or costly upgrades to a residential electrical system. Both also totally eliminate range anxiety.

Customers are notoriously fickle in their tastes. What’s hot one day can be dead on arrival the next. For example, how many Hummers do you see in your neighborhood these days? Exactly my point. Successful companies have to be nimble, which means they must be able to adjust their product mix quickly to match changes in the marketplace. Perhaps Ford’s approach of making one chassis serve many purposes may prove to be the wisest business decision of all, no matter what the purists say.

Source: Automotive News

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.