Ford is set to invest $45 billion in an upgraded fleet of electric vehicles.
Ford is positioning itself to be the American car maker of the future. The company’s plans currently include tripling its autonomous vehicle development fleet – with boosted precision from Velodyne sensors– and collaborations with Amazon Echo, its voice assistant, Alexa, and DJI for connectivity and safety features. It’s no surprise that vehicle efficiency falls right in line with Ford’s focus on the next generation of future-forward cars. At CES 2016, the company stated that over 40 percent of its global nameplates will be offered as electric vehicles by 2020.
Car and Driver has called the Ford Focus Electric “a Tesla Model S for the 99 percent,” boasting a leather-lined interior, plenty of gadgets, and the least “EV-like” of its class.
“The motor and battery pack are powerful, but contribute to a weight of about 3600 pounds. The result: an EPA range of only 76 miles – one way it differs from a Tesla. Luckily, the battery charger is fast; on 240 volts, the Focus can be recharged in about 3.5 hours.” In its 2014 test of electric vehicles, Car and Driver deemed the Focus Electric as the runner-up. Apparently, it led its competition in categories like driver comfort, ergonomics, spaciousness, features and amenities, fit and finish and styling.
Ford is already in the works to change some key features for late 2016’s upgraded Focus Electric model, including increasing the current Focus’ range of 75 miles per charge to 100-miles per charge. The new Focus Electric is also slated to have a fast-charge setting, where it will be able to reach 80 percent capacity in half an hour.
Former GM vice chairman and the author of Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business and Icons and Idiots, Bob Lutz explains:
“Both [Ford and GM] will have to produce EVs in meaningful quantities to satisfy federal fuel economy regulations—whether there is demand for them or not. Right now, with plentiful oil and very low gas prices, there is almost zero demand,” Lutz cautions. But he points out that if range anxiety can be overcome, it will go a long way toward giving consumers the confidence to buy EVs. “That may change in the future with improved battery technology: Range of 400-miles per charge is absolutely necessary for owners to feel ‘comfortable’ on trips. Right now, not even a $130,000 Tesla can make it from Detroit to Chicago!”
The future fleet of Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles is also already in the works, supported with expedited development and testing of its virtual driver software in both urban and suburban environments. Thirty vehicles are already being tested in California, Arizona, and Michigan.
Additionally, Ford has partnered with TechStars Mobility to scout for new startup talent. $120,000 is allocated towards startup funding and training for up to 12 companies to come up with innovative mobility solutions.