Ford Motor Co. is accelerating its electrified vehicle development program, backed by a recent $4.5 billion investment aimed at making 40% of the company’s global vehicles hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and battery-electrics by 2020.
Ford will add 13 new EVs and hybrids over the next four model years, raising the percentage of electrified vehicles in its lineup from 13% in 2015. PHEVs will be the fastest-growing type of electrified vehicle, according to Raj Nair, Executive Vice President of Product Development and CTO. Nair noted that Ford is the current North American market leader in PHEVs.
A Focus Electric with a 100-mi (161-km) range and DC fast charge capability will enter production in late 2016. The SAE Level 2 charging system will deliver an 80% state of charge in 30 min, Nair said. The current Focus EV can travel 76 mi (122 km) between charges. At a recent media event in Dearborn, Nair was repeatedly asked about Ford’s response to the recently unveiled 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which GM claims will have a 200-mi (322-km) range on a single charge.
Ford Powertrain sources tell Automotive Engineering that the company has “a variety of electrified programs in the works” including a hybridized powertrain for light trucks and improved versions of its current PHEVs. The sources indicated that Ford may unveil at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit an improved version of its Fusion Energi for 2017, with greater EV range than the incumbent model’s 21 mi (34 km).
Ford’s amped-up investment strategy comes at a time of depressed North American sales of electrified cars in general, a result of low retail gasoline prices. Deliveries in 2015 through November of Ford’s C-Max, Fusion, and Lincoln MKZ hybrid versions fell 25% to 59,301 units, according to Autodata.Sales slid 41% for Nissan’s Leaf EV, 23% for Chevrolet’s Volt plug-in hybrid, and 12% for the Toyota Prius.
Ford is significantly expanding its Electrified Powertrain Engineering program in Dearborn. It hired an additional 120 engineers in 2015 and plans to add more in 2016. Last fall Ford, along with partners the University of Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., announced a $9 million battery lab at the university to help develop more energy- and power-dense, lower cost battery cells.