Ford Executive Discusses Automaker’s Electrified Future

2 years ago by Mark Kane 55

Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric

What Could It Be Under There?

Ford needs a new plug-in model in a hurry

VentureBeat recently interviewed Don Butler, executive director of Ford’s connected vehicles and services.

Ford intends to launch 13 new electrified vehicles – which to them maddingly includes not only all-electric and plug-in hybrids, but also conventional hybrids (is this 2006 still?) in the next five years.

Current plug-in offering include the Focus Electric (which gets a range bump to 100 miles later this year) , the Fusion Energi (newly re-styled, with a lower MSRP and more efficiency), and the C-Max Energi.

We don’t know how many new plug-ins the new plan includes, but we know that Ford is very cautious about introducing them. Don Butler said that all depends on consumer’s willingness to buy plug-ins:

“Electric vehicles, for us, represent a means of attaining some of the efficiency requirements we have. Either fully or partially electrified vehicles will represent up to a quarter of our lineup within the next five or so years. Now, part of that will depend on consumer appetite for those vehicles. We have to make sure that they’re desirable, that they meet consumer expectations.

Also, when we look at fuel prices, we need to make sure we get, at least within the U.S., the chance for the government to reassess the standards and understand what’s feasible. We can make [the cars], but we need people to buy them.”

Ford is also working on the autonomous driving technologies with partners and will expand its test fleet from 10 to about 30. Don Butler expressed an opinion that various kinds of sensors will be needed to have autonomous cars – like LIDAR, cameras and radar, but their goal is full autonomous cars, not assisted driving.

“The technical side is coming along really well. The thing we need to work on is continuing to refine the algorithms and our sensor technology. You see an example of that with Velodyne, working with them to shrink the size of the LIDAR [Light Detection and Ranging] sensor. Our goal is what we call level four autonomy, which is fully autonomous, driver out of the loop, but only in known geographic locations and known conditions. That’s what we’re aiming for. From a technical standpoint it’s very much within reach, within the next four years.

What we need to work on at the same time are some of the regulatory and liability issues. Some of the societal issues in terms of autonomous vehicles interacting with vehicles that are being driven. It’s a situation where the landscape continues to evolve. We’re evolving and adapting with it. We’re focusing on the technical challenges and working with other partners, like universities and governments, on the regulatory, liability, and societal sides.”

Ford plug-ins sales in U.S. – December 2015

Ford plug-ins sales in U.S. – through December 2015

Source: VentureBeat

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55 responses to "Ford Executive Discusses Automaker’s Electrified Future"

  1. Spider-Dan says:

    “Electric vehicles, for us, represent a means of attaining some of the efficiency requirements we have.”

    And there you have Ford’s EV strategy in one sentence. Note that while GM and Nissan talk about EVs as the future of the marketplace, Ford and FCA are still in “Well, I guess if we have to, here’s what we can offer” mode.

    1. kdawg says:

      They seem to be so scared that no one will want to buy their plug-ins. I have an idea. Make a really good plug-in, price it right, market it right, and guess what? People will want to buy it.

      You can’t have customers before you have the cars.

      This is analogous to the public EV-charging debate.

      1. Texas FFE says:

        Ford sold 18,923 plugins in the US last year, more than any other manufacturer except Tesla. If there goal is to sell more plugins than anyone else then I think they are doing pretty good. I think Ford and all the manufacturers are going to get their doors blown off when the Bolt comes out next year.

        1. Spider-Dan says:

          Volt: 15,393
          Spark EV: 2,629
          ELR: 1,024

          GM total for 2015: 19,046

          1. Texas FFE says:

            I missed the ELR.

            1. Nix says:

              Don’t feel too bad. Based upon those sales numbers, you definitely aren’t the only one…

              1. ModernMarvelFan says:

                I see ELR weekly. =)

                But I live in SF Bay Area where I see 2016 Volt daily, Gen 1 Volt/LEAF/Tesla every few seconds and Fiat 500e/Prius Plugin/Ford Energi duo every few minutes during the commuter hours.

        2. Phr3d says:

          agreed RE Bolt, but there isn’t a solid reason that many can follow why a hybrid Taurus couldn’t sell well, and possibly sell Very well.
          PHEV, Skateboard battery, AWD, premium trim.
          Rides ‘taller’, get a Solid 35 AER, premium trim minimizes their gamble in returning more $ per sale. Can’t fathom why this is such a terrible gamble.

    2. Calling the C-Max and Fusion Energi models “electric” cars is disingenuous. they are plugin hybrids.

      Ford has to actually build EV’s, and not just a converted Focus.

      1. Texas FFE says:

        20 miles of usable all electric range is usable to a lot of people and reduces gas consumption much more than any non-plugin.

        1. Ken_3 says:

          In winter weather I’m lucky to get 10 electric only miles with my C-Max Energi. Which is better than the non running FFE I owned previously. 10 weeks in the shop trying to figure out it’s problem.

          1. Texas FFE says:

            I’m putting about 75 miles a day on my FFE even on the coldest days without much trouble. There’s one place I use as my primary charging point and another place that I use to top off.

            1. Nonda Trimis says:

              Thank You – sick to death of the non-stop slamming of the Ford Focus Electric on this site. I love my car. I have over 15K on it with no problems. It is fun to drive, handles great, and isn’t seeing nearly the battery degradation of the LEAFs due to the battery cooling system. All of the stuff about reduced cargo is pretty much bunk. I put the seat down and fit a full set of drums in the back. 74 miles in the winter and in the 80s in the summer months.
              Will you guys leave the poor car alone? Its great!

              1. FFEINKY says:

                I’m right there with you. I have almost 52k miles on mine and after the initial SSN problem I had with it early on, I’ve never had another problem with it since. 110 miles a day almost everyday for 2 years. It’s a rock star as far as I’m concerned. Ford Focus Electrics ROCK!

                1. Ken_3 says:

                  I’m glad some of you are having good luck with your FFE. The one I had was fun when it ran. It just quit and Ford wasted time trying to fix it without listening to the mechanic working on it. He said that the battery pack was bad. Ford said it was too expensive and find something else wrong. (I have a copy of the mechanic’s notes.) After replacing almost everything but the battery, including the charge port, they finally replaced the battery. By then 10 weeks had passed and I traded it on a C-Max Energi.

                  1. FFEINKY says:

                    Actually Ken_3, my car was also around the 10 week mark to fix, but they finally figured out it was a wiring harness short. They fixed that in May 2014. They have finally made it a recall. I actually just received the paper work for the recall notice this week in the mail. A bit slow but they figured it out. Ford did right by me while working on my car and that’s why I have no complaints. They went above and beyond. I just don’t think that every dealership gives everyone that same level of great service. I was fortunate but many others have not been. It’s too bad you didnt get to enjoy your FFE. I was doubtful at the time it happened, but I had already accepted the possibility of problems with any electric car I was potentially going to buy. We are all pioneers in this limited electric car driving experience. The manufacturers are just now starting to care (only a little) about their electric vehicles.

          2. Alpha777 says:

            Exactly. 10 winter miles, that’s not even trying.
            Some highschool kid could design a hybrid that gets 10 winter miles.

            This is FORD we’re talking about.
            Did they fire that 1 ( ONE ) EV engineer, and now can’t find him?

        2. Anon says:

          Oh, hot damn!

          Just thinking of all the places I can go, in a ten mile radius round EV trip in a hybrid!!!! *SQUEE!!!!*

          Is this what an EV orgasm feels like?

          No. Sorry.

          It was gas. 😉

          1. Texas FFE says:

            My commute is about 26 miles round trip. When I take my Fusion Energi I can’t make the full commute but there is a place near work that I can charge so my commute can be zero emission.

            1. Bonaire says:

              You can buy a used Volt for maybe $12,000 and make your commute all electrically.

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        NeilBlanchard said:

        “Calling the C-Max and Fusion Energi models ‘electric’ cars is disingenuous. they are plugin hybrids.”

        Hmmm, the last I looked, they are both PHEVs, and the “EV” in PHEV means “Electric Vehicle”.

        Now, I certainly don’t like the fact that auto makers are making EVs with such a low all-electric range, but these cars are built to be able to be propelled by electric motors only, and thus they are EVs, or “electric cars”.

    3. evcarnut says:

      They may be in for a rude awakening

  2. bro1999 says:

    “Also, when we look at fuel prices, we need to make sure we get, at least within the U.S., the chance for the government to reassess the standards and understand what’s feasible. We can make [the cars], but we need people to buy them.”

    That pretty much says it all. Ford is content sitting on the sidelines until they are absolutely sure they will NEED/be forced to start selling EVs to meet CAFE standards. They are hoping that CAFE standards get scaled back so they don’t have to ramp up EV production.

    What a backwards way to look at things. I think I may have purchased my last Ford in my soon to be returned C-Max Energi lease.

    1. ffbj says:

      They seem to be a reluctant follower of the ev revolution.

      1. Local Ford Dealer – at the beginning of them getting an outside EVSE installed, had their mechanics telling me it will only charge up the Ford Focus EV, or Only Ford EV’s (It was a J1772 EVSE)!

        I had a bit of a laugh, but explained that the plug was an SAE Design – Society of Automotive Engineers – and it was a ‘Standard’ that ALL EV’s can use!

        They honestly thought – or someone told them – Only Ford EV’s can use this!

    2. PHEVfan says:

      The mindset is somewhat understandable, though still reprehensible.

      Here in CA, nobody wants to cut back on water usage unless forced to, for fear that next year will be even worse drought and ‘mandatory’ reductions will be based on previous usage. If you cut back previously, you get hit with steeper reductions.

      Same is true with CAFE in reverse. If automakers show they can do it, they will be held to the current goals. If they ‘appear’ to not be able to, then maybe the goals will be reduced. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you over-perform.

      Poor strategy from a pollution standpoint? yes. Understandable as a business decision? also yes. It really comes down to what you value more. And we all know what automakers value more.

    3. Alpha777 says:

      Exactly. Nothing is “feasible” for the incompetent.

  3. Mark C says:

    This: “What we need to work on at the same time are some of the regulatory and liability issues,” to me sounds a lot like, “We are lobbying hard to try and reduce or kill the CARB mandate and the EPA economy requirements.”

    Or maybe I’m being too critical since they do have a great little ~70 mile EV thats probably getting bumped to ~100 mile EV to compete with the i-MiEV and smart fortwo in the city use category.

    1. kdawg says:

      I believe he was talking about autonomous cars at that point.

  4. SJC says:

    Ford buys batteries from LG, when they get to the 200 mile range cars Ford will be there.

    1. kdawg says:

      It seems like the Ford Escape could be redesigned to compete with the Chevy Bolt.

      1. Texas FFE says:

        I think the Escape is much larger than the Bolt. The C-max would be a more likely candidate size.

        1. kdawg says:

          Something between the two. Plus they already did the Cmax Energi.

        2. Tom says:

          The C-max is slightly larger than the Bolt but the battery in the C-max takes up most of the trunk space. C-Max 2 should be redesigned to contain the battery in the floor and ditch the gas engine. I really like my C-Max Energi but wish it were all electric.

          1. Texas FFE says:

            I agree completely. I used to be really excited about the C-Max until I got frustrated by the electric range in my wife’s Fusion Energi and ended up getting a really good deal on an off lease Focus Electric. A C-Max electric with a 200 mile range and a DCFC system could really do well against the Bolt. I like Fords but I want a long range EV and I’m in no mood to wait for Ford to build one.

    2. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “Ford buys batteries from LG, when they get to the 200 mile range cars Ford will be there.”

      Did you miss the fact that LG is supplying 60kWh battery to GM for the upcoming Bolt that is capable of 200+ miles?

  5. MikeG says:

    I didn’t see what those 13 vehicle models were. Any chance an F-150 pickup PHEV is in the plans?

    1. Speculawyer says:

      That would be SO AWESOME if they built an F-150 PHEV.

      Put a plug-in right in the heart of macho bromobile market.

      1. ffbj says:

        I think they need to do something like that, to capture a segment of the market that nobody owns, or hardly even plays in. Say what you will about Ford, but they know how to build a decent Truck, so why not PHEV Truck.

        Like Miracle Max said: “It would take a miracle.” Sadly that quote and “Green Eggs and Ham,” have been poisoned for me these days. Of course green eggs probably already were poisoned.

        Would you eat them in the Senate chambers?
        I would if could rant on about the Liberal dangers.(apologies to Dr. Seuss).

        1. Speculawyer says:

          Off-topic but . . . That Green Eggs &Ham pseudo-filibuster was hilariously stupid. The moral of the story of Green Eggs & Ham is that you need to try something before you decide that you don’t like it. A sentiment that applies to Obamacare!

      2. Nix says:

        GM tried a full size hybrid 1500 truck and a couple of full sized SUV’s. They were a massive failure.

        You can pick one up fairly cheap when they show up used at auto auctions. They are lot anchors that sit waiting for rare buyers, while forcing dealers to pay interest each month on the money they have tied up in them.

        1. Speculawyer says:

          Well . . . they were terrible hybrids. They cost a lot more and barely increased the MPG. GM’s eAssist mild hybrid technology was crap. The upcoming Chevy Malibu hybrid is GM’s first decent hybrid car (ignoring the plug-in hybrid Volt).

          1. Nix says:

            All true. I just don’t know if Ford can do any better without hitting the same pricing problems that GM hit.

            But their rumored plans for a rear-wheel drive only (no 4WD) non-plugin traditional hybrid don’t sound like would hit the target you are aiming for. No 4-wheel drive and no plug pretty much puts it in the GM category. Not a proper 4X4, and not a proper green truck either. It screams fleet compliance vehicle for commercial leases.

            http://www.autoblog.com/2015/12/19/weekly-recap-ford-f-150-hybrid/

        2. Texas FFE says:

          The GMC truck hybrid effort hasn’t really stopped. GMC has teamed up with an aftermarket vendor to do plugin aftermarket conversions of brand new GMC trucks. Last I heard the conversions were only available for fleet purchases but there were plans to offer the conversions to the general public. They completely re-brand the trucks so first time I saw one I thought it was a Chinese knock off of a GMC truck.

          1. Texas FFE says:

            The conversion company is called Via Motors.

    2. bro1999 says:

      Hybrid? Yes. Plug-in? Eh, don’t hold your breath.

  6. Mister G says:

    Ford where’s your 200 mile EV for $35,000?

    1. kdawg says:

      They haven’t even matched the Volt (which is now on Gen2).

  7. Nix says:

    There is nothing wrong with conventional hybrids. They are still a great option for people who don’t have regular access to home or work charging. Or for people who do a ton of long distance driving and can’t afford a vehicle with. supercharger access.

    I have no problem with Ford building more of them.

    1. Raymondjram says:

      I agree. Ford is the only domestic brand with several hybrid models since 2008. GM just started in 2010, and only has two models (Volt and ELR). We need more hybrids so the public can feel what electric driving is, even for a few miles at first. Then the Plug-ins take over until the full BEVs can fulfill what the public wants.

  8. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Ford,

    If you want to lead, it is time to add that Energi powertrain combined with a bigger battery and put it into your Escape.

    That will dominate the market and you might even make few dollars from me…

    1. Nix says:

      +1

      And don’t compromise the cargo area, and they would have a winner.

    2. Raymondjram says:

      You forgot that the Ford Escape was the first hybrid in 2008, using Ni-Cad cells in the cargo area. The C-Max has displaced the Escape Hybrid, but Ford should return it and produce more hybrid models, including Taurus, Explorer, and Ranger.

  9. Grady says:

    The Ford Escape hybrid had a NiMH battery. I really liked mine, but when Ford discontinued it they lost me as a customer. You can’t compare the C Max to the Escape hybrid, which was a very roomy and nice looking vehicle.