Since vocal climate change skeptic and friend of the oil industry Donald J Trump won the 2016 U.S. Presidential election back in November, there’s been something of a grey cloud hanging over much of the electric vehicle world. With similar-minded individuals appointed to control the EPA and DoE — two of the government agencies we can thank for the progress electric vehicles have made in recent years — the fear that all support for electric vehicles will be withdrawn come post-inauguration is a very real one.
Indeed, with the overwhelming majority of the auto industry signing a letter to Trump back in December asking him to ease new fuel economy and emissions standards, electric vehicle advocates have been gearing up for a fight the likes of which have not been seen since the repeal of California’s ZEV mandate at the turn of the century.
Yet Ford, who was one of the consignees asking for the Federal Government to ease its fuel economy and emissions standards, has just stunned the auto world with the announcement of a raft of new electrified models it plans to build over the next three years, including a 300-mile all-electric SUV, hybrid police vehicles, a plug-in hybrid variant of the Ford Transit Connect light commercial vehicle in Europe…and hybrid versions of the iconic Ford Mustang and high-volume Ford F150 Pickup Truck.
The announcement, made just before the doors opened on the first press day for CES 2017, is part of a $4.5 billion investment that Ford is making in developing electrified and autonomous vehicles, and will include a raft of new jobs at its Flat Rock production facility in Michigan. The facility, which recently received a $700 million investment to expand production capabilities, will become home to several of Ford’s planned new models, including the as-yet-unnamed 300-mile electric SUV and the promised hybrid Ford Mustang.
It’s easy of course to view Ford’s investment as another way to build more compliance cars in order to satisfy zero emission vehicle mandates in states like California as well as allow Ford to meet the ever-increasingly tough Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards it has been railing against for decades. But in its press release, Ford CEO Mark Fields seems committed to a future where suck, squeeze, bang and blow isn’t the primary source of income for the company.
“As more and more consumers around the world become interested in electrified vehicles, Ford is committed to being a leader in providing consumers with a broad range of electrified vehicles, services and solutions that make people’s lives better,” he said. “Our investments and expanding lineup reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.”
While Ford has reiterated its commitment to electrified vehicles and reducing emissions however, we should note that of the thirteen new models promised before 2020, only a few will be purely electric. The rest will be either hybrid or plug-in hybrid models, with limited (if any) electric vehicle capabilities. Nevertheless, Ford’s move is one in the right direction. Given Ford’s massive market share, especially in the SUV and Pickup segment, increasing gas mileage and reducing emissions of its vehicles by introducing a hybrid drivetrain will have a sizeable impact on overall emissions across the fleet.
But of course, Ford has been here before. It once made an all-electric pickup. It made a very capable Hybrid SUV. Both were killed. And if we’re brutally honest, Ford could choose to do the same again with these new vehicles it promises.
This time however, like other automakers of late, it seems that Ford is more serious. It has also opted to focus on electric and electrified vehicles in preference to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, a move that is great news for anyone who likes their car to come with a plug (although Ford is also working on its own wireless inductive charging technology to eliminate the plug for good).
With any announcement like this, the proof is always in the pudding, but it’s certainly good news to see Ford continue towards a more electrified fleet given the massive change in policy we’re going to see coming from the White House. As a global automaker, Ford has to respond to global trends as one as more local ones, and we suspect the trend toward electric vehicles outside of the U.S. is helping it push for more electric vehicles at home too.
Do you agree? Do you think Ford’s announcement carries some weight? Or is it simply a smoke and mirror show full of empty promises given how little attention Ford has paid to electric vehicles thus far?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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