Lately it seems that almost every EV-related headline has to include a reference to Tesla, however tenuous. However, there may be some substance to this week’s news, as four major automakers have at least hinted at plans to directly challenge Tesla with new high-end EV models.
In a recent conference call with Wall Street analysts, Ford CEO Mark Fields said the company has the expertise and ability to build a Tesla-style high-performance EV – but stopped short of saying that it had any plans to do so.
According to Fields, Ford bought a Tesla Model S. “We drove it. We took it apart. We put it back together and we drove it again.”
Of course, the majors’ ability to build compelling EVs is not really in doubt – it’s their commitment to doing so that is generally lacking. While Ford’s two plug-in hybrid models have been pretty successful, it has made little effort to market its Focus EV, which has sold fewer than 4,000 units.
However, Green Car Reports has uncovered a bit of evidence that Ford’s EV plans may be more ambitious than it is letting on. Apparently, Ford engineers have been lobbying to boost the future power level of the CCS DC quick-charging standard to as much as 150 kW. A source on the CCS technical committee told GCR that other participants didn’t understand why Ford insisted on such high power. Could it be because a 150 kW CCS charging network could rival Tesla’s Superchargers?
Meanwhile, German news sources report that Porsche, Mercedes, and Audi have definite plans to produce “Tesla-fighters.”
According to the German magazine Manager, Mercedes and Porsche are each working on an electric sedan with a 250-mile range, in response to “top dog” Tesla’s success with Model S.
Porsche chairman Matthias Müller said the company is working on an EV based on its Modular Standard Platform, which will boast comparable horsepower and a lower curb weight than Model S. The “Elektro-Porsche” will be a smaller version of the Panamera, and will reach the market by 2018 at the earliest.
Mercedes sources also told Manager that the company has a Tesla competitor in the works, along the lines of the E or S Class, but it won’t be ready until 2021 – the new EV can’t be built on a current platform, as Mercedes’ battery is too big.
The closest to fielding a “Tesla-hunter” is Audi, which plans to release its Q8 e-tron in 2017. However, the Q8, which is supposed to have a 250-mile range, is seen as a competitor not for Model S, but for the upcoming Model X SUV.
Far from quaking, Tesla welcomed the latest news. A spokesperson said this week that automakers “and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”