The American automakers’ plug-in programs may seem to have stalled, but both GM and Ford have exciting things bubbling beneath the surface, which are expected to burst forth sometime in the next couple of years.
Ford has said it plans to invest $11.5 billion to introduce 40 electrified vehicles by 2022, of which 16 will be pure EVs (the perennial skeptic notes that some of these may be sold only in China). A recent article in MotorTrend reports that the company is pursuing three different paths to this goal, working on its own EV architecture while cooperating with Volkswagen with an eye to the European market, and with startup Rivian on plans for pickups and SUVs.
“They’re all teaching us different things, and the platform rationalization may come years later,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett told MotorTrend.
Michigan-based Rivian has generated a lot of buzz with impressive prototypes of an electric pickup and SUV, which the company hopes to bring to production in late 2020. Ford has invested $500 million in Rivian, and plans to use the company’s “skateboard” chassis, which includes the battery pack, electric motors and other electric powertrain components, as the basis for a new vehicle. “Rivian is a really special thing that’s teaching us about merging not only the powertrain, but the architecture that the ECUs [electronic control unit] and other things connect to,” Hackett told MotorTrend. “So think of it as architecture for the operating system of the vehicle.”
Ford may develop its own body for the new model, which Hackett hinted would be an SUV, but Rivian will probably assemble the entire vehicle. “It would be counterproductive for us to try and make what they have capacity to do in the beginning here, because they’ve got a factory in Illinois that meets a lot of our criteria,” Hackett said.
Meanwhile, Ford has made a deal with Volkswagen to use the German automaker’s new MEB platform to build a small front-wheel-drive EV for the European market, starting in 2023. “The small cars on MEB are not for North America,” Hackett told MotorTrend. Ford hopes to sell 600,000 MEB-based vehicles in Europe over six years.
Ford is also proceeding with its in-house electrification plans. The company says it will eventually offer hybrid options for all its major product lines. It has teased a Mustang hybrid as well as a pure electric SUV with Mustang styling, slated to appear in 2020. An F-150 hybrid is also due in 2020, and a fully electric F-Series pickup is in the works. In a recent video, a prototype electric F-150 towed 10 double-decker rail cars with a load of 1.25 million pounds, as a group of hard-core truck guys rode along and made impressed noises.