from the rock-on-to-electric-avenue dept.
Ford announced that it would be investing some $4.5 billion over the next five years toward its goal of building better "electrified vehicle solutions" and bringing electrification to 40% of its vehicle lineup by 2020. Seeing as transportation is a key climate issue, it's only fitting to learn about Ford's sharpened focus on EVs as a solution. According to the company, it will be adding 13 new electrified vehicles to its portfolio by 2020, which could offer more options for the potential EV customers who aren't currently able to drive electric, either because of price or driving range or size.
The most significant news in the near future of Ford's electric vehicle lineup is the rollout of the new Focus Electric next year, which will feature a 100-mile range and a DC fast-charging system that is claimed to give the vehicle an 80% charge in 30 minutes, a full two hours faster than the current model. No announcement was made about the price of the new Focus Electric, but based on last year's model prices, it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000. That's not exactly an entry-level car purchase, but it's a lot more affordable than a Tesla at the moment, and if a pure EV fits your driving habits, it could slash your fuel bills for years and be a cleaner transport option than a fuel-efficient gas car.
Yahoo Autos reports that Google and Ford will be teaming up for a joint venture that will commercialize autonomous vehicle technology. The venture will be formally announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January:
By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving.
By pairing with Ford, the search-engine giant avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require. Earlier this year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was looking for manufacturing partners that would use the company's self-driving system, which it believes could someday eliminate the roughly 33,000 annual deaths on U.S. roads.
While exact details of the partnership were unclear, it's understood the venture would be legally separate from Ford, in part to shield the automaker from liability concerns. Questions of who will be responsible for any crashes involving self-driving cars have been seen as a major hurdle to putting them on the road; earlier this year, Volvo said it would accept responsibility for crashes in autonomous mode, a pledge followed by Google and Mercedes-Benz.
The deal is understood to be non-exclusive; Google has been talking to several other automakers for some time about using its self-driving systems. Most major automakers and several auto parts suppliers are developing their own self-driving controls as well, with a few—Nissan, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz among them—promising advanced vehicles for customer sales by 2020.
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There's no doubt that Ford is embracing electrification. It was first to market with an electric pickup truck for the US market, and a darn good one at that. It has a solid midsize electric crossover that's becoming more and more common on the road, even if it does still upset the occasional Mustangophile. And there's an electric Transit van for the trades. But its electric vehicle division will lose $3 billion this year as it continues to build new factories and buy raw materials.
The news came in a peek into Ford's financials released this morning. As we reported last year, Ford has split its passenger vehicle operations into two divisions. Electric vehicles fall under Ford Model e, with internal combustion engine-powered Fords (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids) falling under Ford Blue. The move was in large part to placate investors and analysts, no doubt starry-eyed during a time when any EV-related stock was booming.
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