Ford’s upcoming electric cars will be “awesome” because they have to be.
That’s according to Ted Cannis, who heads up Team Edison, the new division overseeing Ford’s numerous battery-powered vehicle projects.
Cannis is aware that Ford’s most recent battery-powered effort, the Focus Electric, was lukewarm at best and designed with environmental regulations rather than customer expectations in mind. But those expectations are evolving as much as the technology is. Even after a decade of electric cars spreading across the U.S. market, a new survey commissioned by Ford discovered that many consumers are still pretty clueless about them.
The most striking find was that that 42 percent of respondents think electric cars need gasoline to operate, while the vast majority don’t believe they can be fast or handle extreme weather, despite the fact that Tesla has been selling high performance all-wheel-drive vehicles for years.
Cannis maintains that Tesla isn’t on the radar for most Americans outside of high income brackets and areas where they are popular, like California. So debunking these views and educating consumers will be one of four key areas to Ford’s success, along with reducing costs, building a charging infrastructure and providing an electric product lineup that covers all segments. Addressing the first of those, Ford is rolling out a series of videos that demonstrate its vehicles’ capabilities that began with a stunt where an F-150 towed a train that weighed more than a million pounds and received a large amount of media attention.
The latest ones aren’t as dramatic, but show a disguised development prototype, that Ford won’t confirm is a specific model, being driven on paved and snow-covered tracks at high speeds, suggesting it uses at least some technology that will appear in the “Mustang” SUV.
Or perhaps all of them. Although it appears that Ford has multiple distinct projects in the works in the U.S. – not to mention a partnership with Volkswagen in Europe and additional models in Asia – Cannis said sharing components is key to lowering costs by increasing volume. It’s no different than how many of Ford’s conventional models use variations of the same powertrains, like the 5.0-liter V8 and 10-speed automatic transmission featured in both the Mustang and F-150.
While many details about the products are still under wraps, Cannis said that Ford will be playing to its strengths for its electric models moving forward, which is why it’s tapping the iconic Mustang and F-150. Given the company’s recent shift away from cars, you can expect many more battery-powered SUVs are also on the way.
The first will be the high performance SUV that’s set to be revealed this fall ahead of going on sale next year. Cannis won’t say how many Ford can build or plans to sell, but truly believes that the demand for electric vehicles is being hampered by the largely unexciting ones currently on offer.
He’ll find out if he’s right soon enough.
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