2021 Ford Mach E: What we know about 300-mile electric SUV

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Ford crossover EV teaser photo

Ford crossover EV teaser photo

Grab some of the pony-car attitude and affordability of the Ford Mustang. Put it into a fully electric vehicle that channels some of what makes the Tesla Model 3 Performance so much in demand, versus other EVs. Support it and nurture it.

On a much-simplified level, that’s the recipe behind Ford’s electric vehicle project, which will result in a performance crossover EV—perhaps called Mach E, perhaps Mach 1, perhaps something else entirely—reaching the market in summer or very early fall 2020.

That’s around the same time that Volkswagen’s first MEB vehicle, the compact crossover based on the ID Crozz, will go on sale in the U.S.

Volkswagen has been through multiple waves of concept cars, technical briefs about its dedicated modular electric platform (MEB), and some grand manufacturing statements and commitments that already give us a pretty good idea how VW’s electric cars will look, how they’ll perform, where they’ll be made, and about how many VW intends to build.

No such torrents of information have come from Ford. And yet, despite continued rumors about Ford tapping into Volkswagen’s MEB toolkit, Ford is forging ahead with its own dedicated, scalable electric vehicle platform.

Team Edison effort, Blue Oval execution

In 2017 Ford formally started the development path that resulted in a focused electric-vehicle team—called Team Edison—at Ford’s Corktown facility, in Detroit. The Team is responsible for helping conceive the electric vehicle and then guide it all the way through production, delivery, and support—and work with engineering and traditional vehicle development channels at Ford’s “core” in Dearborn.

Last month, at CES, we caught up with Darren Palmer, the product development global director for battery-electric cars at Ford Motor Company, to get a feel for how the project is shaping up. Palmer leads Team Edison and thus the program, reporting to Ted Cannis, Ford’s global director for electrification.

Prior to this, Palmer has worked on the soon-to-be-released Mustang Hybrid—and on the upcoming hybrid versions of the Lincoln Aviator and Ford Explorer. He’s been at Ford for 28 years, and in his previous job oversaw production facilities on five continents and engineering teams on four.

Ford Mustang Hybrid teaser

Ford Mustang Hybrid teaser

They wanted people who have a long history with the company, and the expertise, because together that’s an advantage, As Palmer wrote last year in a Medium post for the company: “All of us here have unknowingly prepared for this our entire careers.”

In person, Palmer sounds eager and energetic—the right personality for a project that must, at times, include questioning of the status quo. He described the layout of Team Edison as cross-functional, with a very flat structure, with no offices and “a real startup sort of feel to it.” The project brings about regular, new challenges, and knowing Ford’s different international facilities and teams has benefited Palmer and Project Edison for problem-solving.

What makes Team Edison, and the feel of the effort, different than what’s happening at other automakers, Palmer described, is that the people overseeing the project aren’t gathered from elsewhere, but Ford people, rising to set an important path for the company’s future.

Ford Mach 1 EV teaser

Ford Mach 1 EV teaser

What to expect in a 2021 Ford Mach E (or Mach 1)

The all-new platform and a 300-mile range have been among the talking points from Ford executives all along. Although we don’t have much information yet on the car itself—dimensions, layout, battery type, that sort of thing—we managed to glean a set of key points from Palmer. Here are the highlights on what the Mach E or Mach 1 will be:

Not a minor niche vehicle. “Ford democratizes technology for the mass market,” said Palmer. “In this space, that means I want to be bringing out electric cars that people really want—not just because they have to but because they want to.”

Mustang-inspired. Confirming earlier reports and teasers, Palmer says that the first electric vehicle will be a performance-themed SUV or crossover, inspired by Mustang. “I thought Mustang meant V-8, but Mustang actually means freedom,” said Palmer, who added that the electric vehicle, like the Mustang will be sexy. “It’s got power, but it’s more what it makes you feel like. It’s the emotion.”

Mustang sets the bar for performance. Wondering how quick the crossover will be? Just look at what the Mustang is capable of today, Palmer says, with an intentional pause. They’re not so hot at sustained high speed, he hints, but from stoplights the crossover will have some of the ‘Stang’s spirit.

It will have rear- and all-wheel drive. In electric vehicles, you have the opportunity to provide four wheel drive with reasonable engineering and cost. So it can be an advantage. “The performance will be aspirational,” said Palmer. “And at the higher end, I think you need it to be four-wheel drive.”

Mainstream pricing. “The forefront in our mind is bringing this to a greater number of people,” said Palmer. “First it’s aspirational, you want it; second, ‘Wow, I can afford that if I want it!’” It will land in a market spot that up until now has lacked electric vehicles that are aspirational, he said, which again parallels the Mustang.

Profitability. “If we’re losing money on them, you can’t give as many to customers as you want,” puts Palmer.

2018 Ford Focus Electric

2018 Ford Focus Electric

No alphanumerics or green badging. Ford isn’t yet there on the badging and naming of the vehicle. But as for the name and the vehicle, “it will bring emotion to the space,” with reasons to want the vehicle beyond its eco potential.

A vehicle you’ll want. To get there, Ford has decided that all of its electric vehicles “will amplify what’s important in that particular segment,” according to Palmer. “Our first electric car will be aspirational; you’ll want it.”

The same reliability and quality as gasoline models. Since much of the core engineering is done in Dearborn, the vehicle has to be signed off to the same standards as an F-150 truck would be. That also means it will have to comply with sustained hills, towing, and durability tests—and almost certainly have an advanced liquid-cooling system.

Ed Begley, Jr. Ford Electric Vehicles Informercial

Ed Begley, Jr. Ford Electric Vehicles Informercial

How it all fits into Ford’s future

Ford announced a $11 billion investment, which will include 16 fully electric vehicles and 40 electrified vehicles, globally, through 2022. A significant portion of this responsibility is in Team Edison’s hands.

The crossover to come in 2020 is by no means a one-off model. The plan is to have a scalable platform in “major volume scale” so that the company can get excellent battery prices. There’s an entire portfolio of EVs coming, to be built on this platform.

With much to be answered about the missing piece—production and sales volume—Palmer couldn’t provide any on-the-record hints. But given the ambition behind this project and the goal to be profitable, you can bet this project’s big.

As a further hint, Palmer told us that less than half of Team Edison is product-driven. The rest is infrastructure, marketing, finance, software, over-the-air updates [Ed note: ya hear that?]. As the organization that’s responsible for the entire electric-vehicle shift, it has different ideas about ordering, delivery, and after-sales care; and it has to make sure U.S. market problems like public charging and urban ownership are tackled.

2013 Ford Focus Electric

2013 Ford Focus Electric

Team Edison is also looking at mobile charging solutions and perhaps inductive charging, among many possibilities, Palmer said. “We have to get it right for the customer.”

Reality check: Ford wouldn’t be doing all of that for one vehicle, or if it intended to expand its reach just a step past Focus Electric. It’s already confirmed that a Lincoln electric vehicle will follow the Ford.

Establishing the “want” seems like the critical measurement for whether Team Edison is a success or not. Palmer sees many forces moving people toward EVs—like regulation, cost to run, and sustainability. But he volunteers that amid all of this, the factor that really drives human movement is desirability: “If we can make something that people really love at that kind of price, that will drive demand.”

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