Not Yet Time for Mass Market BEVs, Says Ford

Ford believes the automotive mass market is not yet ready for a BEV rollout across its product range.

The carmaker has defended it electrification strategy against criticism from some BEV zealots that it is lagging behind in the powertrain technology. TU-Automotive caught up with Ford’s supervisor of electrified powertrains at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) to find out more.

“What we are doing is to create various offerings and we have a wide range of these from mild-hybrid to, next year, battery electric vehicles,” said Zenner. “ These offerings will lead to 2022 in our projections being the tipping point where we will be selling more electrified powertrains than vehicles with only internal combustion engines.”

Yet, Zenner admitted Ford, while adding electrification to its range, is taking a long view over BEVs arguing the time is not right for a mass market offering. He explained: “We see this as a journey – we may speculate that there may be an all electric future, however, we don’t know for sure and it is going to be a journey to get there. That tipping point will come, at some time in the future, when battery electric vehicles will be cost competitive with conventional powertrains.

“Nobody can predict when this will be so the art is to have the right offerings to enter the market with BEVs at the right time. Not be too early or too late. We think the right point for us to start our first battery electric vehicle is next year.”

Ford’s toe-in-the-water of BEVs will be a Ford Mustang-inspired SUV aimed at the premium end of the market but also a BEV Ford Transit to tap into the potential growth of zero emission commercial vehicles. Zenner says the acceleration of online shopping will drive demand for clean-air delivery vehicles in urban environments.

He said: “Delivery services are increasing with the growth of people buying on the internet. Because the delivery and other services in cities cannot afford to be affected by regulations, like diesel bans or the many low emission zones already in many cities across Europe, that means there will be demand for low emission or zero emission commercial vehicles.”

Just as Ford believes the time for mass adoption of BEVs has not yet arrived, it also admits to having a cautious approach to alternative all-electric powertrains like hydrogen fuel cell. Zenner said: “We are still conducting research into fuel cells as part of hedging our bets. If the market takes off, and that’s always the issue with fuel cells, then the infrastructure plays a big role in whether it will be a success. In that event, we would be ready for it. However, we see electromobility growing a lot and that is where we are spending much more money than in anything else.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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