The all-electric Ford F-150 could be made more cheaply than its internal combustion stablemates if the US auto giant uses a new approach to electric vehicle battery placement and body structure .
Ford’s all-electric F-150 has the potential to be a game-changer for the utility truck market, which is destined to be shaken up in coming years as multiple car makers position themselves to release various electric models in what is a very competitive segment.
Not a lot is known yet about the all-electric F-150, as Ford has not released specifications such as range and power – unlike Tesla for its Cybertruck and Rivian for its R1T ute (known as pickup on the US).
But a patent recently published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office that came to our attention via the Mach E Forum reveals some key clues about how Ford plans to approach integrating battery packs into a future electric vehicle (this is taken to refer to the F-150).
In the patent, which is titled “Body-on-frame electric vehicle with battery pack integral to frame”, Ford describes a frame that is made up of multiple crossmembers reaching across a left and right hand rail, in which multiple battery would be placed on top of a plate.
As per the patent, “A body-on-frame vehicle includes a left frame rail, a right frame rail, a plate, a plurality of cross-members, a plurality of power storage modules, and a first electric motor. The plate is attached to both frame rails. The plurality of cross-members are attached to both frame rails.”
“Adjacent cross-members cooperate with the plate and frame rails to define compartments. The plurality of power storage modules are disposed within a plurality of the compartments. The first electric motor is supported by a section of the frame rails forward or rearward of the power storage modules.”
Significantly, the use of cross-members means that thinner and therefore lighter rails than are usually used in a body-on-frame vehicle may be used.
“The added shear strength and structural stiffness provided by the bottom plate and center cross members can also permit the gauge or wall thickness of the left and right frame rails to be reduced from that of a typical body-on-frame vehicle,” the patent states.
This could have the potential to lower build costs not only in materials used to make the frame but also because less battery packs would be required to achieve a desired range.
Given batteries currently account for some 33% of an electric vehicle’s manufacturing costs according to Bloomberg, the ability to use smaller or fewer lithium-ion battery packs would enable Ford to make the electric F-150 more competitive on price.
Ford also says that the new body-on-frame structure would help improve noise deadening.
Another clue comes out of the patent wording, namely that Ford may intend to introduce both a single FWD or RWD variant of the electric F-150, with the capacity for dual motors.
Given Ford has previously teased a prototype of the electric F-150 towing 10 double decker freight train carriages, even though this was clearly a publicity stunt that is not likely to be possible n a production version of the vehicle, towing is exactly what most F-150 owners use their utes for.
This leaves no doubt as to whether there will be a dual motor variant, while a single motor variant would offer potential customers a more affordable choice (Tesla also plans to offer single motor variants of its Cybertruck).
Which brings us to price – unfortunately, nothing in the patent could bring any clarity regarding this, and Ford have not given any indication yet either.
Notably though, Ford is apparently not using the skateboard chassis developed by Rivian (shown below) – despite having ploughed $US500 million ($A731 million) into the Michigan-based EV startup.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.