US automotive colossus Ford says it expects 40 per cent of new vehicle sales will be fully electric by 2030, and will ramp up its total spending on electric vehicle technology to $US30 billion by 2025.
The announcement comes a week after the Detroit-based company launched the F150 Lightning, the electric version of its F150 pickup truck – America’s most popular vehicle and perhaps best described as a ute on steroids.
Since the launch, Ford said it had received 70,000 reservations. To put that in context, that’s about 8 per cent of total F-series pickup truck sales across the whole of 2019, in just one week. In other words, there appears to be booming demand for electric pickup trucks/utes.
Ford’s ambition to be 40 per cent electric by 2030 will be driven by the F150 Lightning, the Mustang Mach-E (which sold 2,550 units in April alone), and E-Transit commercial vans, which it plans to launch later this year.
It said much of the increased investment would go towards battery technology, allowing Ford to design and manufacture its own batteries at a new plant called “Ford Ion Park”. Ford also said it would form a joint venture with SK Innovation, called BlueOvalSK, to make battery cells and arrays at two plants in the US.
Ford chief executive Jim Farley described the EV market as “the biggest opportunity for growth and value creation since Henry Ford started to scale the Model T”, adding: “We’re grabbing it with both hands.”
“I’m excited about what Ford+ [the electric branch of Ford] means for our customers, who will get new and better experiences by pairing our iconic, world-class vehicles with connected technology that constantly gets better over time,” said Farley.
“We will deliver lower costs, stronger loyalty and greater returns across all our customers.”
Despite its claim to be “grabbing” the opportunity “with both hands”, Ford’s ambitions in the EV market are dwarfed by many incumbents of the automotive industry, particularly European companies, driven in part by much more aggressive pro-EV legislation.
In the US, EV pioneer Tesla has run ahead of Ford not just in electrification, but also in its digitisation strategy, including the use of computerised systems that can be constantly updated using “over-the-air” (OTA) technology.
In this week’s announcement, Ford said it would be investing much more in OTA systems, and hoped to have one million vehicles with OTA capabilities by the end of the year. It said it hoped to overtake the number of Teslas with OTA by 2022, and have 33 million OTA-enabled Ford and Lincoln vehicles by 2028.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.