Can Ford Pull Off A Decent $25,000 EV?

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Various EV outlets and even Bloomberg are reporting that Ford has secret plans to build an affordable EV platform, aiming for both a small pickup and an SUV in the $25,000 range. In this article, I want to talk about why they’re doing this and speculate on whether they can actually pull it off. (TL;DR: the answer is probably “Yes”)

Why Is Ford Doing This

Myself and other writers at CleanTechnica have been hammering on this for years. Not only is offering an affordable EV critical to making sure everyone can afford to buy one, but it’s essential to dealing with foreign competitors. Sure, Uncle Sam could slap on huge tariffs and restrictions to keep the cheapest Chinese EVs off the American market, but that’s a temporary solution at best.

After all, Chinese companies will eventually either get US politicians to repeal the tariffs or come up with a way to make an EV for the U.S. domestic market that’s just non-Chinese enough to pass muster. It could even arrive with a familiar name like Volvo.

We also have to keep in mind that U.S. automakers like to see vehicles globally, and the United States Congress can’t pass laws in places like Europe, South America, or Africa, so there’s still a great need to compete with cheaper platforms, even if the United States were to somehow keep cheaper Chinese EVs out forever.

What’s Ford Doing?

Very little information is presently available on that, unfortunately. I’d love to be able to tell you about Ford’s budget EV drive units, budget battery tech, and the overall platform but almost none of that information is public yet. Heck, Ford may still be working out the details.

What we do know is that the cheaper platform will be powered by LiFePO4 (LFP) batteries in the beginning. These are cheaper than other chemistries, but they’re also less energy dense. But, at the same time, they’re more durable and less prone to fire. So, all in all, that’s a great choice.

For the rest of the platform, word in EV media is that Ford has been working on the platform in secret for some time. It’s supposedly even a “Skunk Works” type-project (referring to Lockheed-Martin’s well-known team that develops secret planes for the U.S. military) with “some of the best EV engineers in the world”.

Beyond that, about all we know is that Ford had to prioritize the team’s work and delay a more expensive 7-seat SUV project. Somehow the executives at a number of domestic manufacturers just couldn’t imagine that the insane prices of 2022 wouldn’t last forever, but they just didn’t.

Can Ford Pull This Off?

I think the company can do this is the executives stay focused on it.

Why? Well, the best example of what domestic automakers can pull off in this area is probably the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV. GM also made the mistake of focusing on more expensive vehicles when the company should have been focusing on cheaper EVs. This even went as far as the Bolt family of EVs getting the axe completely to make room for more expensive Ultium EVs, and worse, the budget Equinox was slated to not arrive for years.

That this was a bad approach was predictable, though. Yes, domestic automakers have been using the trickle-down approach to introduce new technologies for decades, with companies like Lincoln and Cadillac getting the best engine tech and luxury amenities first, followed by cheaper brands. But, that approach was valid about a decade ago when Tesla was selling the Model S and then the Model X. Chinese automakers were doing the same. Arriving to the trickle-down party a decade late just never had much of a chance of working out.

But, when things changed and it became clear that focusing on the upper end of the automotive market, GM was able to quickly pivot and make plans to bring the Bolt EUV back for 2025. By going with cheaper battery cells and otherwise trying to keep things as similar as possible to an existing and proven design, GM had what it took to quickly pivot.

This is a little ironic because the Bolt EUV is a Chinese design. It originally appeared as a Buick and then as the Chevrolet Menlo there, and was designed to fit the needs of that market. Making a more SUV-esque version of the Bolt for the American market was an obvious move, even if it seemed a little silly at the time. Once I saw one in person, I realized that the vehicle gained a lot for the 12 miles of lost range, and even bought one myself.

While Ford doesn’t have an imported budget EV design to throw into the mix quickly, the company does have a lot of experience working outside of the United States. Executives even made the controversial decision to import the Lincoln Nautilus (a vehicle built by a Ford joint venture in China) to the United States. So, there’s really no secret Chinese sauce that GM had access to that Ford didn’t.

What Ford doesn’t have is a long-term effort going. GM started the Bolt based on GM Korea designs, which were in turn based on Daewoo’s designs (GM bought Daewoo). This design came to the U.S. and then Europe, and then went to China for further improvement to make it suitable for that market. The last Bolts were truly an international vehicle.

So, the real question at this point isn’t whether Ford has the international chops to build a budget EV (they do), but whether the company can bring those chops to bear quickly enough (like GM is doing) to keep from getting destroyed by Chinese imports. That, in turn, is a question of whether the United States federal government will engage in enough protectionism to buy Ford enough time to get this new budget platform to market.

Without knowing more about Ford’s plans and whether they can be accelerated enough to arrive in 2025-6, we simply cannot conclusively answer this question. But, we do know that the Chinese government is kicking lots of hornet’s nests in the South China Sea, in the Taiwan Strait, with Japan, with India, and with the Philippines to build a lot of opposition in the United States. If the Communist Party keeps playing Wolf Warrior, Ford will very likely get the time to get on track.

Featured image by Ford.

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