If you have paid even the slightest attention to the auto industry in recent years, you know that things are changing. Governments across the globe are looking for ways to curb the effects of climate change, and the automobile has become the easy scapegoat. As emissions regulations continue to tighten and push on the capabilities of traditional combustion engines, automakers have started to produce more electric vehicles. These BEVs aren’t just coming from startup companies anymore either, with Ford Motor Company and General Motors both announcing several new models last year. In order to figure out what this shift feels like inside one of the legacy automakers, MC&T sat down with the Global Director for Ford BEVs Darren Palmer to discuss their process, the new Mustang Mach-E, and the future of Ford EVs.
Longstanding automakers both here in the United States and abroad aren’t exactly known for their ability to make dramatic changes quickly. Part of this is a result of their sheer enormity, as well as the miles of red tape that surround every decision these companies make. For as much might as Ford has in this business, they are no exception to this rule. The speed at which the electric vehicle market is moving required the Blue Oval to take a different approach than when building ICE-powered machines.
“It’s moving at a pace we’ve never seen before,” said Palmer when asked about the pace difference between ICE and BEV production. “ It requires working differently. Especially for car companies that have existed for a long time. We must react and we must work differently. The (Mach-E) was done completely differently. It started with Team Edison to work out where we will play and push, and we made the strategy in that team… we did a lot of research to determine that. Then we changed our pace.”
Pacing issues aside, Ford knew that they were going to have to make the Mustang Mach-E appealing to their traditional customers, as well as the growing contingent of BEV fans. Early adopters of electric vehicles have already created their own notions as to what these cars should be like, and Ford knew that meeting these expectations was crucial. So, they borrowed some inspiration from the tech giants in Silicon Valley.
“The infotainment system in the Mach-E just didn’t exist for what customers want, and we had to completely start from scratch with a completely different way of learning. We had to work like a startup or like a software company… it’s hard to move that quick. But we also don’t want to lose the baby with the bathwater, so the manufacturing quality you’ll see – the body panel fitment, etc… the things we do well, we want to keep doing… we use millions of our square anchorage of test facilities to do that because our customers won’t stand for anything less. Even more in the F-150, it’s borderline abuse, because that’s what it’s gotta be.
Despite the clear challenges that the automaker is facing during this transitionary period for the industry, Palmer was adamant that Ford is excited to be a part of this turnover. In fact, he went as far as to say that the age of the EV is already here.
“It’s a super exciting time… it’s like the move over from the last era’s propulsion technologies to gasoline engines,” said Palmer. “ It’s that big. We’re now seeing that the top performance (cars) are electric… the time is already here. We showed that with the Mach-E 1400.”
While the Mustang Mach-E 1400 highlights the capability of electric performance cars, it is a far way off from its factory counterpart. That said, Ford isn’t done tweaking this oddly-shaped pony car quite yet. We know that the performance oriented Mach-E GT is coming soon, but Palmer is now the second Ford executive to hint at the presence of a higher performance model in the piperline. The first being the Ford Mustang Mach-E’s Chief Designer, Jason Castriota.
Whether you like electric vehicles, or are among the majority of Americans who remain skeptical, they are coming. The combustion engine will mark a tragic day in automotive history, but it will not bring about the death of the performance car. So long as we’re allowed to keep driving ourselves, that is.