Just days after joining a lobbying coalition including Google, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo, Ford is continuing to blaze a new trail. Ford Motor Co. announced it is developing an electric vehicle to compete with Tesla’s Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt. CEO Mark Fields confirmed the plans in a conference car, stating the company wanted to be “among the leaders or in a leadership position” as more automakers introduce long-range battery-powered cars.”
Fields said Ford is aiming to be in the same league as the Volt and Model 3, which means it would offer a battery-electric vehicle with the goal of getting a 200-mile range on each charge. Although Fields did not have too many specifications about the car, it is expected to be called the Model E. Ford has a pending trademark application for “Model E.” The plans would be for it to be assembled in 2019 at a new Ford plant in Mexico.
It is likely that Ford would would offer three versions of the Model E – a pure electric, a plug-in hybrid and a traditional hybrid. In December, Fields announced that it would add 13 hybrid or electric vehicles to its fleet by 2020. Their goal is for 40 percent of the fleet to have some electrified version by 2020. This is a lofty goal since the company needs to spend $4.5 billion to accomplish the plan in four short years.
Ford’s current electric offerings including the Focus Electric with a 76-mile range. The Focus Electric’s range is increasing to 100 miles this fall. However, Chevy’s Bolt is getting around 200 miles at least according to the advertising. The Bolt will not be in driveways until late 2016. Meanwhile, Tesla continues to lead the segment, with its Model 3 drawing nearly 400,000 pre-orders despite a two-year wait for delivery. Nissan is not giving up on the Leaf, and will sell a redesigned version of the Leaf that goes at least 200 miles by 2018.
Although auto industry insiders believe consumers want to see a car in the 200 mile range to make them comfortable with battery-powered cars, Ford scoffed at the notion. Kevin Layden, the director of Ford’s electrification programs and engineering, said the Focus is good enough. “I think right now with the launch of the Focus Electric at 100 miles, it is going to satisfy a big chunk of the population,” Layden said. “It’s going to be really affordable and a step up from where we are now.”
Ford and Tesla had previously tangled over the trademark for “Model E.” Back in December of 2013, Ford filed for trademark status for the term just months after Tesla had attempted to claim the mark. “Model E” is similar to Ford’s legendary Model T. Tesla wanted the mark since many referred to its affordable electric vehicle as the Model E. In 2014, Tesla abandoned its attempt to get the mark. Neither Tesla or Ford would confirm that Ford asked Tesla to drop their claim. Ford has been filing for protection for Model E since 2000 and at one time planned to use it for electric boats, scooters, buses and vans.