Ford’s bold and brilliant plan for the Mustang Mach-E to educate buyers about the potential of electric vehicles!
Ford this week made public one of the worst kept secrets in years: it’s new mass-production electric car is going to be named Mach-E – and it’s a Mustang too! We know how this came about, as part of Ford’s plans to launch over 40 hybrid and full electric vehicles over the next few years – but why did it happen? What is the reasoning behind this for Ford, and why should the public be interested?
First we’ll say that we are a lifetime Mustang enthusiast, starting with a 1967 Mustang with the very rare K-code 289, automatic transmission, and air conditioning. A rare combination, and even better it was in Dark Highland Green. That car got us started on a Mustang journey over across all these years, 15 Mustangs so far, all except this first one purchased new. Which was marked by two big milestones: our only Mustang with Bondo (and requiring lots of it), and our only Mustang that wasn’t tracked or autocrossed. And as further background, we’ll also add that our family opened the 2nd Ford dealer in all of Pennsylvania, converted from a horse stable, so we’ve had skin in the game over the long haul and will stay in it. But we also moved forward all along: we had the first port fuel-injected Mustang, we had an SVO, and we suffered thru the terrible quality issues of SVT while they moved the game. And we appreciate the European heritage of Ford, owning several European-designed Fords and European-built Fords ranging from a Capri to a Focus RS.
But we are always looking forward, recently with several test drives of Teslas, including trying the almighty Ludicrous mode. Teslas are other-worldly, and in even our first drive it was apparent that somebody had beamed back the plans for a car from about 30 years in the future. It’s that good a car, a huge milestone, and the immediacy of having maximum power from the electric powertrain available linearly from 1 RPM to the maximum is addicting. And while we’ve had our fun in numerous non-linear turbocharged and supercharged combustion engines on the street and track, and enjoyed their inherent non-linearity, lets face it – these are also inherent compromises. Just like snapping open the secondaries in your old Holley, it feels great for the moment, but can’t deliver across the board. Not a problem in an electric car: you have all the power, all the time, across the entire band. And with 12 or 15,000 RPM to use, you don’t even care what the band is – that is another anachronism that is now obsolete.
In our changing world, electrics are the future. Hybrids, such as the excellent Fusion Hybrid, are a stop-gap… you get some additional torque from the tiny electric motor and battery, they are punchy around town, and you get great mileage (a recent 2000 mile trip in a rental Fusion Hybrid returned an average of 37-41 MPG both in town and highway, despite our lead foot). Ford offers several new hybrids now, including the 494 HP (and ft-lbs. 600 torque) Aviator Hybrid (3-liter twin-turbo V-6, with a series electric motor). We love the Aviator Hybrid… but… the extra weight from the small battery and electric motor add so much weight that the advantages are slim. It has to carry around the weight of the gas engine, the 10-speed automatic transmission, heavy differentials, and a driveshaft to the back. Why not just build it electric? Capacity is one reason, Ford doesn’t have an electric platform in this size – yet – and perhaps customers are not yet ready to accept a full-electric Aviator, much less an Explorer, Edge, or Escape.
Now on to the Mach-E – the *Mustang* Mach-E is intended to address these issues. First and foremost, this is a preview of the future for Ford. And not as a “soccer Mom” vehicle, a mainstream model with little more personality than a washing machine. No… Ford designed the Mach-E purposefully to help people understand and enjoy the performance benefits of an electric vehicle. The Mach-E is in every variant a performance vehicle offering instant torque, great handling, and an experience for people who enjoy driving their vehicles. Yes, it has a pedestrian SUV stance and hatch, as the market is moving to, but it is also a performance vehicle.
The Mustang Mach-E is also a “toe in the water”. As the first of several full electrics, including an Electric F-150, this is an opportunity for Ford to learn and get it right. And to enter a competitive market. And while Ford is now ahead of many manufactures here, including FCA and GM, Ford has to catch up to others as well. With the exception of Tesla, which we’ll discuss in a moment, Ford has just jumped right to the front of a very expensive pack of other electrics – all far more expensive cars from luxury manufacturers including BMW and Porsche. Not to say that the Mach-E competes with them, because it doesn’t, but the Mach-E is a mainstream electric while these other manufacturers have introduced theirs as very high-end “luxury electrics” – all at well over $100k. And at the top end of pricing because they are not mainstream vehicles, they can’t be built in quantity, and they need to recover their design and production costs from a very very fat margin. Again, Ford went mainstream.
Against the Tesla Model Y, the Mustang looks at first like a valid competitor. Similar in size, power, and range. But not architecture: Tesla already has 10 years in this new world which Ford does not, and all model Teslas are certainly 10 years ahead in their technology (a look at last years’ disassembly videos and documentation shows the Teslas electronics are military grade, as just one example). And remember that the Tesla Model 3 with the dual-motor option compares very favorably to the current BMW M3, even though it wasn’t designed as a performance vehicle. Favorable meaning it will even out-performed an M3 on the track – yes, it’s been achieved by professional drivers. Big score Tesla, without even attempting to aim at BMW. Imagine what a Tesla would look like and how it would perform if it were purposefully designed as a sports sedan (!) – and if you’ve been watching the prototype Tesla S “plaid” run around the Nurburgring last month, smashing Porsche’s own attempt, you’ll understand the enormous potential here.
So the Mach-E has the mission of persuading buyers that electrics are not just an alternative but an advance. And not just a replacement for internal combustion engine (“ICE”) vehicles, but indeed a superior choice all-around: (terrific) mileage, (no) emissions, (even better) performance. Performance is of course the focus of our own DrivingEnthusiast.net website so let’s discuss that aspect.
0-60 in the “mid-3 second” range. A Mustang GT can’t accelerate to 60 like that, a GT350 can’t do that, and a GT500 with it’s huge weight issue barely does that. As we’ve said, maximum torque and power across the entire band, the very nature of electric motors. But there is another advantage as well… traction. You can build a rear-wheel drive electric vehicle with one motor, and performance is great. However, add a second so that you have one in the front and one in the back, and you have all-wheel drive. Now you have traction for acceleration and control everywhere: dry, wet, on ice, thru snow. Better yet, it can be vectored for increased handling dynamics. Unlike a gas-engine AWD car with 3 differentials, there is no power take off for the rear differential, no long driveshaft down the middle of the car. Lower weight, less complexity. And even better, the center of gravity (CG) of the car is considerably lower than an ICE car because the engine height is extremely low, typically perhaps 10 inches. The battery pack under the floor makes for a very low CG…. one reason why the CG of a Tesla is even lower than that of a Porsche with a flat-6 engine. This is a huge benefit to the handling dynamics of an electric car.
So here we have the Mach-E, and we’ll find out more in 2 days when Ford introduces it in a live broadcast. Ford will show us the full vehicle on the web, as well as at the upcoming Los Angeles International Auto Show. And we’ll be able to place a reservation on it, not an order but a place in line, starting after the announcement. That reservation and a potential long wait may work against Ford’s intentions… but remember in the case of Tesla Model S that same reservation and the outlook of a year wait provided 350,000 orders within weeks of their announcement and first showing. Smart move, Ford.
Let’s look at the world debut o0f the Mach-E, which took place last night:
We also have our 1st look at the fully modern interior, with a maximum size SYNC-4 screen. Ford recently announced a 10.5″ diagonal SYNC 4 without saying where it was going. Here it is in it’s glory, a clear departure – and step forward – from Ford! And with the ability to be updated via the web, like a Tesla. We will issue a disclaimer that the usability of the interface is one area where Tesla has done extremely well, along with constant updates and improvements. Ford has not done well here with the previous generation SYNC, and while as an infotainment system SYNC 3 is far better than most (especially Mazda), it is also very very difficult to update and it has not improved very much in the current 3rd version and in 4 releases. Ford will need to step up its game here in an area where they clearly have very little user interface design skills or Agile programming abilities.
What about acceptance by the greater performance community? Well, we are sorry to say that we are already hearing the naysayers and haters complain… the same people that complained when, for example, carburetors were introduced, and when the Mustang’s independent rear suspension was finally made standard. People who technologically might have stuck with their Model T and spent a weekend each spring (and sometimes by the side of the road) re-grinding their Babbitt bearings. Sorry to say that, but we’ve been thru this acceptance issue with enthusiasts for the past 30 years as the rest of the world has moved ahead – and every step has shown it’s superiority and increased the performance envelope. These are also some of the same people who park their trucks in Tesla charging spaces just to make their ignorant point, or worse, deface a Tesla (inevitably being caught on camera and looking like the fool they are).
So this is another justification for Ford investing in the Mach-E. Furthermore, besides offering better performance, it’s a member of the Mustang family. Branding it a Mustang is perhaps Ford’s boldest tactic… although that has been clear since Ford released the first press release promising a combination of “Mustang and Explorer”, followed later by a preview photo showing the front end of the Mach-E with a lighted Mustang logo. So the use of the Mustang name shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s been known for some time.
And while the Mach-E does provide Ford design and manufacturing experience, and will persuade enthusiasts, don’t expect the next generation Mustang to simply be a 2-door coupe version of the Mach-E. That point is a long way off, and we already know that the next Mustang will share the new platform recently introduced for the Explorer and Aviator – which will allow a hybrid model with an under-floor battery. Ford has previously promised a hybrid Mustang, although any attempt at that in the current car will be a compromise with the battery taking up a large portion of the floor of the trunk (probably rising about 6″ above the floor, as it does in the Fusion Hybrid). And performance enthusiasts, don’t forget that Ford has already filed a patent for a hybrid V-8 engine… it’s a safe bet that this is in reserve should it be needed in the market. So far it isn’t.
Let’s also not forget the recently demonstrated Electric F-150. With phenomenal towing performance, again thanks to the instant full torque, demonstrated by towing a train full of ICE F-150s. With practical value as well, being able to power tools at a work site. The Electric F-150 is an end-run around naysayers and will provide the most flexible powerplant imaginable for F-150 buyers. Another bold move by Ford, one that GM will struggle to catch up to (GM has already made post-Electric F-150 “we too” announcement as a “future model”, but have not shown anything. We anticipate that GM will release a campaign claiming disadvantages to electric vehicles, just as their misinformation campaign targeted the aluminum bodied F-150 – something they couldn’t accomplish either so decided to deride instead) and FCA has no ability to offer one anytime soon (we’ll predict that they will announce one, but they don’t have the technology or capacity on the horizon). Again, brilliant move, Ford.
What about performance buyers of the Mustang? Will a long-term all-electric Mustang be able to take on and surpass the GT350, much less the new GT500? Ford obliterated such fears at SEMA last month when they introduced an all-electric “Mustang Lithium” with 900 horsepower and 1000 lb-ft of torque. Including a manual transmission (entirely pointless for performance but making a point for performance enthusiasts). While not a prototype (despite the marketing claim), just a demonstration of potential, this electric Mustang instantly blows away all performance Mustangs to date – every single one, and by far. In fact, we’ll dare say it, the GT500 is already obsolete anyway because it has such poor traction, as well as poor weight balance and an even higher center of gravity, that it can’t deliver the straight line performance that is expected of 760 horsepower. It just doesn’t have the traction. The platform for the next Mustang, used on the current Explorer and Aviator, offers AWD and this will certainly be offered in performance Mustangs later this decade to help with traction. And which will probably weigh considerably more than the current GT500, likely around 4700 pounds. Absurd – this is not the answer. Instead, it’s high time for an all-electric Mustang with 2 motors providing AWD! That’s how a future Mustang will effectively put several hundred horsepower to the ground, and more importantly “ginormous” torque from 1 RPM to over 12,000 RPM.
So a future all-electric Mustang isn’t something to fear at all… it is something to anticipate. It will offer far better performance than current Mustangs, far better handling, far better mileage, and zero emissions. The Mustang Mach-E is just the first preview of that potential, as Ford moves faster to the future.
Let’s see the story in Ford’s own behind-the-scenes look:
What’s next? See the Mach-E in person at the Los Angeles Auto Show this month. Then we should start seeing the first press drives next springs as the car begins it’s launch rollout.