Education is a Critical Missing Piece to the Electric Vehicle Puzzle; Here’s How Ford is Going to Help Solve It
By Ted Cannis, Global Director, Electrification, Ford Motor Company
As the head of electrification for Ford, the questions I get from family, friends and colleagues about electric vehicles run the gamut. “Are electric vehicles fast?” “Do they work in winter?” “Can I really give up visiting the gas station?” “Are they capable enough to help me do my job?”
The answer to all of the above — at least with Ford’s new lineup of electric vehicles — is yes. But there remains a gap between what an electric vehicle can do and what customers believe they can do.
This perception gap was evident as recently as a few weeks ago, when we made headlines by demonstrating that our all-electric F-150 prototype could tow more than 1 million pounds. Many were shocked — positively — about just how capable an electric vehicle can be.
Helping to de-bunk the widespread misconception among truck customers that an electric pickup truck can’t be as capable as gas-powered trucks is a small but an important step. Now, we are out to de-bunk other electric vehicle misconceptions just as we did with the F-150 demonstration: by showing — not just telling — so that potential customers can feel confident should they choose an electric vehicle in the future.
These myths come straight from the mouths of consumers via an independent global survey across Europe, China, and the U.S.
More than 90 percent of Americans and Europeans don’t believe quick acceleration is a great benefit of electric vehicles.
So where did this impression come from? Simple: A lot of companies, ourselves included, focused their initial electrification efforts on adhering to regulatory requirements. The cost of batteries was high, the price of developing new vehicle platforms was higher, and the necessary charging infrastructure to make it easy on customers simply didn’t exist. But that’s all changing fast.
So can we make an amazing, fun-to-drive thrilling electric vehicle? Trust me: We can.
As the company behind the Mustang, the Ford GT and off-road behemoths like the F-150 and Raptor, we have the best teams tuning vehicles for performance, handling, and off-road capability. It is those same teams that are now leveraging the full use of electrification to make vehicles that will be awesome to drive.
It starts with showcasing the benefits of the electric propulsion system, including the decision to take advantage of the benefits of “instant torque” — a fancy term that means electric vehicles can accelerate like hell if you want. But that’s just the start. We’re investing in an electric vehicle platform with right system power, motors, suspension, and tuning to get something really special that people would love to have.
To get a sneak peek at how we’re bringing some thrill to our electric vehicles, check out our engineers rocking the 3D simulator environment (think: the ultimate gaming setup) and doing hot laps at the race track. This is the same simulator that helps make our Ford Performance vehicles faster and allows us to recreate the driving conditions of real-life test circuits and race courses.
We’re out to prove just how exciting these cars can be.
Forty-two percent of Americans think electric vehicles still require gas to run.
It’s a question we get all the time. Early on when I started in this position, my family asked me this same question.
Nope, no gas. The truth is that when you drive an electric vehicle, you may never have to stop at a gas station again (except if you want beef jerky). In research clinics, I sat down with many electric vehicle owners in diverse places like California, China and Germany. You learn one thing very quickly: Among most owners, all their charging is done from the convenience of their home. Many have never visited a public charging station at all.
Similarly, surveys of U.S. battery electric vehicle owners show that 80 percent of charging occurs at home, followed by charging at work. For owners of gas or hybrid vehicles, we know it’s hard to break the habit of going to a gas station once or twice a week — most of us have been doing it without hesitation for decades. But how would you feel about never going to a gas station again?
For many electric owners you can do all your charging in the convenience, safety, and privacy of your own home. No more wading through slush and salt to fill up when temperatures drop below zero. No more standing outside boiling in the summer. No more wondering if you are going to smell like fuel. You get the picture. And it’s just about as easy as charging any other electronic device at home: plug it in and go about the rest of your day.
Electric vehicles operate entirely on electricity that is stored inside state-of-the-art rechargeable batteries. These batteries power electric motors that propel the car forward. No gasoline or diesel fuels required — electric vehicles don’t even have or need tailpipes. So unless you’re really craving your favorite snack, you can kiss those weekly gas station runs goodbye.
Close to 80 percent of Americans would not pick an electric vehicle for extreme weather, while nearly 65 percent would not choose one for all-wheel drive.
We get it. At Ford, we are all about safety. We understand that electric vehicles need to operate in a safe and reliable manner in whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at you — and give people the confidence they want when driving through tough conditions.
We can imagine where people may have gotten this impression. They have experienced cell phones with less charge in the cold. They have driven hybrid vehicles focused on fuel economy, not power. They have heard about electric vehicles with small batteries that can’t make the trip. Heck, most of us operate at sub-optimal levels when the temperatures drop.
Given those impressions, it would probably come as a surprise to most Americans that the top market for electric vehicles in Europe last year was cold and mountainous Norway, with over 35,000 sales in the first half of this year. It would come as a surprise to most Europeans that hot Southern California and mile-high, snowy Denver are among the top U.S. markets for electric vehicles.
At Ford, we’ve gone to great lengths to test our electric vehicles in extreme conditions. And while it is true that you can anticipate a partial reduction in range in extreme conditions, it is not something that is going to sneak up on you. After all, do you ever notice how you can’t travel as far on a tank of gas in the winter — or in the summer if you’re blasting the air conditioning?
That is why we are giving our vehicles bigger batteries, so you can be confident and comfortable. It means we’re creating better software designed to maximize range for when you need it. You’ll know where you stand even before you get in your vehicle. Furthermore, we will help ensure that you will have plenty of time to decide when and where to use one of thousands of charging points across the country.
We are serious about ensuring the capability of all our vehicles, from tough F-Series trucks to fast-moving Mustangs. Whether you’re talking wet and snowy, hot and humid, or a run up the mountain, we’re putting our vehicles through their paces. This includes high-tech simulators, hot and cold test tracks, and long drives in rough real-world conditions.
We are developing our electric vehicle software to help give you better road handling, stability and performance by calibrating power distribution to the wheels when you need it. This will give you a new level of confidence in the snow and rain.
We’re well on our way to making sure our all-electric vehicles are just as capable at handling the environment as they are at saving it. We are no strangers to battery technology — our engineers have been delivering hybrid electric vehicles for decades and understand their chemical behavior — and our electric batteries are tested at temperatures as extreme as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve designed them with the right cooling systems as well as pre-conditioning strategies that help maintain the battery temperature for optimum performance when the car is plugged in. Because our customers need to keep running. It’s that simple.
Over two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) and Europeans (68 percent) don’t believe that electric vehicles are capable enough in terms of towing and hauling.
We know a thing or two about building tough, capable vehicles at Ford. You can bet that our electric vehicles are going to take advantage of electrification to unlock capabilities that people never saw coming. That means there are going to be a whole bunch of people in for some awe-inspiring surprises.
Electrification doesn’t have to be about compromise — and it won’t be at Ford. We can deliver vehicles that are electric, thrilling and tough all at the same time. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Don’t believe me? Just watch our all-electric F-150 prototype haul over 1 million pounds.
The gap between perception and reality does not stop there. Check out the new electric vehicle website to learn more. There’s a lot more coming from Ford very soon.
The all-electric F-150 prototype is towing far beyond a production truck’s capacity in a one-time short event demonstration. Never tow beyond a vehicle’s towing capacity. Always consult the Owner’s Manual.
To learn more about electric vehicles, visit Ford’s new Electric Learning Zone.