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Ford’s Electric CUV Could Lead in a Surprisingly Crowded Segment

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Ford is admittedly behind its main rivals in terms of offering practical and purpose-built EVs but, when it finally comes to market in 2020, its first long-range electric should deliver what buyers want. When Ford announced its plans to launch an electrified crossover at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, the Chevrolet Bolt had already begun to lose its geek chic luster. However, we have to defer our judgement as Ford’s entry could eventually have an EV spec sheet that’ll make GM blush.

We’re beginning to get a better picture of the upcoming Ford — which I’m going to begin calling the E-CUV (electric crossover utility vehicle) since it doesn’t have an official name — now that the company’s chief technology officer Raj Nair has started loosening his lips. The upside is that it will be an affordable unit targeting everything the average consumer wants. The downside is that it’ll have competition early in its lifespan. 

“Our plan is for it to be an affordable vehicle, a mainstream model,” Nair told Business Insider. “To get electrification volumes where we would all like them to be we have to make sure we make the affordability targets or otherwise they are going to stay as a niche item or a pure luxury item.”

Nair didn’t specify what that number was but the figure that probably popped into your head was south of $35,000, which is a fair estimate. Another important number for EVs equates to range and, for the last year, the magic figure has been 300 miles. “We think we have a technology path that will get us a 300 plus miles range and an affordable crossover utility that will be fully competitive,” Nair said.

That would make Ford’s E-CUV exceptionally competitive, since that’s when range anxiety really begins to diminish for most prospective buyers. The Bolt manages a competent 238 miles per charge and the Tesla Model 3 is expected to be in that neighborhood as well. But it’s a neighborhood that will get more progressively crowded in the coming years — which Ford claims is a good thing.

“We always welcome the competition,� Nair said. “There are some aspects of the economics of battery-electric vehicles that are helped by scale. The more penetration we get, all of us are helped by the economies of scale.�

Normalizing EVs will certainly help volume in the long term as the platform gains supporters and the price of batteries starts to fall. However, a swath of proficient rivals won’t be driving up demand for the Ford unless it can best them. Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo are all planning on bringing compact electric SUVs to market within a similar timeframe — with the Tesla rumored to start production as early as 2019. Tentatively called the Model Y, its specs are entirely unknown, though it will use different platform than the Model 3 and is therefore likely capable of a longer range.

Nair seems undaunted, pleased that Ford has the opportunity to get in on the action with a strong contender right as the segment shifts out of niche mode. “We are excited about it, and I think it’s going to be hitting that inflection point where we are talking about fully electric vehicles not as a niche, not as a novelty, but as a very legitimate, high-volume opportunity for the industry and for the consumer.�

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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