People 'n' Issues

Ford puts $4.5bn into e-vehicles

December 14th, 2015
Ford is investing an additional $4.5 billion in electrified vehicle solutions by 2020 and says it is changing how the company develops vehicle experiences for customers.

Ford is adding 13 new electrified vehicles to its portfolio by 2020, when more than 40 per cent of the company’s global nameplates will come in electrified versions. This represents Ford’s largest-ever electrified vehicle investment in a five-year period.

On the way next year is a new Focus Electric, which features all-new DC fast-charge capability delivering an 80 per cent charge in an estimated 30 minutes and a projected 160-kilometre (100-mile) range – an estimated two hours faster than today’s Focus Electric.

The new Focus Electric, which starts production late next year, also will provide European and North American customers:

  • SmartGauge with EcoGuide LCD Instrument Cluster, which offers a multitude of customisable displays that can help the driver see real-time electric vehicle power usage to help maximise vehicle efficiency
  • Brake Coach, another smart feature that coaches the driver on how to use smooth braking to maximise the energy captured through the Regenerative Braking System. The more energy a driver captures through braking, the moreenergy is returned to the vehicle’s battery
  • Fun-to-drive character, with agile steering and handling engineered into the vehicle to give drivers a more connected feel to the road

Ford’s shift to add electrified vehicle solutions answers increasing global trends calling for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Ford also is expanding its electrified vehicle research and development programme in Europe and Asia this year, creating a “hub and spoke” system that allows the global team to further accelerate battery technology and take advantage of market specific opportunities.

Experience-led design

Ford also is reimagining how to set itself apart in the marketplace by focusing on the customer experience and not just the vehicle itself. The company is changing its product development process to support the shift.

“The challenge going forward isn’t who provides the most technology in a vehicle but who best organises that technology in a way that most excites and delights people,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Product Development and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company. “By observing consumers, we can better understand which features and strengths users truly use and value and create even better experiences for them going forward.”

In addition to traditional market research, Ford is investing in social science-based research globally, observing how consumers interact with vehicles and gaining new insights into the cognitive, social, cultural, technological and economic nuances that affect product design.

“This new way of working brings together marketing, research, engineering and design in a new way to create meaningful user experiences, rather than individually developing technologies and features that need to be integrated into a final product,” Nair said. “We are using new insights from anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists and designers, along with traditional business techniques, to reimagine our product development process, create new experiences and make life better for millions of people.”

Next year, Ford is doubling the number of projects that use ethnographic research versus this year.

The team of social scientists already has spent months exploring topics such as the future of luxury transport, how people form relationships with their cars and the role of trucks in the American heartland.

Another new twist to the product development process is that designers no longer just sketch products but also full customer experience illustrations that visualise the experience each product is meant to deliver. The series of vignettes define a unique user journey that seamlessly integrates both hardware and software experiences.

This user experience design technique also plays an important role in developing the Ford Smart Mobility plan, which is designed to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and data and analytics.

“As both an auto and a mobility company, we at Ford are going further than just designing the product to move people from point A to point B,” Nair said. “We are considering the way customers interact with our vehicles as a unified experience, looking for ways to excite and delight customers and make their lives better.”

Accelerated battery research and development

The global expansion of Ford’s electric vehicle research and development programme allows the company’s Electrified Powertrain Engineering teams to share common technologies and test batteries virtually, in real time, to develop new technology faster while reducing the need for costly prototypes.

Ford also is expanding in Europe and China to accelerate battery technology research and development for new markets. By using an innovative hardware and software systems called HIL, or Hardware in a Loop, the global team can test battery technology and control system hardware in a virtual environment to simulate how batteries and control modules would behave in different – often punishing – environments in any part of the world.

“Batteries are the life force of any electric vehicle, and we have been committed to growing our leadership in battery research and development for more than 15 years,” said Kevin Layden, director, Ford Electrification Programs.

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