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Ford is Throwing $11 Billion at Its Electric Car Problem (theverge.com) 172

Ford said on Monday it will boost its investment in electric vehicles to $11 billion in the next five years, more than doubling a previous commitment. Company's chairman Bill Ford said the car maker would have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its range by the same period. It comes as countries around the world put more pressure on car makers to rein in carbon emissions. From a report: It was a dramatic escalation in Ford's crosstown rivalry with General Motors, which has seen its stock prices rise thanks to its commitments to both electrification and autonomy. GM has said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream. Last week, it unveiled a concept autonomous car without steering wheel or pedals. Meanwhile, the Blue Oval has had a challenging 2017. It remains strongly profitable, but its sale are stagnant, its costs have increased faster than expected, and its margins have failed to meet targets.
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Ford is Throwing $11 Billion at Its Electric Car Problem

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  • EV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2018 @02:08PM (#55932743)

    Thanks, Tesla ! Without you, those feet-dragger's would have never done this.

    • by Higaran ( 835598 )
      I would mod this up if I had points.
    • Re:EV (Score:5, Funny)

      by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @02:30PM (#55932883)

      GM has said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023.

      And then people complain when Tesla only makes hundreds of cars per month...

      • by pezpunk ( 205653 )

        actually Tesla sells about 10,000 cars per month. The Model S and Model X do quite well.

        But yes, the ramp up of the Model 3 is taking longer than expected.

    • by ahodgson ( 74077 )

      What model of electric car do you drive? Can you tell us about your experiences with it?

      • Re:EV (Score:5, Informative)

        by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @03:02PM (#55933125) Journal
        A Bolt. It's great. My solar production covers it fine, and it does indeed get the range advertised. Very peppy - can zoom well past most cars at most reasonable speeds, with a light press of the pedal. Oh wait, was it not a sincere question? Sorry...yeah, some of us actually do indeed want EV :P
        • by ahodgson ( 74077 )

          Naw, that's great. I've zeroed in on the Bolt as my most likely next vehicle, actually, and I'm glad it's working for you.

          • by dAzED1 ( 33635 )
            I've had the dash do a couple glitchy things, and I'm going to have to hack the thing to figure out why because the dealership just shrugs it's shoulders and says "it's not happening now, so I can't fix it" regardless how many videos I have, but...I mean...what's a couple glitches between friends. But it drives well, though if you floor it it in sport mode it almost doesn't feel like the speed is applied uniformly - the steering gets a bit wobbly for a sec. IE, don't floor it in speed mode while on ice or
      • Re:EV (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2018 @03:14PM (#55933217)

        I have a Chevy Bolt. For my mix of driving it's nearly perfect in every way. For someone who takes many trips over a couple hundred miles it probably isn't practical, mainly because of lack of chargers. Charging is where Tesla really shines. Tesla Supercharges are not usable to charge anything but a Tesla. Their slower changers can be used with an adaptor, but that's mostly pointless on a trip. There are multiple charging networks and each one must be joined. Imagine having to join Exxon or Shell to use their pumps. High speed chargers are somewhat common in urban areas but almost non-existent in rural areas.

        As for the car, I NEVER want to go back to an ICE (internal combustion engine) car. The smoothness, quiet, ease of driving and shear convenience just can't be approached by an ICE vehicle. I live in hope that the charging networks get built out so I can use the Bolt on very few longer trips I take yearly. I really love this car.

        Range is severely effected by cold temps. Cabin heat is supplied by resistance coils (the Leaf on the other hand has a heap pump) and when temps are down in the single digits(F) up to 25% of the battery is used to keep the cabin warm. Plus, there is reduced battery capacity in the cold. I've seen my full charge range (all estimated of course) go down to 150miles in sever cold. Serious greenies, or people that must have the range wear heavy cloths and turn the heat very low. I'm not in either category so I keep it between 68 and 72 most of the time.

        I'm much more sensitive to the smell of car exhaust now and find it more annoying.

        Finely, I'll add that I didn't get an EV to be green, although it was a consideration. I was curious and ready to replace my current car. I test drove both the Volt and the Bolt. The Volt is a fine car, but the Bolt is clearly a generation ahead. Once I test drove the Bolt I was sold.

        • by ahodgson ( 74077 )

          Awesome. I like everything I've seen about the Bolt, glad it's working for you. My wife commutes about 80km each way daily, and I think it'd be a great commuter vehicle for her.

          • I like everything I've seen about the Bolt

            Even the look? When I first saw images of the car I said to myself "I hope they sell a crap load of these before the Model 3 ramps up production because I can't believe anyone would buy one of these if they can get their hands on a Tesla".

            • by ahodgson ( 74077 )

              I actually like the look. I prefer 5-doors in general as they're much more useful than sedans. And the Bolt looks good.

        • The smoothness, quiet, ease of driving and shear convenience just can't be approached by an ICE vehicle.

          With the right vehicle, they can be. This isn't mean to disparage your adoration for your Bolt -- I loved my Fusion energi (which only goes 20 miles or so on a charge) -- but have you ridden in a late model Edge or MKS or even gas-powered Fusion? Smooth, quiet (on the inside), and easy to drive. Can't argue with you on convenience, though.

          I loved my energi, and can't wait to have something with a bit more all electric range, but in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the absolute comfort of my Taurus.

        • I'm much more sensitive to the smell of car exhaust now and find it more annoying.

          What does this have to do with owning an EV? Unless you were running your exhaust into your cabin for some weird reason on your old ICE car, I don't see why you would notice a difference.

        • I guess that what you are saying is that the passenger compartment has to be better insulated against heat and cold.

      • Re:EV (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ranbot ( 2648297 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @04:13PM (#55933601)

        What model of electric car do you drive? Can you tell us about your experiences with it?

        Nissan Leaf owner... it's crazy quiet and comfortable. It's cheap not only because electric is cheaper than gas, but because there's almost no maintenance (no oil changes, no muffler, no coolant, no fuel filters, brake pads last longer, etc.) or an annual emissions test to pay for.

        Performance is better than most would expect... very quick acceleration off the line. Above ~45 mph acceleration is more sluggish than ICE, but you can still get it up 80+ mph to land you a speeding ticket anywhere in the country. The range drops considerably if you're a lead foot or drive long distances at 55+ mph highway speeds. Efficiency is best as a city driver staying in the 25-50 mph range.

        In over two years I have never charged my Leaf anywhere other than in my garage, so the charging station concern is overblown. However, I would not recommend an EV to anyone without a reliable place to charge at home.

        My wife has an ICE and we use her car for road trips or swap cars if I need to go further than the Leaf's range, so I am not completely dependent on the Leaf's range. An EV is a great choice for a two-car household where one can be an ICE. If your household only has one car, you need to review your driving needs carefully before going EV and probably budget for the occasional rental.

        If you're willing to buy a used EV (I did) there are some amazing deals because most owners lease them.

        • Did they replace the batteries for you when you bought used, or is it just something you'll have to suck up earlier?

          • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

            Just like a regular car, the factory warranty, including the 60,000 mile battery warranty*, carried on to me. After 2 years I driving the Leaf I haven't seen a drop in capacity yet and I'm still under warranty. The batteries are designed to last much longer anyway. The fear dying batteries is overblown.

            * - Batteries in the 2018 Leaf are warrantied for 100,000 miles.

    • Thanks, Tesla ! Without you, those feet-dragger's would have never done this.

      Well, if you ever wondered what the world would look like if it was run by the 'ain't broke don't fix it" crowd go to a Ford dealership, a world full of the utterly mediocre and uninspiring. The problem isn't that Ford and the rest of that ilk can't innovate with cutting edge tech if they want to, the problem is that they don't want to innovate with cutting edge tech unless forced to.

    • CARB, not Tesla (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )
      CARB (California Air Resources Board) introduced a ZEV mandate [ca.gov]. Zero Emissions Vehicle - mostly EVs though Toyota has a hydrogen vehicle on the market. It requires that a certain percentage of each automaker's sales be ZEVs [ucsusa.org] each year. That percentage increases every year (currently about 2%, supposed to be about 15% by 2025). If an automaker fails to hit that percentage or buy enough credits from a company which has exceeded the percentage, it is banned from selling vehicles in California. And since ab
      • That's also why production of the Tesla 3 has been so slow to ramp up. They won't want to produce more of them per year than they're able to sell credits for.

        They are not even close to producing more of them than they can sell credits for. The same credits that Musk as repeatedly called for to be abolished. See the problem is that the credits are granted across the industry. This would create an incentive for Tesla to produce as many Model 3s as quickly as possible. It's also the reason why he called for them to be abolished. By being spread across the industry they are also available to companies with far larger manufacturing capabilities which actually gives i

    • Bah. Ford has had a decent lineup of electronic vehicles for a few years now. Both the C-Max and Fusion models have plugin hybrid variants. They also have the focus pure-ev small sedan. The C-Max does exceptionally well, has amazing handling, great safety and tech features....and for most of the owners, they prefer having dual engines and two fuel sources over one large battery/electric engine. Many owners are still going 6-9 months between filling up gas, and some up to 750 miles on a single charge/fi

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @02:31PM (#55932889) Journal
    It will be money flushed down the toilet, not because electric cars are inferior, but because the sales infrastructure of the automakers is fundamentally flawed.

    Ford has very strong binding contracts with dealers. The dealer franchise agreements were set in the era before the consolidation in the auto makers. It is very heavily in favor of the dealers. The traditional car makers have much lower bargaining power against the dealers.

    The dealers who sell both IC engines and Electric motor cars, have vested interest in killing the electric cars. We know theoretically electric cars have lower maintenance. But they know actual data, brandwise and model wise, which cars and features produce repair shop revenue and which dont.

    Unless Ford forms a distinct subsidiary, unencumbered by the dealership agreements, a separate division like Saturn or something and embrace the direct sales model like Tesla they are doomed.

    It is high time all the car makers form distinct divisions without any agreements with NADA. As long as they sell cars through NADA members, the short term short sighted actions by the dealers will doom the car makers.

    • The dealers who sell both IC engines and Electric motor cars, have vested interest in killing the electric cars. We know theoretically electric cars have lower maintenance. But they know actual data, brandwise and model wise, which cars and features produce repair shop revenue and which dont.

      I am not sure that will be as big of an issue. Modern vehicles have much longer maintenance intervals so dealers have had to adjust to changing service revenue streams over time. Ford can increase per vehicle profits for dealers, dealers can charge to install chargers, and cars will still need tires, wiper blades, etc. Plus, EVs may be leased which is also profitable for dealers. In addition, it is the out of warranty repairs that are the money makers anyway; warranty repair reimbursement is set by the manu

    • Also, how much of this focus on autonomy and electrification is for boosting stock price?

      Every deeper investigation [google.com] I've read suggests Level 4 or 5 autonomy [sae.org] is a long ways off.

      Also the standard knock on electrification is that if your electricity is majority generated by coal or other dirty or dangerous means, you're actually using coal-fired or nuclear cars. [google.com]

      I most assuredly support clean tech and vehicle autonomy, but I have a suspicion there's a lot of hype here for non-obvious purposes.

    • The dealer network takes on some of the risk of launching and selling new models. Basically they purchase stock .of cars for their lots, and can take a haircut if they don't shift. A direct delivery model works, but expect very long lead times for orders (eg tesla), as production is essentially throttled to demand.

      It is actually one of the great myths about lean manufacturing coming out of the auto industry. Lean manufacturing holding almost no stock only really works if you can shift significant amounts of

    • Maintenance recommendations are already largely a scam, so it won't be difficult for dealers to recommend a $100 battery aura balancing for EVs every 1000 miles.

    • Unfortunately state laws (the same ones that impede Tesla) prohibit them from bypassing dealers.

  • Since when is throwing more money at a problem a solution? If the headline had read "Ford to Hire More Engineers For R&D," I'd have been impressed. Increasing budgets, alone, merely drives up costs. MBAs aren't hired to innovate. And their favorite solution, outsourcing to a cheap, poorly run and educated company, will only soak up money. Bragging about burning money by the truckload to produce an underpowered, expensive to buy and own short-lived product only shows why car manufacturers are in the
    • Ford is indeed doing all of the above, and more managers will be necessary too, and that will cost money. You are whining about nothing

    • You realize you need a lot of money to hire engineers for R&D, right? This is just a click-bait way to describe it. Obviously, we'll see what the results are, but it sounds like they're fairly serious about ramping up e-vehicle product lines.

    • So you are condemning Ford's decision to invest in the EV technology because of the headline writer's choice of a biased wording?

      Hint: they are not literally "throwing money" at anything.

  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @03:07PM (#55933153) Journal
    Ford was going to have an F150 by 2016, then 2017, then 2018, now it's off the table with a hybrid F150 /maybe/ in 2020. I'm happy with being an early adopter, and I'd love an electric truck. I have no interest in a Mustang or any SUV. Given a choice between a Bolt and some giant SUV thing, I'll stick with the Bolt (which I already have). Much easier to park, among other things.
  • Throwing money at a problem is a solution from people who have either run out of ideas or don't want to cede control to others.
  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwockNO@SPAMpoetic.com> on Monday January 15, 2018 @03:36PM (#55933375)

    My city has an urban population of about 3 million. The vast majority of us live in apartments and condominiums. The remaining single family homes are converted to higher density housing when the owners die off. These condos and apts are traditionally required to provide one or 1.5 parking spaces per unit; in most cases that's almost entirely outdoor offstreet uncovered parking. Residents with more than one car must park in the street (if they can find a space).

    Urban planners say that density must increase to preserve open space elsewhere. Bicycle paths are taking the place of parking spaces and mass transit is encouraged. Fewer parking spaces are required for new buildings under construction.

    So the question is: where will these 3 million people charge their EVs?

    In fact an electric car is not an option in urban areas. Even if your property manager could provide a charging unit, how would it be metered and billed to you? Who would maintain it in a mostly public space where vandals and theft could be a problem?

    Many urbanites will choose Uber or Lyft, but Ford's electric auto sales will not reach the inner city. Privately owned EVs are only practical in suburban & rural single-family home areas.

    • by ravenscar ( 1662985 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @04:53PM (#55933871)

      What you're pointing out is that urban areas are designed to discourage private automobile ownership by individuals - often very intentionally. There isn't really any kind of automobile an auto manufacturer can build to change that. For now, they'll probably focus on development for the (fairly large) suburban market.

      That said, autonomous vehicles should eventually be able to make electrics more practical in the cities. These cars won't be owned by individuals, but rather by corporations or local transit authorities. Live in the city, but run into a situation where walking, biking, or busing won't cut it? Just bring up an app, book your travel, and a nice, autonomous, electric vehicle will swing by to pick you up and take you where you need to go. When it's running low on power, it can return to one of several "car barns" designed to hold and charge the vehicles. This environment still provides a great opportunity for auto manufacturers to evolve and make large sums of money.

      I know it's a huge hurdle to get many urban folk to give up personal ownership of an automobile, but with things trending away from "I go to X location to get the things I need" and toward "The things I need are delivered to my home" I think there will be less and less need (and therefor less desire) to own cars. This will be furthered as companies (hopefully) continue to expand work-from-home options and eliminate old fashioned dress codes (making commutes on feet, bikes, mopeds easier and more attractive). I feel like the auto makers that will win out in the end will be those that find solutions for shipping/delivery vehicles and shared transportation services.

    • My city has an urban population of about 3 million. The vast majority of us live in apartments and condominiums. The remaining single family homes are converted to higher density housing when the owners die off. These condos and apts are traditionally required to provide one or 1.5 parking spaces per unit; in most cases that's almost entirely outdoor offstreet uncovered parking. Residents with more than one car must park in the street (if they can find a space).

      Urban planners say that density must increase to preserve open space elsewhere. Bicycle paths are taking the place of parking spaces and mass transit is encouraged. Fewer parking spaces are required for new buildings under construction.

      So the question is: where will these 3 million people charge their EVs?

      In fact an electric car is not an option in urban areas. Even if your property manager could provide a charging unit, how would it be metered and billed to you? Who would maintain it in a mostly public space where vandals and theft could be a problem?

      Many urbanites will choose Uber or Lyft, but Ford's electric auto sales will not reach the inner city. Privately owned EVs are only practical in suburban & rural single-family home areas.

      Privately owned vehicles will simply diminish. Just look at Tokyo. Barely anyone needs a car, and most households that own a car simply have one (and they barely use it.)

      For all the cultural failings one find in Japan (karoshi comes to mind), Tokyo shows how highly populated areas are supposed to work with minimum privately owned vehicles.

      Ergo, for metropolitan areas that follow that model, privately owned EVs aren't an issue (with people relying on EV-based public transportation and taxi services.)

      It

    • by be951 ( 772934 )

      So the question is: where will these 3 million people charge their EVs?

      Not really. A variety of services are indirectly (communication and delivery services that reduce the need/desire to go places) and directly (such as ride hailing apps, e.g. Uber and Lyft, car sharing services like zipcar) reducing the need to own a car, with the trend likely to continue downward. I seriously doubt your urban population has anywhere close to 100% car ownership currently with gas vehicles, so why hold EVs to that standard?

      Even if your property manager could provide a charging unit, how would it be metered and billed to you?

      There are already a number of solutions available. For instance, a co

    • Almost all of what you've brought up is relevant to personal vehicles in general, rather than being specific to EVs. With the exception of the charging issue, the parking problems you described apply equally as well to ICE vehicles as EVs.

      As for the charging, none of what you've said is a difficult problem to solve. Many urban areas are already requiring that apartments install chargers in a growing number of parking spots, and metering them individually is a simple matter, given that they're likely already

    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )
      "Even if your property manager could provide a charging unit, how would it be metered and billed to you?"

      This is a solved problem already. I have an EV. There are networks, e.g. ChargePoint, where you start charging using a small NFC card, or if you don't have one, with a phone app. This is connected to your account. My local university has a number of these chargers.

      Or, the cost is billed communally to all EV users like electricity for common areas in apartments. Street parking is a much more difficult pr
    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      Obviously many people won't be interested in cars at all in the city, but Paris has a number of electric car charging posts for street parking. Same thing could be expanded in large cities in the US if there was enough demand for it
    • They'll be charged at the fleet's charging facility using power either purchased in bulk or self-generated.

      Within a few years, TaaS enabled by fully autonomous vehicle tech will take over the urban environment at a cost much less than that of the average personally-owned and operated vehicle. All of those parking places and garages will become relics of a bygone age.

      As the manufacturers will ultimately operate the fleets as a fully vertical operation, Ford's sales in the urban areas will be to themselves. U

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