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Ford joins electric tide

Company’s SUV follows news of ‘Endurance’ by Lordstown Motors

AP The Ford Mustang Mach E, the company’s first all-electric SUV, is unveiled Sunday night. The unveiling marks the start of an avalanche of battery-powered vehicles coming from mainstream and luxury automakers over the next two years.

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford is unveiling its first all-electric SUV, marking the start of an avalanche of battery-powered vehicles coming from mainstream and luxury automakers during the next two years that industry analysts say will boost electric vehicle sales.

The Mustang Mach E, which will go 230 miles to more than 300 miles per charge depending on how it’s equipped, was unveiled Sunday night ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show press days.

Ford has 18 electric vehicles now for sale in the U.S., and IHS Markit expects that to grow to 80 in 2022, including pickup trucks and SUVs that are in the heart of the American market.

Yet last year, pure electric vehicles made up only 1.5 percent of new vehicle sales worldwide, and the consulting firm LMC Automotive predicts that will rise to 2.2 percent this year. In the U.S., electric vehicles were only 1.2 percent of sales in 2018, and it’s expected to be about the same this year.

But automakers see opportunity for growth, and with electric vehicles getting 250 miles or more on a single charge, worries about running out of juice on a daily commute are gone. Because of the added models and increased range, LMC predicts that they will make up 17 percent of global sales and 7 percent of U.S. sales in 2030.

Earlier this month, Lordstown Motors Corp. CEO Steve Burns revealed a rendering of his company’s electric vehicle, the Endurance, a full-size commercial fleet pickup. It is expected to start production in late 2020 at the former General Motors Lordstown plant, which was idled in March after producing the Chevrolet Cruze sedan for eight years.

Cincinnati-based electric delivery truck manufacturer Workhorse Group Inc., which Burns founded, and Lordstown Motors announced a licensing agreement that lets Lordstown Motors use some of Workhorse’s technology in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the company and other financial terms.

Burns said his vision is to transform the plant on Hallock Young Road into a “hub” and “epicenter” of electric vehicle production.

The agreement with Workhorse also provides the opportunity to transfer 6,000 existing preorders received by Workhorse for its W-15 prototype to Lordstown Motors.

For Ford, executives realized in 2017 that they had to offer something more exciting for the first of a new generation of electric vehicles. The company last year promised six battery electric vehicles by 2022. It also has partnerships with Volkswagen and startup Rivian to build more.

To sell them, Ford decided to go to the company’s strengths: Pickup trucks, commercial vans and the high-performance Mustang.

“There are going to be plenty of BEV (battery electric) SUVs on the market. Some will have big batteries and double motors and be pretty fast. Some will look really good,” said Jason Castriota, the company’s brand director for electric vehicles. “No one can combine all those elements and create something that will cut right through the clutter,” he said. “Mustang is power.”

The five-passenger Mach E sort of resembles a Mustang, and Ford says it comes close to matching the car’s performance. Engineers say the base model will have a range of about 230 miles per charge, with a long-range option of more than 300 miles. The base version is expected to go from zero to 60 mph in a little more than six seconds, Ford said, while the performance GT version will do it in about 3.5 seconds.

The base version is rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive options. It has the Mustang pony badge on the front and rear, a long hood and a fastback look at the rear. Yet designers preserved rear-seat headroom with a blacked-out glass roof. The Mustang team set up the Mach E’s chassis tuning, which determines its handling. Designers also copied the Mustang’s triple tail lights.

U.S. orders are being taken now, and the SUV will reach showrooms next fall. The base model will start just less than $44,000, with the GT starting around $65,000. Ford buyers are still eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, which is being phased out at Tesla and General Motors.

Ford has deals with Electrify America and others for a national network that includes over 12,000 charging stations and 35,000 plugs, so EV owners can go on longer trips.

The company also will have 2,100 of its U.S. dealerships certified to service electric vehicles.

Stephanie Brinley, principal auto analyst for IHS Markit, said electric vehicle choices may expand before consumer demand does, but eventually people will buy them.

“The increased number of models with an electric drivetrain will contribute to an increase in sales in the U.S.,” she said. “However, there is likely to be a period where the number of options will increase faster than demand and sales for each will be relatively low,” she said.

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