Ford to Develop Next-Gen EV Platform at Long Beach

Ford has chosen Long Beach, California,  as the official location for the construction of a plant where the U.S. automaker will develop its new electric-vehicle platform. According to Ford, a Skunkworks team based at the Long Beach facility will be tasked with building affordable electric cars on Ford’s next-generation, electric-vehicle platform. With the U.S. market and other large EV markets reeling from falling EV demand due to high costs, lower-priced EVs will be key to Ford remaining competitive in America’s shrinking EV market.

During a February call with investors, Ford CEO Jim Farley revealed that the automaker had been developing a low-cost EV platform in secret via a small Skunkworks team that comprised some of the world’s “best electric-vehicle engineers.” This includes former Tesla engineer Alan Clarke as project lead as well as members who previously worked for Apple, Lucid and Rivian. Ford has also enlisted the expertise of top eVTOL industry players such as Hyundai subsidiary Supernal, Joby and Archer Aviation.

Farley said the Skunkworks team is using a different engineering approach to develop a different product with different chemistry and a significantly smaller battery at “a different cost.” The team is developing the affordable electric car on Ford’s new EV platform, a platform the automaker claims will be flexible enough to support numerous different types of electric cars. Farley described the affordable EV project as a startup that is separate from Ford’s main operations.

A Bloomberg Business report revealed that the team comprised fewer than 10 members a few months ago, but a recent report from TechCrunch shows the team has expanded to nearly 300 members with around 50 engineers coming from Rivian, 20 from Tesla and 12 from Canoo through the past year. Ford also hired 10 people from U.S. electric vehicle startup Lucid as well as some of the engineers from Project Titan, Apple’s ambitious but ultimately discontinued electric-vehicle platform.

Internally referred to as the Ford Advanced EV team, the Skunkworks team is part of a global effort to develop “focused technology” as well as product-development teams at some of the world’s best talent centers, said Ford chief EV, digital and design officer Doug Field. Nearly every automaker in the U.S. market is scrambling to develop an affordable electric vehicle for the general market.

The early-adopter market is largely fulfilled after nearly a decade of premium prices, and general consumers have made it clear that they aren’t willing to shell out tens of thousands of extra dollars for an EV. Carmakers such as Ford and General Motors have now scaled back their ambitious plans for electrification as electric-vehicle demand wanes and unsold EVs build up in dealership lots across the country.

It remains to be seen whether other manufacturers such as Nikola Corporation (NASDAQ: NKLA) will beat Ford to the market for affordable models of electric vehicles.

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