Ford Making a Big Bet on a Sure Thing

Let’s face it: the future of personal transportation isn’t gasoline or diesel fuel

By Gary S. Vasilash

Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product platform and operations officer (think of him as the guy who is in charge of product development) points out that the company has announced that it is in the process of investing $22-billion in electrified vehicles through 2025.

And because making a transformation from a dependence on engines that run on liquids to motors that run on electricity is no mean feat, Thai-Tang says that the company is kicking in an additional $185-million, this for developing and equipping a 200,00-square-foot facility that will be known as “Ford Ion Park.”

That’s ion as in a net electrical charge.

The learning lab, which is going to be located somewhere in southeastern Michigan (let’s see: Ford HQ is in Dearborn; it has a Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park; it is restoring the Michigan Central train station in Detroit where it will be creating an innovation hub), will be a place where they will be able to not only determine the best ways and means to develop batteries—lithium-ion and solid-state types—but also how to pilot the production of them.

Don’t try this at home! Mary Fredrick, Ford battery validation engineer, and Dane Hardware, Ford design and release engineer, measuring the voltage of a battery at the Ford Battery Benchmarking and Test Lab. (Image: Ford)

There will be some 150 employees (manufacturing, engineering, product development, purchasing, quality, planning) at the site.

Given the success of things like the Mustang Mach-E, which Thai-Tang says is on dealer lots for about a week before it is snapped up by a customer, an inventory turn time that is nothing short of astonishing in an industry that typically has vehicles on dealer lots for a few months, not a few days (although this has been changed by the global microchip shortage that came right on the proverbial heels of the factory shutdowns last year caused by COVID-19), Ford sees that there is a need to get the wherewithal to produce more EVs (an electric Transit is coming later this year; the electric F-150 by mid-22), and so it is creating the capacity that will allow it to ramp batteries faster.

Thai-Tang notes, of the overall drive toward electrification: “We will no longer take an approach of hedging our bets.”

With the billions it is spending, seems like it is pretty much pushing in a lot of chips.