Last January, Ford Motor Company announced that it would introduce a hybrid version of the ever-popular Ford F-150 pickup truck by the year 2020. The gas-electric hybrid truck is crucial if Ford wants to meet the federal fuel economy standards put in place under the Obama administration – and frankly, even if those standards are repealed under President Trump, Ford is lagging behind General Motors when it comes to electrification. A hybridized model in America’s best-selling vehicle range for 35 straight years could go a long way toward earning Ford brownie points with environmentalists and investors alike.
That is, assuming the company can manage to sell it.
The thing is, according to Bloomberg, fuel economy isn’t especially high on the average truck buyer’s list of demands, ranking in at No. 28 behind things like durability, reliability, and roominess. In order to create value that the market will actually respond to, Ford’s President of North America Raj Nair said in January the company will stress the added capability that an electric motor/generator and a big battery pack can provide in the Ford F-150.
This will derive not only from the increased acceleration/towing performance that an electric drive motor can provide, but from the practical utility that can be extracted from the battery. As Raj Nair told Roadshow, “we’re talking about a hybrid that can tow, and also serve as a mobile generator on a work site,” providing 110V power to power tools, lights, and more.
“The battery in the hybrid F-150 not only feeds the electric motor, it’s a mobile generator that can keep the beer cool at a tailgate party, charge your miter saw and run the coffee maker on a camping trip,” writes Bloomberg‘s Keith Naughton.
It’s a smart strategy; get the average US truck buyer to opt for the more expensive, more fuel-efficient version of the Ford F-150 by lumping in the sort of capability that they actually want. Whether or not it will actually work remains to be seen, but Ford has little choice in the matter if they want to meet federal CAFE standards or put forth their own answer to GM’s coming electric onslaught.