Ford's top executive argues that self-driving hybrids make better business sense than EVs due to their longer ranges.
While most automakers are aiming to apply self-driving technology to fully electric cars in the future, Ford initially intends to steer in a different direction than the competition. In a report by Automotive News, a company executive admitted that the self-driving car Ford intends to release in 2021 will be a brand new, purpose-built hybrid, unlike other automakers like Mercedes-Benz and Nissan that are experimenting with fully electric autonomous cars.
Ford is hoping that adopting hybrid powertrains will give the automaker an advantage, since gasoline-powered autonomous cars will have longer ranges than its competitor’s electric cars. After all, filling up a gas tank is considerably quicker than waiting for an EV to recharge. “We think what's important is to verify the business model. The most important thing is that we execute well. We don't want to get ahead of our skis,” Ford's top sales executive, Jim Farley, argues that designing a new vehicle to be autonomous instead of converting an existing model, as GM has done with the Bolt, should better serve commercial businesses.
Of course, Ford’s main aim here is to make its self-driving hybrid more profitable. Whereas EVs typically require multiple recharges per day, Ford expects its autonomous car to stay on the road for around 20 hours a day. “Anytime you're not carrying goods and people, you're losing money,” he continued. “The most important thing is uptime and profitability. What we see is the [hybrid] is a much better cost-of-ownership model.” Whereas GM is testing autonomous Bolts for a ride-hailing service in various US cities, Ford is taking an alternative route. Instead, Ford’s autonomous hybrid will be used for a variety of commercial purposes such as package delivery.
This was evident a few months ago when Ford announced a pilot with Domino’s to deliver pizza in a self-driving car. "We have to have a more diverse revenue model than ride-hailing," Farley said. "I think in this world, you can hear all sorts of examples of getting out there and building a platform, but the business model — how this all comes together — is very important for us. We want to be production-ready, commercial-ready from day one."