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Ford flat on electric-driven future

Charrrrrrge: Ford’s electric Fiesta prototype uses in-wheel electric motors that produce sportscar-rivalling performance.

Electric Fiesta of interest to Ford Australia, but timing is everything

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Ford logo2 May 2013

By BARRY PARK

FORD says it will sit and wait to see what technology rolls out before introducing its first electric car to the Australian market.

The car-maker’s European division this week rolled out a prototype Fiesta city car featuring low-cost in-wheel electric motors.

The eWheelDrive system, developed in partnership with German engineering company Schaeffler, produces a staggering 700Nm of torque — about the same as a high-performance twin-turbocharged V8 — almost from idle.

The electric motors’ compact packaging, which allows them to fit inside the Fiesta’s rear wheels, also means more scope is available for the car-maker to shrink the size of a two-seat version of the electric vehicle to about that of a Smart Fortwo.

Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald told GoAuto that the electric vehicle market here was still evolving, and while the car-maker had not yet made any firm decisions, it was watching with interest.

“Unlike Europe and Japan, Australians generally driver longer distances, often in more sparsely populated areas,” Mr McDonald said.

“So EV range anxiety is a tangible concern for customers, where it may not be in other markets with shorter distances and an adequate number of charging outlets.

“Certainly the EV infrastructure is something that’s being looked at by various local governments in Australia and how EVs fit into the Australian urban landscape is something we’ll continue to look at,” he said.

Mr McDonald said another key consideration for Australian owners was the purchase cost, particularly with private buyers, and even early adopters.

“... Any business case for an EV has to be right,” Mr McDonald said.

“In the light and small car segments many customers are first-time buyers too, so price is a key consideration.”

In the meantime, Mr McDonald said, Ford would instead champion its EcoBoost technology, introducing small-capacity turbocharged engines that provide bigger performance numbers than the cylinder count, and displacement, suggest.

It has already rolled out EcoBoost to models including the Ford Falcon, which uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that almost matches the 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder for performance.

Other Ford-badged cars using the technology include the Mondeo mid-size sedan and wagon, Kuga small soft-roader and the firebrand Focus ST.

The next models to receive Ford’s EcoBoost touch are the Fiesta city car and EcoSport compact soft-roader, which will both get a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine.

“We see EcoBoost as a tangible proof point of fuel efficiency using the modern technologies in conventional internal combustion engines,” Mr McDonald said.

“Ford does have a range of EV and hybrid vehicles available in other markets, so as a global company we do offer a range of powertrains for different markets and continue to develop and test alternative technologies, like the in-wheel (electric) Fiesta.”

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