Is An Electric Bronco on Its Way? Yes, But Not From Ford (Yet)
The soon to arrive Ford Bronco is a prime example of taking an iconic model out of retirement and equipping it with modern tech and safety features while wisely leaving all those vintage styling cues that made it so popular in the first place largely intact. Its development process could easily be viewed as a not-so-distant cousin of restomodding, which actually starts with a genuinely classic vehicle, as opposed to a modern take on one.
Is An Electric Bronco Ford's Next Logical Step?
But could the Bronco’s modernization be taken even one step further in the form of electrical propulsion? After all, a number of journalists and aftermarket fabricators alike have gone on record as saying that equipping a classic with an electric drivetrain amounts to “the ultimate restomod”. The automotive purists among us might bristle at the very suggestion of such a thing, but there’s no denying that EVs are becoming increasingly mainstream each year — they’re even doubling their number of new registrations year over year in some markets.
Certainly, the technology has its decided advantages. EVs are very green as far as emissions are concerned and even when the amount of oil required to charge them is factored in, they offer fuel economy that makes even the most frugal of their gas-powered counterparts seem thirsty by comparison. And then, of course, we have the performance component. Despite once being seen as fringe vehicles largely relegated to golf courses and retirement homes, EVs have come a long way and many now offer acceleration that leaves most conventionally propelled cars in the dust.
As an example, Tesla now offers some of the fastest production cars in existence — their S-series Plaid Edition packs a whopping 1100 horsepower and boasts a sub 2 second 0-60 time that will smoke even a Bugatti Veyron costing literally 20 times more.
So, since Ford has already shown a willingness to resuscitate a revered nameplate like the Mustang — to be used on an all-electric SUV, no less — equipping an undeniable classic like the Bronco with state of the art electric technology doesn’t seem far fetched at all.
No Electric Bronco Just Yet
Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how you look at it — Ford has no immediate plans to offer the Bronco in EV form, although it’s a possibility for the future. Logic, as well as market forces, would suggest that it would be more of a probability. Industry rival Chevy has already confirmed the pending release of an electrically powered Silverado in a couple of years that will be among the “bar-raisers” of the technology, as it will arrive with an ultra-impressive 400 miles of range that would put it on nearly equal footing with its gasoline counterparts as far as its roaming ability between re-fuelings.
GMC also made a pretty big impact with the announced 2023 release of its EV Hummer, which it is positioning as a sort of “Super SUV” that will come with 830 horsepower, about 11,000lb.-ft. of torque and anticipated otherworldly acceleration. Of course, it will also come with a price tag in excess of $100,000 that will put it out of reach of the mainstream buying public.
More to the point, Ford itself will be unveiling an EV take on its heralded F-150 pickup in about a year, touting it as the fastest F-150 ever offered and crowning it with the revered Lightning name carried by Ford’s top-tier pickups of decades past. That would likely put the Lightning’s 0-60 abilities in the sub-5 second range, since Car and Driver once clocked a 2001 SVT F-150 at an impressive 5.2.
For those would-be buyers willing to put one foot in the electric camp while keeping the other firmly planted in traditional gasoline propulsion, Ford CEO Jim Hackett has already confirmed that a Ford Bronco hybrid could very well be released sometime this year as a 2022 model, equipped with an electrical assist that will enhance the already considerable capabilities of Ford’s twin-turbo 3.0 liter V6.
Aftermarket Customizers Are Stepping Up
That’s not to say that you can’t get behind the wheel of an EV Bronco in the near future — assuming your wallet can withstand the strain of a purchase and you don’t plan on driving too far between re-fuelings. The automotive aftermarket is already tooling up to serve this niche, though its current offerings are limited to Broncos in their nostalgia-inducing classic form.
Illinois-based Gateway Bronco, already a respected creator of inspired takes on the model, is up and running with a classic, electrically-powered Bronco that’s a pretty enticing combination of vintage aesthetics with modern technology. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the incredible driving experience that would result from pairing the instant torque of electric propulsion and surefooted 4-wheel drive.
Gateway’s EV Broncos will be able to log 0-60 in under 6 seconds, but while their estimated range of 200 miles between charges is an improvement over a number of EV models currently offered, it still may not be quite enough for many SUV enthusiasts. The prospect of negotiating rough terrain with essentially no motor noise would be a novel experience for sure, but the fear of being stranded with depleted batteries en route to a weekend adventure could be a deterrent. And, of course, at a starting price of $265,000, a Gateway Bronco will only be finding itself pulling into the garages of a fortunate few.
A literal next-door neighbor to Tesla in Hawthorne, CA, Zero Labs will also be on board with a classic Bronco take of their own, which will start with a first-generation Bronco body — either a sourced original or an accurate recreation — that will be ornamented by some details recreated in carbon fiber and fitted together with decidedly modern-level tolerances. The first examples of their handiwork should be rolling out late this year.
Whereas Bronco engine options offered relatively modest power back in the mid-’60s, there’ll be no acceleration issues with a Zero Labs Bronco. They’ll be equipping their Broncos with electric motors originally designed for racing applications and carrying anywhere from 300 to 600hp. Acceleration will no doubt be exhilarating, and a driving range estimated to be around 235 miles will make a Zero Labs Bronco viable for short haul excursions, although its anticipated price tag, which Zero Labs hasn’t yet disclosed but hints at on their website, will mean that any spirited off-roading will likely not be on the menu for owners.
Zero Labs Bronco’s aesthetic appeal, however, is undeniable and they’ll be including some components that will bring a smile to the face of any off-roading enthusiast, including solid Dana axles at both ends and a vintage-inspired squared up dash that will house an assortment of unmistakably modern components and displays. Despite being essentially hand-made vehicles — as even the units starting with original vintage Bronco bodies are completely disassembled and positioned on proprietary chassis — these Broncos will arrive at their new homes with appropriately vintage VIN numbers.