Could Ford’s Gigantic Investment in the Future of Electric Transportation Hasten the Arrival of an Electric Bronco?
After getting somewhat of a late start on its entry into the electric vehicle market, it appears that Ford is doing all that it can to make up for lost time, including shelling out some serious cash. The company’s announcement that it would be partnering with its battery producing partner, SK Innovation of South Korea, to sink more than $11 billion into creating an unbreakable supply chain for its electric vehicles can’t help but be a game changer for the entire automotive industry.
Could We See a Fully Electric Bronco Even Sooner Than Initially Expected?
It would also seem to make the emergence of a fully electric Bronco a much stronger likelihood. As this announced expenditure comes on the heels of Ford’s $950 million investment in its Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan to build the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning, there’s no mistaking that the company is dead serious about converting a sizable percentage of its product line to electric propulsion in short order.
There’s an undeniably strategic competitive element to Ford’s move. With the proven ability to produce its innovative, high-performance pickup, coupled with the future emergence of no fewer than three new battery plants that will result from this investment, Ford is taking the necessary steps to ensure it will remain a prime mover as electric vehicles migrate to the mainstream at a pace most of us would have thought to be impossible just a year or two ago.
While several avenues are already available to the manufacturer in its quest to equip the Bronco with category-topping power via gas-powered powerplants, Ford has already proven its ability to inject exhilarating performance into an electric vehicle via its very popular Mach E GT —an SUV that’s capable of doing 0-60 in the mid-3s. In designing and fortifying its own electric vehicle supply chain, Ford will almost certainly be applying the same treatment to the Bronco very soon.
Learning From the Pandemic Fallout
Ford’s quest to take production-related matters into its own proverbial hands may well have been spurred along in part by a lesson gleaned through the pandemic. The entire automotive industry has been hamstrung by the semiconductor chip shortage that arose in its wake, with Ford sustaining no more fallout than most other companies — maybe even less — but the pitfalls of depending on outside sources for essential components have been underscored in stark detail.
Just as Tesla announced that it would take over control of key elements of its own semi-conductor chip production in the future, Ford is taking the necessary steps to attain a greater degree of future security by bringing a huge portion of its entire electric propulsion supply chain in-house. While it’s unlikely that the resulting production will be sufficient to cover all of Ford’s battery needs in the short term, that could change as production procedures get more refined and the market continues to show interest —which it undoubtedly will.
Ford’s plans call for the creation of a sprawling 3,600-acre mega-campus in west Tennessee, called Blue Oval City, that’s already being touted as the most efficient facility in Ford’s century-plus existence. It’s also anticipated to be noteworthy as far as its “zero waste to landfill” processes, which will put an emphasis on properly separating and then routing production scrap to recycling facilities — both on- and off-site. The assembly plant is also expected to show the same regard for the environment in terms of its emission goals.
Meanwhile in central Kentucky, Ford will build its Blue Oval SK Battery Park — which will be tasked with producing even more lithium-ion batteries — in just a few years.
This is especially welcome news for the two states, as Ford’s move is expected to create nearly 11,000 jobs, and construction will get underway as early as the end of this year.
Ford is Also Insulating Its Supply Chain from Potentially Volatile International Relations
There’s also an undeniable international security aspect involved in Ford’s decision to bring a substantial amount of its battery supply chain in-house. Chinese company Jiangxi Ganfeng is the largest lithium metal producer in the world and has lithium resources in multiple countries. Bolstering its own already substantial profile on the rapidly emerging electric battery landscape, China has within its boundaries lithium reserves that are currently estimated to be in the top 3 worldwide.
Moving forward, Ford, as well as other American automotive manufacturers, will be very dependent on an unbreakable supply chain for its battery supply as the company's electric vehicle initiatives come to fruition. Circumventing a huge and often unpredictable player in the lithium industry in any way possible represents a gigantic step in achieving this goal. Countries such as Chile, Australia and Argentina have substantial lithium reserves of their own and potentially offer a hedge against any potential repercussions from China in the event of a downturn in our two countries’ sometimes volatile relationship.
The potential effects of such volatility in international relations were underscored back in the ’70s, as both the automotive industry and the American public felt the fallout of two separate oil embargos imposed by Middle Eastern OPEC countries.
With Ford’s ambitious plan rapidly coming to fruition, there becomes an increasing likelihood that electric vehicles will eventually regain the preeminent standing they had more than a century ago, with fully electric Broncos becoming a common sight. It’ll be interesting to watch the process unfold.