Ford F-150 2021 will test if truck buyers really want hybrids

A fully hybrid pickup represents a huge leap for Ford (F). While hybrid trucks have been offered before, they have generally been of the “soft hybrid” variety, using small electric motors to provide minor gains in fuel efficiency. As the undisputed market leader, Ford could have continued with its traditional line of engines. But instead, he decided to invest in a hybrid system capable of meeting the demands of his demanding truck buyers.
It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the F-150 to Ford. The F-series trucks, which include the F-150 and its larger Super Duty siblings, such as the F-250 and F-450, have been The best-selling vehicles in America for over 40 years Buyers collected nearly 900,000 F-series trucks in 2019, accounting for more than a third of Ford’s U.S. sales, and are responsible for a large portion of Ford’s profits in North America.

Ford has been willing to make major revisions to the F-150 before. In 2014, Ford introduced an F-150 that featured a lightweight aluminum body that improved fuel economy while allowing for increased load capacity. Automobiles, particularly luxury automobiles, have been made with lightweight aluminum bodies before. but it was a radical idea for a “Built Ford Tough” truck.

Competitive ads, particularly from General Engines (GM), took the idea of ​​an aluminum truck, but the F-150 maintained its classification as the best-selling vehicle in the United States and the aluminum bodies have continued as a feature of the F-150. Even GM’s flagship truck, the Chevrolet Silverado, now contains a large chunk of aluminum alloys in its body.
This time, Ford will unveil the first complete hybrid option for a large truck from a major manufacturer. GM offered soft hybrid trucks years ago and Ram, the North American truck division of Fiat Chrysler Cars (FCAU), offers smooth hybrid options in your pickups now.

But those are very different from what Ford will offer. Smooth hybrid vehicles only have small battery packs and weak electric motors designed just to help the vehicle move. They achieve somewhat better fuel economy, but trucks cannot drive using electric power alone.

A complete hybrid vehicle, such as a Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid or the truck that Ford will present, stores energy in relatively large battery packs and has stronger engines that can drive the vehicle, at least at low speeds and under light loads, without the gas engine having to run at all. Hybrids do not need to be plugged in, although some may be an option. Instead they store energy when the gasoline engine is running and during braking.

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People tend to associate hybrid technology with relatively small and light vehicles they are not designed to work hard. So it will be interesting to see how well people embrace Ford’s new hybrid option on the F-150. Much It will depend on how well it is designed and how much it can do beyond saving fuel. Ivan Drury, an industry analyst with said.

Of course, saving money on gas is important to a significant portion of truck buyers. These are big vehicles that come with big fuel bills, so anything that can take a toll on that is a huge benefit, especially for fleet customers. But buyers also want the towing and hauling capabilities they’re buying a truck for in the first place.

Saving fuel and being able to work hard are not incompatible. A good example is Ford’s presentation in 2011 of its turbocharged EcoBoost V6 motor as option on the F-150, Drury said. Originally greeted with skepticism, the EcoBoost engine was adopted by buyers of the F-150 once the technology proved to be capable of running on a hard-working truck, he said.

“The EcoBoost is a case where they deployed it and the [customer acceptance] just go up and up and up, “he said.

Today, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost is the most popular engine option in the F-150, according to Ford.

Price will also be a critical factor for Ford’s new hybrid truck. Acceptance of the hybrid option will depend on whether it will be priced as a niche option for wealthy shoppers and business fleets, said Allyson Harwood, analyst at Kelly Blue Book.

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“I think they want this to be something that people see as a valid option for them when buying a truck,” said Harwood. “Therefore, it would be in everyone’s interest to have that available at a fairly reasonable upgrade price.”

Ford will continue Drury said he offers his main V8 and diesel engines in the F-150, because there are customers who will simply insist on what has always worked for them. But Ford’s penchant for innovation It will help propel the entire industry forward, he said.

“People sit and look at the innovator,” he said, “and the receptivity to what Ford does is a litmus test for all the other brands to see how far they can go with this supposedly very traditional market.”

Ford also plans a fully electric version of the Ford F-150, although the truck is not expected to be unveiled Thursday. The electric truck market will be much more crowded than the hybrid truck market.

Ford’s electric F-150 will have to compete against other electric trucks. In addition to Tesla’s Cybertruck, General Motors is working on its new GMC Hummer electric truck, as well as others. Rivian, a Michigan-based startup in which Ford has invested $ 500 million, is also making an electric truck. (Ford has said that its electric truck will not use Rivian technology.) Nokia (NOK), an alternative fuel semi-trucking company is also working on an electric van, while Lordstown Motors, a company that bought GM’s Lordstown assembly plant, plans to make an electric truck there.