Tesla, Ford share visions of electric futures
Tesla Cybertruck
Photo: Tesla

Tesla, Ford share visions of electric futures

Mustang Mach-E is a small electric crossover take on the iconic pony car, and the Cybertruck is an origami exercise in sharp angles

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November 25, 2019

Cleveland, Ohio – What will electric vehicle (EV) drivers want next year and in 2022, a sporty crossover that borrows from the auto industry’s iconic past or a geometric design that looks like nothing that’s ever graced American roads?

Will drivers want Ford’s Mustang Mach-E or Tesla’s Cybertruck.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

If the answer is that they want something right away, the Ford is the better choice. The automaker plans to go into production soon with deliveries toward the end of next year.

credit | Ford Motor Co.
Ford Mustang Mach-E

While Ford officials hope the Mustang name invokes sportiness (332hp, 417 lb-ft of torque power targets), the ’60s model changed the auto industry by making sportiness inexpensive. The Mach-E will start at about $44,000 (before any EV tax credits) and top out at more than $60,000 – both numbers are pretty close to Tesla’s similarly sized Model 3.

“The Mustang Mach-E wholeheartedly rejects the notion that electric vehicles are only good at reducing gas consumption,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “People want a car that’s thrilling to drive, that looks gorgeous and that can easily adapt to their lifestyle – and the Mustang Mach-E delivers all of this in unmatched style.”

Buyers can place a $500 deposit to reserve a Mach-E for 2020 delivery. The more powerful GT models won’t be available until early 2021.

With batteries integrated into the car’s underbody and electric motors situated throughout its structure, the Mustang Mach-E has a front-trunk (frunk as Tesla calls it). For that space, Ford borrowed from Honda’s Ridgeline pickup, making the space waterproof and drainable, so owners can fill it with ice and drinks for tailgate parties.

Mustang Mach-E will be available with a standard 75.7kWh lithium-ion battery, good for about 230 miles, or an optional 98.8kWh battery for about 300 miles of range.

Tesla Cybertruck

The electric pickup’s design is instantly polarizing. Some Tesla fans have gushed over its radical wedge shape, saying it’s proof that the California company isn’t tied to any of the industry’s conventions.

Everyone else says it's just ugly.

Really ugly.

Dear Lord, why would you do that to innocent sheet metal ugly.

[UPDATE] The polarizing looks aren't lowering enthusiasm from the Tesla faithful. CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter Monday that 200,000 people have put $100 refundable deposits down to reserve trucks.

Attempts at shattering the industry’s classic sideways-L-shape pickup design haven’t gone so well in the past. Honda’s first Ridgeline was similarly wedge-like (though it had some smoothed edge instead of looking like something that will cut your hand if you touch a crease). It didn’t sell well.

Back to the Future may fit the Tesla pickup, though, as it uses an unpaintable stainless steel shell, a la the DeLorean made famous in the 1985 movie.

Once you get past the exterior, though, the Cybertruck’s pricing and capabilities put it very much in the pickup mainstream.

  • Towing: 14,000 lb (Ford F-150 EcoBoost with tow package tops out at 13,100 lb)
  • Payload: 3,500 lb (F-150 tops out at 3,270 lb)
  • Ground clearance: up to 16” (F-150 Raptor tops out at 11.5”)

Those stats are for the Tri-motor, AWD version, a pickup that starts at about $70,000. Less-powerful, shorter-range models start at $40,000. Those aren’t small numbers, but average truck prices are hovering around $50,000, so it’s in a realistic realm. [UPDATE] In his tweets, Musk said about 42% of truck orders have been for the mid-range dual-motor model that starts at $50,000. About 41% have been for high-end tri-motor models that start at $70,000, and 17% are for the $40,000 mono-motor model.

A challenge for the Cybertruck, though, will be timing. Tesla has led the U.S. market in launching EV cars and SUVs, but the Cybertruck doesn’t go into production until late 2021, and customers won’t likely receive their purchases until 2022. And, that’s if Tesla hits production deadlines, something the company has never successfully done in its history.

By the time the Cybertruck hits the market, Rivian will be about a year into production of its electric pickups, as will Lordstown Motors. Ford has promised an all-electric F-150 for 2021, and General Motors has discussed launching its electric pickups within 18 months as well.

So, the Cybertruck will likely arrive already facing two giant automakers and two startups which all have 18-to-24-month head starts on the EV pioneer. And, the distinctive looks of the Tesla may limit its appeal.

That said, GM beat Tesla to market with the Chevrolet Bolt on sale nearly a year before the Model 3 launched, but most EV drivers were willing to wait for the Tesla.

Executives as the automaker are just hoping that ramp-up and launch go better than the vehicle’s unveiling. At a glitzy launch event in Los Angeles, California, Tesla officials bragged about the indestructibility of the cold-rolled steel body by hitting it with a sledgehammer.

So far, so good.

They then bragged about the bulletproof windows, demonstrating the shatter-resistant nature of the laminated ceramic by throwing metal balls at the openings. Unfortunately, the glass shattered.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net