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The future Ford F-150: A sedan in the making

  • September 7, 2016
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North America’s best selling truck

Between 2011 and 2016, the price of North America’s best selling truck – the Ford F-150 – has increased in price by 24%. Some of the price increases we can contribute to amazing features like back up cameras, navigation, driving assists and smart technology overall.

What many people might not know is that the Ford F-150 is starting to struggle with US carbon emission standards. This is expected to increase the price of the Ford F-150 in the future.

In July 2011, the Obama Administration announced the the average fuel economy for vehicles has to increase to 54% by 2025. The goal here is to fight climate change and get carbon emission levels 28% below 2005 levels. For the first time ever, the US has imposed these standards on medium to heavy-duty vehicles.

This means the Ford F-150 – the most profitable truck in North America – needs to reduce fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions or face uncertainty. In the US, if you don’t abide by fuel economy standards, you get a slap on the wrist and a small fine. When it comes to greenhouse gases however, there’s a good chance you’ll be shut down.

Ford has been aware of these challenges for years now and has been combating them quite successfully. With Ford’s recent F-150 models however, there seems to be a slump in progress.


Compromising the Ford F-150 engine

Just recently, Ford spent $1.2 billion on retooling their F-150 production facilities to help make the F-series more environmentally friendly. The $1.2 billion price tag made the newer F-series models lighter with a new aluminum body, a smaller turbocharged engine and even a super light steel frame. Despite the brilliant effort from Ford, over 40% of the new F-series on the roads today do not meet 2016 carbon emission standards.

In order to meet the ambitious 2025 standards, Ford is going to need to think outside of the box and get their powerful V8 engines up to speed with environmental standards. In December 2015, Ford CEO Mark Fields confirmed that Ford will produce an F-150 hybrid with rear-wheel-drive by 2020. Other uses of existing technology that could help the Ford include making the F-150 a 10-speed with a 4-cylinder engine. This obviously compromises towing, payload and off-road capabilities. But Ford has also announced a $4.5 billion investment into a full electrification of 4 vehicles by 2020 – CEO Mark Fields did not specify which models will have full electrification by then. But whether or not the F-series can keep up with these goals, other companies see this as an opportunity to become North America’s best selling pickup truck.

Surprisingly, there are no factory-made pickup truck hybrids made in North America today. The closest hybrid pickup you can get to is from a company by the name of VIA Motors. This newly founded company has begun retrofitting existing US pickup trucks with battery technology to convert them into hybrids. This is actually the World’s first electric hybrid pickup truck. VIA Motors believes that trucks will inevitably be battery powered and that there’s an opportunity in the marketing for hybrid and electric pickup trucks.


Hybrid and electric pickup trucks

VIA Motors’ pride and joy model, the eRev Powertrain, gets 65 km of electrical range and 643 km of fuel range with a 4.3L V6 hybrid engine. On top of the fuel economy created by the eRev Powertrain, you get extended range as the gasoline engine charges the batteries for future use. Although these are mainly available for GMC trucks, VIA Motors expects to expand the eRev Powertrain to other models like the Ford F-150.

Unfortunately, the eRev Powertrain models don’t expect to hit the average consumer until 2018. This leaves a two year span for VIA Motors to break into the market while the F-150 suffers with fuel economy standards.

This two year span is also an opportunity for more nimble companies like Toyota or Tesla Motors to come to the market with a newly branded pickup truck. With Tesla being a leader in the Electrical Vehicle (EV) industry, it’s highly possible that a concept Tesla pickup truck has already been in the works. It might be years after the Model 3 until we actually see something from Tesla Motors.


New environment, new competition

While other companies goes fully electric, Ford may have to resort to a sedan-like truck with two-wheel-drive and a 4-cylinder engine in order to meet carbon emission requirements. By then, most consumers might be more keen on choosing a more powerful truck with payload and towing capabilities – ultimately stealing the show from Ford for North America’s top selling pickup truck. Even if Ford manages to stay #1 through 2019 and 2020, the F-150 faces challenges in it’s new environment with EVs.

Once Ford reaches 2020 carbon emission standards with their new hybrid, they will need to struggle with 5 more years of ambitious standards before they’re in the clear.

The future of the Ford F-150 is going to inevitably change. Let’s just hope we get the pick-up truck we know and love by 2025 rather than a sedan-like truck.




VIA Motors:
White House:

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