Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV: 5 geeky details show Ford’s commitment to EVs

A special group within Ford, called Team Edison, has been navigating a daunting challenge—to thread the needle between performance enthusiasts and tech-savvy electric-car fans, assuring that the inner workings of a mammoth company wouldn’t stifle the project along the way. 

That project, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, remains due for first deliveries later this year. And even though Ford has already revealed many interesting details for this important EV—and Green Car Reports has already had a ride in one—we’re still discovering new details about what makes this project so different.

In a Q&A session Wednesday with members of the automotive press, Mark Kaufman, the company’s global director of electrification, provided a number of rather geeky details about the Mach-E that show the company is spending extra effort to be used for a multitude of future EV models. Here are five such nuggets.

There are at least two battery “tunes”

The Mach-E has to satisfy those who want a 300-mile range, while also satisfying those who buy the high-performance GT and use it mostly in its high-performance “Unbridled” mode. Within the Extended Range battery option, the team established a dividing line between the rear-wheel-drive version and the all-wheel-drive version, and corresponding differences in the battery design.

“The all-wheel drive delivers the performance, and because of that performance the team even had to design the battery and how the battery’s used a bit differently so that it can actually pull power out faster,” Kaufman said. “So there’s the tradeoff as the team approached it.”

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

It’s a rapid-prototyping prodigy

Under CEO Jim Hackett, Ford has focused more on a strategy of rapid prototyping to get the best designs possible—and even pushing ideas out for testing on consumers very early in the process, when they are just sketches or loose mockups. Kaufman says that a lot of the early work Ford did with rapid prototyping, and in China, helped influence some of the design-interface aspects of the Mach-E, particularly the big 15.5-inch screen size. 

Rapid prototyping for the Mach-E’s interface started about two and a half years ago, and early on they learned that customers appreciated still having a volume knob without having to look at the screen. Kaufman said that the clever solution the team came up with involves bypassing a potentially complex switch behind the screen and instead using very small “fingers” behind the knob that press and swipe against a particular zone of the screen. 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

That big screen displays in html!

The so-called Sync 4A system that makes its debut in the Mach-E is different than those in other current Ford vehicles, and rather than being hard-coded like Ford’s previous infotainment systems, it displays in the now-common HTML5, like the device you’re reading this on. Kaufman called it a breakthrough, as it lets the system customize the layout and move some of your most frequently used features to the foreground. It also allows for future upgrades that might completely change the look.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, 2019 LA Auto Show

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, 2019 LA Auto Show

There’s a cybersecurity team behind the over-the-air updates

Ford has an in-house cybersecurity team that’s simultaneously looking at complying with privacy laws but also making sure that the systems are being protected. “In some ways I would say it’s probably slowed us down just a little bit from where we’d like to be,” Kaufman said (just after discussing the Mach-E’s capability for regular over-the-air updates). “We take our customer trust very seriously,” he added. 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Ford’s Autopilot and Super Cruise rival: coming soon over the air?

The Mach-E will be one of the first mass-produced models on the market—Tesla aside—to allow over-the-updates for top-level features like vehicle firmware. Ford expects to offer its first updates for the Mach-E within six months of first deliveries. Kaufman provided a further hint: Within the first six months it will have “an additional Driver Assist capability that can be downloaded.” 

Kaufman didn’t say whether that’s alluding to the optional assist system that Ford plans to dispatch to the Mach-E, to rival Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, and delivered via electronic purchase. But it sure sounds like it.

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