Research and development

Ford names site for battery development facility

Ford's new facility will house battery research and development.

Ford

Ford is in the news again for its electrification efforts, this time with the confirmation of a Michigan location for a new battery research and development facility in Romulus, Michigan. The facility may eventually help Ford in-source much of its EV supply chain, a shift that could prevent or mitigate the challenges presented by parts and technology shortages.

As part of its electrification initiative, the automaker plans to build a new research and development facility, called Ford Ion Park. The facility will house new tech research, pilot programs for new manufacturing techniques, and will help give Ford more control over its supply chain.


Ford Ion Park Once complete, the facility will initially house 200 engineers.Ford


The price tag for the new facility and related efforts lands at $185 million, which sounds like chump change for a global automaker until we consider that Ford has committed $30 billion to electrification by 2025. The automaker says that its new facility renews its dedication to Michigan as its home base for EV development, a promise it originally made back in 2010. The company's new electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck will be built in Dearborn, which will add 500 jobs. An additional 225 jobs will be retained at Ford's Dyke Electric Powertrain Center.

As part of Phase One of the project, Ford plans to hire 200 engineers within 18 months of the 270,000-square-foot facility's opening. Ironically, the site was previously owned by A123 Systems, a battery manufacturer that closed the facility in 2017 due to low demand for batteries.


Ford Ion Park Ford has committed $185 million to the new facility and related efforts.Ford

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New American pickup truck

The new 2021 Ford F-150 is an all-around performer

The Ford F-150 got a complete overhaul for 2021.

Chris Teague

The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles of all time, coming in second only to the Toyota Corolla in lifetime sales. That makes the F-150 a vitally important model for The Blue Oval, so it's not surprising that it takes updates to the truck very seriously. That was absolutely the case with the all-new 2021 F-150, which sees a load of new tech, evolutionary styling changes, and an impressive new PowerBoost hybrid engine option.

2021 Ford F-150 A new hybrid powertrain option is a headline feature for the new F-150.Chris Teague

Ford offers the F-150 in a staggering number of trim, bed lengths, and powertrain options. Trims include XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. Powertrain configurations include:

  • 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque
  • 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

I spent a week testing the F-150 King Ranch with a SuperCrew cab and the new hybrid powertrain. Pricing for the base F-150 XL starts at just under $31,000, but my King Ranch test truck checked in at $77,125 after a $1,695 destination charge. That bottom line price includes almost $16,000 in options, such as a $1,995 King Ranch chrome package, a $1,495 twin-panel moonroof (worth it), a $1,005 FX4 off-road package, and more.

To find out if the new F-150 justifies its price tag, let's take a closer look at what makes it tick.

2021 Ford F-150 Though new, the 2021 F-150 sports familiar styling.Chris Teague

Powerful, efficient hybrid engine

Don't let the word "hybrid" fool you here – this is a serious powertrain. The PowerBoost twin turbocharged V6 and 35 kW electric motor produce a combined 430 horsepower and a whopping 570 pound-feet of torque, while a ten-speed automatic transmission pairs seamlessly with the engine and delivers smooth, almost imperceptible shifts. The hybrid setup feels a little clunky at low speeds, as the gas engine and electric motors trade off propulsion duties, but it's not a constant issue and does not detract from the truck's overall driving experience.

Depending on the configuration, the F-150 can extend to over 20 feet in length. It's also around eight feet wide, so there's no getting around the fact that it's not ideal as an urban commuter. Even so, the truck's quick, responsive steering makes it feel slightly smaller than it reads on paper, and it offers excellent outward visibility, which makes it less likely that you'll bump into, or run over, an unseen obstacle.

When equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the F-150 also comes standard with a generator built into the bed. A 2.4 kW Pro Power generator is standard, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.2 kW unit for just $750, which is a tremendous bargain in the world of generators. During the winter storms that ravaged Texas earlier this year, there were several reports of people using their new F-150s to power heaters, refrigerators, and other vital household systems while much of the state's power grid was down. Thankfully, my time with the truck was far less dangerous and dramatic, but the generator did get put to use charging my battery-powered chainsaw and tiller while helping a friend clear a small plot of land.

2021 Ford F-150 The new F-150 can be had with a giant 12.0-inch touchscreen.Chris Teague

User-friendly tech and an ultra-plush interior

I've always felt that Ford SYNC 3 was one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and the latest SYNC 4 software improves on that already successful formula. The base F-150 XL runs the system on an 8-inch touchscreen, but my King Ranch test truck came with an available 12-inch display. The screen itself is bright and responsive, and the software's simple, intuitive menu structure makes the whole package less distracting to use while driving. The system offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, HD radio, wireless smartphone charging, and the King Ranch I tested came with an options package that included an upgraded "B&O Sound System Unleashed."

If you had even a slight doubt that pickup trucks are really just lifted luxury cars with towing capabilities, the new F-150 will change your mind. The King Ranch trim comes with soft, exceptionally comfortable leather upholstery, and the front seats offer 10-way adjustability that allows the driver to dial in a near-perfect seating position. At this trim level, the front buckets come with heating and ventilation, but my truck came equipped with the $4,650 601A High package, which brings a massage function with a handful of different programs. It also adds a power tailgate, power-deployable running boards, a better B&O stereo, and 20-inch wheels. The options group is far from cheap, but after a few minutes spent being massaged at a traffic light, the price tag will likely feel like much less of an issue.

Ford stepped up the safety game with the F-150 for 2021. The truck now comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes automatic headlights and high beams, a lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and a rearview camera with hitch assist. The XLT trim and above come with blind spot monitoring and a reverse sensing system, and the King Ranch trim adds adaptive steering, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, and navigation.

2021 Ford F-150 The King Ranch trim features an over-the-top interior with soft leather and premium finishes throughout. Chris Teague

Pricey, but worth the money

Full-size pickup trucks are excessive in many ways, but there's no denying that they are some of the most useful vehicles on the road today. My need for a pickup truck is limited, as I don't tow and rarely haul anything that a midsize SUV can't carry. The cost of a full-size pickup truck, both to buy and operate, is hard to justify for me, but for someone who truly needs a full-size pickup, the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 is a compelling option.

At 24 mpg all around, fuel economy is solid, and the refinement of the powertrain means that there's no operational penalty for choosing the hybrid. On top of that, towing capability climbs to 12,700 pounds when the truck is equipped with an optional trailering package. All of that adds up to an F-150 that earns its price tag and looks good while doing it.

2021 Ford F-150 In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

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The Roadster's specs are impressive, to say the least.

Tesla

Elon Musk took to a stage in late 2017 to announce a new product, the second-generation Tesla Roadster, and the numbers were impressive, even for a guy known to casually drop massive bombshells in 160 characters or less on Twitter. He pledged a 620-mile range and a 0-60 mph time in 1.9 seconds for the car – impressive specs, to be sure. When Musk unveiled the car, production was scheduled to commence some time in 2020, but as we all now know, last year wasn't a banner year for car manufacturing. In January, he pushed that date back to 2022, but the timeline has slipped again - into 2023 at this point - and that's only if everything goes smoothly between now and then.


Tesla Roadster Supply chain issues have caused delays in the Roadster's release.Tesla


Responding to a tweet on Wednesday, Musk stated that "assuming 2022 is not mega drama, new Roadster should ship in 2023." That's a pretty big asterisk, given how things have been going over the last 18 months. It's not surprising, though, and Musk acknowledges what we've known for some time now: The global supply chain is a mess, thanks to microchip shortages and pandemic-related closures and delays. "2021 has been the year of super crazy supply chain shortages," he said, admitting that "it wouldn't matter if we had 17 new products, as none would ship." Again, it's not surprising, but it is most likely frustrating for reservation holders, who've plopped down anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 to hold an order for the Roadster.




Tesla is far from being the only automaker to experience delays, but even if we assume that the rest of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 go smoothly, there's still a lot that can happen. All of Tesla's suppliers would have to get their ducks in a row and there can be no COVID-related production delays. That would also peg 2022 as one of the automaker's flagship years for product releases, with both the Semi and Cybertruck on the schedule. It's possible, but far from guaranteed, that all of those pieces fall into place, making Tesla's 2022 a banner year. As for the Roadster, 2023 could be the year that we're all blown away by its range and acceleration, but recent history suggests that anything can happen at any time, so we won't be holding our breath.

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