Ford is winding up for a big push into the burgeoning electric vehicle market in the next two years, and it’s partnering with Bord Gáis to provide home charging points.
The deal is one that actually encompasses both the United Kingdom and Ireland, as Centrica – the parent company of both British Gas and Bord Gáis – will actually be the provider of both the chargers and, depending on the customer preference, the energy that feeds them.
“Ford is committed to delivering one of the most comprehensive line-ups of electrified vehicles for our customers, powered through the Ford home charger Wall Boxes,” said Ciarán McMahon, chairman and managing director of Ford in Ireland.
“With their scale, experience and access to the electric grid, our partnership with Centrica will enable us to offer a one-stop shop for our customers as they transition to an electrified vehicle, including exciting new vehicle options, wall box, installation service and electricity tariff.”
The cost of the Ford-Centrica home chargers has not yet been announced, but most home charging systems currently cost between €900 and €1,000, installed, but are eligible in most cases for a €600 grant towards their cost from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
Ford currently does not have a fully electric vehicle on sale in Ireland, nor even a plug-in hybrid. Thus far, the most-electrified vehicle that Ford sells is the Mondeo Hybrid, a competitor to the likes of the Toyota Prius. That will change later this year, as the new Kuga mid-sized SUV will be launched, with mild-hybrid, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid variants.
Next year, we’ll see what could be a crucial vehicle, not least in brand-building terms, for Ford, the Mach One: a fully-electric crossover, drawing styling cues from the Mustang coupe, which is expected to have a one-charge range of more than 600km. That will be followed by an electric Transit van in 2021, and then by 2023, the first of Ford’s electric vehicles that will platform-share with Volkswagen.
The sort of long one-charge range expected for the Mach One (currently a code-name for the project, but it might stick for production) is critical to the Irish Government’s plans for vehicle electrification. With long ranges such as that, electric cars will become, theoretically, less reliant on public fast-charging points, and do more of their charging at home. The Centrica agreement will be crucial for Ford, then, as it seeks to hold its customers hands a little during the changeover to electric power.
Questions have been raised about the availability of home chargers, and the waiting periods for getting one fitted, not least given the Government’s hugely ambitious plans to put almost one million electric cars on the road by 2030.
Electric Ireland, a rival for Centrica in both charging and energy provision, told The Irish Times that it is committed to keeping up with such far-reaching targets. “We strongly support the Government’s electrification of transport target of having 950,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030,” said an Electric Ireland spokesperson. “To date this year, there has been a strong increase in EV sales and we are providing and installing home chargers as ordered. We continue to closely monitor EV sales, and predicted sales, and plan accordingly to ensure our supply satisfies such demand.”
Demand on overall electricity supplies could be a different story. The ESB has previously told The Irish Times that, as a rough rule of thumb, 10,000 new electric cars on the road equates to a 1 per cent increase in total electricity demand. Previous projections showed that the national grid had the capacity to easily meet projected electric car charging demands, but that may well have to be beefed up in light of the one million-EV ambition.
As far as public charging points goes, the Government seems content for now to allow most of the investment in that sphere to come from private sources. Ford itself is investing in such chargers, as part of the IONITY group, which already has one Irish fast-charging hub up and running near Cashel. “The Centrica partnership can be seen as a complement to our participation in the IONITY joint venture that brings together Ford, BMW, Daimler, and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche with the aim of developing and implementing a high-power charging (HPC) network for electric vehicles across Europe, ” a Ford spokesperson said. “Launching approximately 400 HPC stations by 2020, IONITY will make long-distance journeys in electric vehicles easier.”
Right now, Ford in Ireland is undergoing a painful restructuring, with significant job losses on the horizon as Ford cuts its global workforce, and costs, to re-invest in an electric and autonomous future. Ford in Ireland would not confirm how many electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles it intends to sell in the coming years, but unquestionably that part of the market will be crucial to Ford as it tries to turn recent sales declines around.
“It is too early for us to provide specific sales targets for these models but we are confident that our new mild-hybrid, full-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full battery electric models will prove popular with customers and will represent a significant part of our sales figures in the coming years,” said a Ford spokesperson.
Suggestions to the effect that the Centrica agreement, being for both the UK and Ireland, is indicative of a move towards a shared management structure for Ford in both markets as part of the global cost-cutting plans, were rebuffed with no comment.