Ford Motor is responding to the increasing demand for electric cars, announcing Thursday that it will invest $4.5 billion to build 13 new electric models by 2020.
Mark Fields, CEO of the Detroit-based automaker, said at a press conference in Dearborn, Mich. that 40 percent of its models around the world will have versions powered by electricity by the end of the decade, . EVs currently make up 13 percent of Ford's lineup.
The first of these 13 new electric cars will be the 2017 Ford Focus Electric, which will come with a 100 mile range and a battery that charges up to 80 percent in 30 minutes on a single charge, up from the currently Focus Electric's 76 mile range and battery charges up to 80 percent in about 2.5 hours. Customers in North America and Europe will be able to get their hands on this car at the end of 2016.
The Focus is one of three electric cars currently sold by Ford, with the other two being the Fusion and the C-Max, both of which are available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, .
The new investment is the latest made by Ford in the electric car field, having previously helped fund a $9 million lab at the University of Michigan that opened in 2013 and aims to build smaller, lighter and cheaper batteries.
Ford's electric cars will be built at the Ford Engineering Laboratory in Dearborn, which works with colleagues in China, England and Germany. The company has so far hired over 120 engineers to help build lighter, durable electric car batteries at the facility.
Fields said at the press conference that Ford believes plug-in hybrid systems, which sometimes let drivers operate on batteries recharged from the grid and gasoline at other times, will be the most preferred driving option in the future, . This may be because plug-in hybrid batteries are lighter and don't cost as much to make as those required to meet the 200-range for EVs.
Ford will have plenty of contenders to deal with in 2020 in the all-electric and plug-in hybrid game. These competitors will include General Motors with its Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla with its Model S and Model 3, and Audi, which has an SUV in development for a 2018 debut and looks to have one quarter of its U.S. cars be plug-ins by 2025.