Ford's game of catch-up in the electrified vehicle field has found another gear with this news as it is a significant step in helping it achieve its goal of 14 new electrified vehicles on sale in Europe by the end of the year. Already, Ford has invested some €750m in the plant since 2011 to support its continued advancement, so this is yet another round of improvement to help future-proof it.
Of that total sum being spent on the Valencia plant, €24m will go into a new battery assembly facility which is due to go online in September. This will support not only the S-MAX and Galaxy production, but also the range of electrified versions of the Kuga which include both hybrid and PHEV variants. In fact, €10m of the latest investment is being ploughed into getting the Kuga into production as soon as possible.
The remaining €8m will go into tooling for the S-MAX and Galaxy hybrids, which share the fundamental architecture of the all-new Kuga hybrid including the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery mounted in a crash-absorbent, waterproof structure mounted on each car's underbody.
They will also share a powertrain which, at a glance, is hardly pushing the boundaries of what's possible from a modern hybrid drive. For starters, it'll be running a 2.5-litre petrol engine – which is big – supported by a small electric motor for low-speed electric drive, and higher speed electric assist duties. Ford's performance targets are similarly unspectacular, with power destined to be around 197bhp and torque at 155lb-ft. Whilst the electric motor should fill the hole in the naturally-aspirated engine's torque curve, those figures aren't anything to write home about.
Nor are the green credentials. Again, whilst the WLTP testing is yet to be done, Ford's target is 140g/km which is good for a mid-sized or large MPV – if this was 2010. NOx emissions will be significantly lower than a diesel counterpart, but that's true in almost any petrol vs diesel contest. Where economy is concerned, Ford is targeting around 50mpg with its Kuga self-charging hybrid, so expect a similar result from the S-MAX and Galaxy.
Happily, Ford reckons that it'll capture up to 90 per cent of energy that would otherwise be lost thanks to regenerative braking, and the cars will also come with 'SmartGauge' technology which will help coach drivers in efficient use of the hybrid system. Furthermore, the power steering, air-conditioning, engine cooling and vacuum systems are now electrically powered – none of which is exactly new, but it should reduce drag on the motor and therefore increase economy.
“With electrification fast becoming the mainstream, we are increasing our investment in Valencia to provide even more electrified models and powertrain options for our customers,” said Stuart Rowley, president, Ford of Europe. “By making it easier than ever to transition into an electrified vehicle, we expect the majority of our passenger vehicle sales to be electrified by the end of 2022.”
Ford's investment is a welcome one and it's good that it is putting its money where its mouth is in its roll-out of electrified cars. However, we do find ourselves questioning the merits of a hybrid version of a family car that is less efficient and produces more carbon dioxide than a standard 2.0-litre diesel. We understand that some car buyers are seeking a gentle transition into electrified transport, but that doesn't need to come at the expense of real green credentials. The models themselves seem like lip service, but we'll give Ford the benefit of the doubt and look forward to seeing them in the flesh.