Home » Ford’s CEO Says We Need Smaller, Cheaper EVs And He’s Right

Ford’s CEO Says We Need Smaller, Cheaper EVs And He’s Right

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Apparently, there’s something called the Aspen Ideas Festival, and for the 19th year in a row, my invite seems to have gotten lost in the mail. Typical. But Ford CEO Jim Farley’s invite made it to him just fine, and he took advantage of that by letting the world know some important things: It’s time for people to “get back in love” with small cars, and that Ford will have a smaller, $30,000 EV in the next two years or so. Good! About damn time.

Oh, and he wants it to be profitable, too, because – and get this – Ford seems to be a profit-oriented company. Huh! Who knew? I always assumed they were something like whatever the Red Cross is.

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Much of this was said in an interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, and you can hear some of it from Jim himself here:

I cued it up to the bit where he’s talking about the large, heavy EVs that currently dominate the market, and why those aren’t really sustainable:


“You have to make a radical change as an … to get to a profitable EV. The first thing we have to do is really put all of our capital toward smaller, more affordable EVs. That’s the duty cycle that we’ve now found that really matches. These big, huge, enormous EVs, they’re never going to make money. The battery is $50,000… The batteries will never be affordable.”

He’s absolutely right: the colossal batteries used to buy long ranges for huge trucks and SUVs are heavy, massive, expensive things, and getting those cheaper, at least with the current and near-future state of technology, is beating your head against a lithium wall.

But there’s another solution! We can embrace smaller, lighter cars. Not everything has to be a huge vehicle capable of doing absolutely everything and has a 300 mile range. There’s a term that David taught me from his engineering days at Chrysler, a term that refers to the amount of energy a given vehicle needs to just move itself around: Vehicle Demand Energy.

This term feels useful because it gets to the heart of the problem: big-ass vehicles with massive, expensive batteries have prodigious Vehicle Demand Energy, which requires more batteries which increases VDE which require more batteries which increases VDE which requires more batteries and on and on. And unlike gas cars, to get more range, you can’t just blow-mold a bigger tank for an extra $5; you have to pay thousands for a larger battery pack.

These big machines are hungry for electrons; you just end up in a miserable ouroboros of battery-weight-cost.

And, when you think about it, for most of what we do with our cars, it’s absurd. Taking an F-150 Lightning or a Cybertruck on a simple, daily errand is like getting ready to go to the grocery store by putting on a helmet, gloves, body armor, hiking boots, and a backpack filled with four gallons of water, 12 MREs, and a tent. Maybe there’s a couple laptops in there, too.



If you did that, everyone would think you’re an idiot. And yet we’re effectively doing that for most of what we use cars for. Remember, 99.2% of daily driving trips are under 100 miles. And yes, I firmly believe that going on longer trips should be easy and accessible, but that doesn’t mean it makes any sense to drag around a thousand pounds of under-utilized battery everywhere.

As Farley himself said:

“We have to start to get back in love with smaller vehicles. It’s super important for our society and for EV adoption. We are just in love with these monster vehicles, and I love them too, but it’s a major issue with weight.”

I think this is very achievable; some of us never fell out of love with smaller vehicles, and I can tell you that they are plenty lovable. A small car is nimble and fun to drive, it’s less hassle to maneuver and park, it feels like 30% less stressful just to drive around, especially in a city.

Small doesn’t mean useless; a cleverly designed smaller EV can still hold you, your friends, your stuff, and if it can have a range of, say, 150 miles or so, that would cover so much of what you need a car for. If there’s add-on range extender batteries or combustion motor solutions, even better!


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Hell, I went through my ideal $16,000 EV dream car already, and you can read all about it. I think Farley’s plan for a profitable $30,000 car is great, though a $20,000 one would be even better. Still, I get that Ford’s in this for the money, so maybe $30,000 is the best we can hope for, at least right now.

I’m just happy to see the CEO of a major automaker talking some actual sense, and not just hoping for some battery breakthrough that will make colossal batteries cheaper and lighter. If it happens, fantastic, but until then, the best plan is to go smaller and smarter.

I say do it, Ford. There’s plenty of Ford small-car heritage to mine, too: Fiestas and Escorts and Kas and Aspires – well, maybe not Aspires. Fine.

But still, this is the right path if we want EVs to actually, you know, work. And it’s not like big, 7,500 pound EV trucks or SUVs won’t exist, because of course they will – but it will be nice to have cheaper, lighter options, and, ideally, ones that can be just as fun and engaging as their elephantine siblings.



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5 days ago

“We need smaller and lighter cars. Just not from us.”

William Hardy
William Hardy
8 days ago

Captain Obvious. But they instead build F150 Lightnings and have to encourage their own management to lease them.

Meanwhile, under Farley’s leadership, Ford continues to rack up massive warranty costs due to engineering errors that highlight just how much institutional knowledge the company has shed. If they can’t keep parts from falling off an ICE car, why would anyone think they could engineer and build an EV any better.

The sooner Ford replaces Farley with someone competent enough to actually run the company the better.

George Talbot
George Talbot
9 days ago

Surely Farley doesn’t want to give up the tasty profit margin on an ICE F150 for *any* small car? Ford has literally stopped making small cars entirely?

9 days ago
Reply to  George Talbot

I absolutely miss my Ford Fusion. Not necessarily small…in fact, a large “mid size” car at that, but it was fantastic. I went and bought a Toyota about 2 months after the announcement of discontinuing the line. I only went back because…Explorer…price/performance/capabilities. (Yes, I wanted a Highlander Hybrid, but even used at 100K+, they go for $30K+…)

9 days ago

I am one of the people that drives 120+ miles a day over mountainous terrain, so…I actually do need energy-dense vehicles.

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