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The 2021 Mustang Mach-E will offer musclecar-level acceleration, start at just less than $44,000 before federal tax incentives. (Ford)

Ford unveils 2021 Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle

Ford saddles up the Mustang’s heritage to help mark the company’s new phase in electric-vehicle development.

With the unveiling of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle (EV), Ford seems to be betting the way to expand mainstream America’s demand for EVs through its collective right foot. The production version of the Mustang Mach-E was shown with no stripes, no spoilers and no hood scoops, but Ford said the most-powerful configuration will, like many of its growing cadre of EV competitors, deliver the performance of gasoline-engine musclecars combined with the kind of driving range and quick recharging that alleviates range anxiety.

“It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s freedom. For a new generation of Mustang owners,” said Ford executive chairman Bill Ford at the mid-November unveiling of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E in Los Angeles. The company said the new EV will go on sale in late 2020, with the base “Select” trim – in rear-wheel-drive (RWD) layout and with the standard-range lithium-ion battery pack – starting at $43,895 before the maximum federal tax credit. The top-trim GT Performance model with twin-motor all-wheel-drive and the largest available battery pack, will start at a markedly stiffer and less “mainstream” price of $60,500.

Revised platform, special motors
In creating the 2021 Mustang Mach-E, the first vehicle to be developed by Ford’s EV-specific Team Edison organization, engineers leaned on their decades of experience with electrified powertrains and batteries. “We looked at our original platform and concluded that to call it a Mustang-inspired vehicle, we had to showcase the capability of the technology,” said Anand Sankaran, director of electrified powertrain engineering.

The process started by changing vehicle proportions. “The first thing we did is take the primary drive unit, moving it from the front to the back. So now we're a rear-wheel-drive electric vehicle,” said Paul Johnston, vehicle architecture manager. The team then pushed the front wheels as far forward as possible, improving the dash-to-axle ratio and creating a shark-nose to convey the Mustang’s sense of power. In so doing, the wheelbase was expanded by a substantial 214 mm (8.4 in.). The change simultaneously increased the packaging space for the battery pack and provided increased rear-seat legroom.

Meanwhile, Sankaran and his team created new permanent-magnet motors, with Ford engineers writing all the power-electronics control software. “We have our own motor dynos,” Sankaran said. “We changed the switching frequency and the math for torque, performance, slew rate efficiency, and noise.”

The Mach-E development team relied heavily on results from simulations before selecting the motor materials and passing production over to a contract manufacturer. Engineers used the latest materials technology, most notably the thinnest laminate available in the marketplace and unique windings. Since the Mach-E is billed as a new-propulsion addition to a Mustang family that relies on its sporty heritage, high performance was vital. “Every electrical component in the path, the wiring, the contactors, the connectors had to be looked at very carefully to make sure we can deliver that performance,” said Sankaran. 

Horses for courses
As is already typical for EVs from many makers, the Mustang Mach-E’s performance is available in tiers, although Ford said even the base Mach-E offers performance worthy of the Mustang name. The extended-range battery pack has a total capacity of 98.8 kWh; it is comprised of 10 modules encompassing a total of 376 individual cells. Two of the modules are raised higher and packaged under the second-row seats.

The standard-range battery pack gets its 75.7-kWh capacity (288 cells) by eliminating the two upper modules, leaving empty the space under the rear seats. Depending on whether the Mustang Mach-E has the standard or extended-range battery and RWD or AWD, driving range varies from 210 miles (338 km) to “at least” 300 miles (483 km). Either battery pack is liquid-cooled.

The AWD option includes its own variations. For the base AWD version of the Mustang Mach-E, the permanent-magnet traction motor on the rear axle has output of 210 kW (282 hp). The secondary drive motor at the front axle develops 50 kW (67 hp), with Ford saying the combined rating will be 332 hp and 417 lb-ft (565 Nm). For the GT Performance model, the higher-output motor is used on both the front and rear axles, yielding a total output of 342 kW (459 hp) and 830 Nm (612 lb-ft), Ford said, which is predicted to equate to a 0-60 mph acceleration of less than 3 sec. Driving range for GT Performance is targeted at 250 miles (402 km)

All motor configurations drive through a single-ratio gearing to the axles. There’s no clutch and in the AWD versions there is no mechanical linkage between the front and rear motors. “The important thing about them being independent is it means the Mach-E’s drive system can be fine-tuned,” said Johnston. “We can adjust the power going to the motors to manage a wide range of traction scenarios.”

Sankaran said that performance had to be balanced with efficiency and battery life. He said that Ford could draw on the experience of putting more than 100 million battery cells in the field. “When you do a motor design, you look at torque density and peak torque at top speed,” said Sankaran. “You also look look at how much battery you want to put in there.”

Efficient packaging, tech-rich cabin
The company said the 2021 Mustang Mach-E takes full advantage of the packaging options electrification offers by providing seating for five and 29 cu.ft. of trunk space that expands to 59.6 cu.ft. with the rear seats folded flat. There also is a 4.8-cu.ft. forward trunk.

A 15.5-in. (394-mm) central touchscreen “ditches complicated menus,” Ford said, and the SYNC communications platform can be modified via over-the-air (OTA) updates, as can vehicle performance and maintenance parameters and notifications; new features also can be added via the OTA interface. The Mustang Mach-E also features the ability to use a mobile phone as the key, promised to be the first Ford-brand deployment of the technology.

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