The rapid emergence of electric vehicles (EVs) and related autonomous driving technologies and mobility services is disrupting the global auto industry in ways that would have been unthinkable just five years ago.
Carmakers Ford and Volkswagen (VW) have forged a new low-carbon road transport partnership, which will see them work together to develop electric vehicles (EVs) and other clean technologies.
Unveiled on Tuesday (15 January), the collaborative agreement will initially see the two firms jointly develop a range of commercial vans and medium-sized pickup trucks, which will be launched across all of Ford and VW’s global markets in 2022.
Ford estimates that by collaborating on the development, manufacture and launch of these vehicles, the two companies will collectively save $500m (£387m) per year, starting in 2023.
Looking to the long-term, the agreement signed by Ford and VW also includes a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that the two companies will “investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and further EVs”. The carmakers have both started to explore opportunities in these three fields on a standalone basis.
“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” Ford’s chief executive Jim Hackett said.
“It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”
VW’s chief executive Herbert Diess echoed these sentiments, adding that the partnership would enable both companies to “harness [their] collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world”.
Both VW and Ford have stressed that the alliance will not involve any “cross-ownership” of product lines in the future. Funding made jointly will instead be funnelled into infrastructure and efficiency projects.
The announcement is the latest in a string of EV-related success stories for VW Group, which last week launched a new company focusing on EV charging solutions and renewable energy offerings.
Called the Elli Group, the new venture will be headquartered in Berlin and will develop and deliver products that assist the emergence and growth of the EV market, such as energy storage devices, charging points and ‘smart’ energy management systems.
VW has additionally confirmed this month that it will invest $800m in the expansion of its manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to install EV production lines at the facility.
The first EVs to be made at the plant will be ID CROZZ SUVs, which are fully-electric and will be launched in 2022. The model is one of 20 fully-electric vehicles which VW has committed to launching by 2030 as part of its EV strategy.
Ford, meanwhile, has pledged to bring 16 new fully-electric and 24 hybrid models to market by 2025 as part of its $11bn low-carbon transport plan. Launched in 2017, the first move detailed in the plan is for Ford to bring a fully-electric SUV to market in 2020.
Volvo EV technology investment
The news also comes as the venture capital arm of Volvo Group announced it has invested an undisclosed sum in Momentum Dynamics, a start-up focused on the wireless charging for EVs.
The Philadelphia-based company specialises in developing and commercialising high power inductive charging for the automotive and transportation industries.
“Momentum Dynamics’ technology and competence within inductive bi-directional transmission of electrical energy and information safely through air, water and ice will fit the harsh conditions under which our customers operate,” said Per Adamsson, Vice President at Volvo Group Venture Capital. “High capacity charging up to 300kW for trucks, buses, construction equipment, industrial and marine applications will support the electrified transition.”
Financial details of the investment were not disclosed, although Volvo said “the transaction has no significant impact on the Volvo Group’s earnings or financial position”.
Advocates of wireless charging argue that it could streamline charging for EVs, making it easier for drivers to top up batteries opportunistically through car parks or even roads that feature embedded wireless charging systems.
Stefan Söderling, investment director at Volvo Group Venture Capital, said the deal provided further evidence of the company’s commitment to green technologies, as well as its growing interest in co-operating with other firms working in the EV sphere.
“For Volvo Group we are strengthening our competence and knowledge of charging and electricity distribution within the ecosystem around electric transportation and energy supply,” he said. “We see partnership, cooperation and investments as the way forward in a fast-changing environment.”