It looks like Ford and Toyota will be racing each other to launch an electrified pick-up truck. While Toyota revealed its prototype Hilux Hybrid some months ago during the Safari Rally, Ford has now shown a Ranger with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, which will be the first time there has been a Ranger PHEV.
Both companies have said they plan to start production of the electrified pick-up trucks in 2024 and Toyota will also have an electrified powertrain for its new Land Cruiser Prado.
However, while Toyota’s electrification uses a mild hybrid (MHEV) approach with a combustion engine and a small electric generator, Ford seems to be going for a series/parallel system. Its powertrain will have a 2.3-litre Ford EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engine paired with an electric motor powered by a battery pack that can be recharged from an external source.
Like other PHEVs, the Ranger will be able to run on electric power alone. The range in pure electric mode is expected to be more than 45 kms. The driver will be able to choose EV drive modes and decide how and when to use the EV battery power.
More importantly, having a combustion engine as well means that not being able to find a charging station in time won’t be a major issue. This will give owners the confidence to go long distances and in places like Australia, that can mean a very long distance.
Not surprisingly, Ford says the Ranger PHEV will deliver more torque than any other Ranger. “Ranger Plug-In Hybrid will bring all of the towing and payload capability our customers expect of Ranger, and with Pro Power Onboard for the first time, Ranger owners will have power for both work and play,” said Andrew Birkic, President & CEO, Ford Australia and New Zealand.
Supplying power to external devices
Pro Power Onboard refers to the additional capability of using the hybrid battery pack to also power tools and appliances on a worksite or remote campsite. This is already available in the current Rangers through power sockets but with the Ranger PHEV, there will be a stronger power supply available.
This means it will be unnecessary to bring along noisy, bulky and heavy generators, leaving the cargo bay more space for other gear or equipment.
So far, it seems that Ford is talking about the Ranger PHEV for Australia but as the model is made in Thailand, it is likely that it could also be sold in the ASEAN region. However, the Ranger is also made in North America as well and it might be that this particular variant will be produced there.
THE 1998 RANGER ELECTRIC
While the Ranger PHEV is the first Ranger with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, it is not the first electrified Ranger. In fact, back in the late 1990s, Ford developed and sold a Ranger with a fully electric powertrain. This was during a period when California pushed forward its zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) goals in 1996 and American carmakers, in particular, had to quickly develop EVs.
Ford announced that, within just 3 years, it would have 16 EVs in its range. It even spent US$23 million to buy a Norwegian company that specialised in EVs and produced a small model called the Think City.
The Ranger Electric was a hurried conversion of the US Ranger (different from the one sold in Malaysia) and initially used 22 kWh lead-acid batteries – the same type of batteries non-EVs have for starting the engine and providing some supplementary electricity. After a while, the batteries were switched to the nickel metal hydride (NiMH) type which was lighter and could store more energy.
The NiMh batteries had a 26 kWh capacity and could keep the truck running to almost 130 kms. The AC induction motor was from Siemens and produced 67 kW (90 ps)/202 Nm.
The Ranger Electric was priced at US$53,000, which was certainly expensive for a fairly basic single-cab truck, but Ford offered a 3-year lease. Most of the trucks were taken by government agencies.
In 2003, however, California backed down on its ZEV demands and the industry lost its determination as well. Ford quickly ended its EV programs and even sold off the Norwegian company. Only around 1,500 Ranger EVs were produced over a 4-year period and when the leases ended, they were taken back and scrapped.
Another 18 years later, Ford would be much more serious about electrification and even start a separate division for electrified products. In 2021, it introduced the Maverick pick-up with a self-charging hybrid powertrain and also the much larger F-150 Lightning with a fully electric powertrain.