Ford CEO Jim Farley embarked on a field trip recently, driving the F-150 Lightning for 1,100 miles between California and Nevada, connecting with people along the way, and testing charging facilities. Farley made a pit stop at Laguna Seca during the Monterey Car Week, where Ryan Levenson of The Kilowatts engaged in a candid dialogue with him.
Levenson asked Farley about his learnings from the F-150 Lightning road trip, to which the CEO responded that he wouldn’t use the term range anxiety anymore. He experienced “charging anxiety” instead. Here’s what he observed during a charging stop in Coalinga, a city in central California:
The Tesla people were in their cars. They weren’t talking to each other. It was 110 degrees outside. They’re streaming content. And then there’s the rest of us, Ford and Kia and Hyundai. We’re all talking to each other. There’s maybe one 350 kW charger, the rest are slow-speed. A lot of people haven’t done this before, they’re on their first long trip. And we’re in a social club, trying to figure this out.
Farley shared how the charging experience could improve in the future. Ford announced on May 25, 2023, that its EVs would have access to more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers from 2024 in the US and Canada with an adapter. From 2025, the Detroit automaker will offer in-built NACS connectors in its EVs.
Farley affirmed that he was glad that the Tesla deal went through. When Doug Field joined Ford as the chief advanced product development and technology officer in September 2022, the company started considering improved charging solutions and compared the existing standard to Tesla, he added.
We all started having plug failures, we’ll run them over and they’re broken, and all sorts of stuff happened. It became clear to all of us as leaders, that’s a better solution. It was engineered better. I hate to say it, but it was.
Farley also spoke about increasing collaboration between carmakers on the road to electrification. He thinks tie-ups are necessary in the EV era to improve customer experience, and the nature of competition is different than the ICE industry.
We have to solve this [the charging problem]. We’re making it hard for customers. That’s why Ford took the lead [in NACS adoption]. That’s why I separated the EV business. Because our prejudice on the ICE side is to compete with people. And there’s no such thing as frenemies in that world. That’s why I created an EV business in Ford because we need a new kind of thinking. Frenemies in the digital electric world is a reality. Everyone’s working with each other.