Ford's clever crowdsource plan aims to solve Mustang Mach-E range anxiety

Ford plans to tackle range anxiety around its all-electric 2021 Mustang Mach-E with a smarter battery gauge, taking into account factors like traffic and even crowdsourced driving patterns for a more accurate estimate. The new Intelligent Range feature will debut on the electric crossover, as Ford tackles potential preconceptions that may dissuade possible buyers when the Mustang Mach-E arrives in dealerships later this year.

On paper, the 2021 Mustang Mach-E is rated for between 230 and 300 miles, exact model depending. As electric car owners soon discover, however, the reality is that different conditions – whether that be speed of driving, congestion, weather, or other factors – can significantly impact real-world range.

Figuring out just how far an EV will drive in practice can be a challenge, then, and it's regularly cited as one of the primary factors stopping people from considering electric vehicles. Ford Intelligent Range tackles that by looking at more than just how much charge is left in the battery.

In its first iteration, the system will look at factors like forecasted weather conditions – since extremes of hot or cold can negatively impact range – along with past driver behavior. If you typically drive with a heavy right foot, for example, the Mustang Mach-E will take that into account in the miles remaining figure it presents.

Perhaps most interesting is Ford's plan to use other Mustang Mach-E cars on the road to make individual drivers' range estimates more accurate. Assuming they opt in, their data will be collected in the cloud via the car's embedded 4G LTE modem, and then used to generate a fleet average. Since the crossover's onboard systems can track power use across different circumstances – including different speed, terrain, and climate conditions – it can better ascertain how much of a difference those real-world factors might have. That's even if the driver is on a new route and in new conditions their particular car hasn't encountered before.

Smarter trip planning for the Mustang Mach-E

Most electric cars with navigation systems can warn the driver when they enter a destination further than the current battery remaining would allow. It's also fairly common for those EVs to offer a mid-route charging point. Ford plans to go further, with a future over-the-air update adding new talents to the Intelligent Range feature.

At launch, for example, it'll be able to flash up an explanation on the driver's digital instrumentation explaining that the range estimate has changed and why. With the update, however, the car will also be able to take into account real-time traffic conditions on a programmed route, along with that route's terrain and elevation. It'll even look ahead to the weather conditions at the destination to better predict how battery life will be affected.

The same OTA update system will be used to add Ford Active Driver Assist, the automaker's hands-free adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping system, to hardware-equipped Mustang Mach-E cars in the second half of 2021.

The reality is, of course, that even with the best possible estimates of range, some EV drivers will occasionally run out of charge before they reach a plug. For those situations, Ford is promising its Road Assistance program will provide a free tow of the Mustang Mach-E, up to 35 miles, either to their home, the nearest public charger, or an EV-certified Ford dealership.

"Electric vehicle customers need to be able to trust their range estimates," Darren Palmer, Ford global director of battery electric vehicles, says of the new feature. "People want to be confident they're going to make it where they need to go, whether they're on a road trip or coming home from work."

Reservations for the Mustang Mach-E are currently being taken, with the order books expected to open up in the coming months. The first customer cars are on track to be delivered before the end of the year, Ford says.