Take a look at Ford's new 'Mustang-inspired' electric SUV

By linking the new electric SUV with the vaunted Mustang, Ford is sending the message that the new vehicle will deliver serious, neck-snapping performance.
By Paul A. Eisenstein

More than half a century after its introduction, the Ford Mustang coupe remains the most popular car in its class, and has actually seen demand grow worldwide in recent years. But are motorists ready for an all-electric Mustang SUV?

Ford has said little about the battery car since confirming plans to build it at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. But it has now released a short video teasing the new model, showing a camouflaged version undergoing testing at its Smithers Winter Test Center, about 400 miles north of Detroit.

That and several other short videos are meant to address what the carmaker refers to as “EV misconceptions” that it worries could scare away many potential buyers once the electric SUV comes to market next year. Those include worries about how battery-cars perform in cold weather, range, the availability of public charging facilities and performance.

Ford was one of the early entrants in the battery-car market, offering a mix of hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles. But its early models delivered marginal performance and the BEVs could barely manage 100 miles per charge.

The SUV shown in the teaser video is expected to deliver anywhere from 300 to 373 miles per charge, depending on the optional battery-pack. And, with the number of high-speed public charging stations growing fast, Ford — like such competitors as Tesla, General Motors and Audi — hopes that dreaded “range anxiety” will become a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, by linking the new battery-SUV with the vaunted Mustang, Ford aims to send the message that it will deliver serious, neck-snapping performance.

“Selling electrification on just fuel efficiency is not going to pay out when gas is going for $2.50 a gallon,” Ford Executive Vice President of Product Development Hau Thai-Tang said during a discussion of the new model last year.

Of course, Ford isn’t the only one shifting strategies when it comes to performance. Tesla gained a significant following when it introduced its Ludicrous Mode option on the original Model S sedan. Porsche this past week said its new Taycan electric sports car can hit 60 in as little as 2.6 seconds.

It’s not clear whether the upcoming Ford battery SUV will come close to those numbers, but with electric motors developing maximum tire-spinning torque the moment they’re switched on, the new model could wind up giving a credible chase to the sportiest of Ford’s conventional Mustang models, the 760-horsepower Shelby GT500 that will come to market only a few months ahead of it.

The “Mustang-inspired” SUV will arrive around the same time as what could become its biggest challenger, the Tesla Model Y sport-utility vehicle. But the overall battery-car market will begin seeing an explosion of new offerings over the next 12 to 18 months. Audi, for one, just launched its first BEV, the e-tron SUV, and Porsche’s Taycan will soon follow it into showrooms. General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, and virtually every other automaker now has a battery car program in the works.

For its part, Ford is committing $11 billion to its effort, and that doesn’t include the $500 million it said last spring it will invest in Michigan-based start-up Rivian. Ford has also announced a new alliance with Volkswagen to share EV R&D and technology, including the same electrification architecture that provides the foundation of dozens of future VW products.

The challenge for Ford — and its competition — is whether buyers will accept the new products. Even with Tesla’s strong sales of the Model 3 battery sedan, plug-based products still account for barely 2 percent of the U.S. market. Ford said “education” will be necessary to overcome concerns about EVs — but so will compelling product. And the automaker is betting that it has one with the electric SUV it will reveal later this year.

Paul A. Eisenstein

Paul A. Eisenstein is an NBC News contributor who covers the auto industry.