Ford Motor Company (F 4.83%) has confirmed plans to launch a high-performance battery-electric crossover SUV in 2020 -- and as the following teaser photo shows, the new vehicle will draw inspiration from Ford's iconic Mustang.
Here's what we know about it, and how Ford is positioning it to compete against a slew of upcoming electric vehicles from Tesla (TSLA 7.82%) and the traditional automakers.
What we know about this new electric Ford
I should start by naming something we don't yet know about the new Ford: its name.
Back in January, when Ford executive Jim Farley first revealed that the vehicle is under development, he said it might be called "Mach 1" -- a historic name for a high-performance version of the Mustang.
It was easy to see why Ford considered the name -- it clearly plans to position the new crossover as a close relative of its iconic sports coupe. But Mustang fans thought Ford went a step too far and made their feelings known, loudly. Ford heard them loud and clear: The company said recently that it will choose another name for the vehicle.
So what do we know? We know that the new vehicle will be a high-performance battery-electric crossover SUV. It's being developed by Ford's Team Edison, an electric-vehicle "skunk works" headquartered in a historic building in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood that has tried to cultivate a fast-moving start-up-like culture.
About the vehicle itself, I expect it to be a two-row crossover with seating for five, roughly the size of the current Ford Edge -- but lower and sleeker. Imagine a rowdy battery-electric Ford take on the idea behind a Porsche Macan. The Ford will look very different, but the basic stance and size could be similar.
Ford has promised thrilling performance, of course, along with 300 miles of real-world range. That's in keeping with Ford's view that its electric vehicles should offer some distinct advantages over conventional internal-combustion alternatives, to tempt wary buyers -- in this case, the thrilling acceleration that electric motors can provide.
Finally, we also know that Ford is working on ways to simplify the electric-vehicle ownership experience, which will likely include wireless recharging at home, over-the-air software updates, and a software "ecosystem" that includes advanced functionality inside the vehicles as well as smartphone apps.
The takeaway: It'll be a Ford, not a Tesla clone
It's clear that Ford has taken a few pages from Tesla's book in thinking about its new Mustang-inspired electric crossover. But it's also taking a few from its own.
Consider: One reason that Ford's pickups are best-sellers is that the company does extensive research, listening carefully to its customers, and then developing unique features that those customers love. It's deliberately bringing that approach to its new line of electric vehicles, too.
If Ford can deliver on the basics -- range, performance, recharging speed -- it could well have an all-electric hit on its hands when this new crossover appears in 2020.