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Ford is fresh from releasing loads of details about its all-important new-generation Ranger pick-up.
The Blue Oval has confirmed the internal combustion powertrains for the Ranger, although it has not disclosed any details on outputs, fuel economy or performance figures.
Headlining the Ranger range will be a new 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, replacing the ageing 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit, while a pair of 2.0-litre turbo diesels are also on the cards for Australia – a single turbo and a twin turbo. Some international markets will get an entry level petrol engine too.
“The third-generation T6 platform, (the) next-gen Ranger is capable of, and has been future proofed for different propulsion technologies going forward,” is all Ian Foston, Ford’s Chief T6 Platform Engineer, would say when asked.
While Ford is yet to confirm it, the electrified Ranger is expected to be a plug-in hybrid that combines either a 2.3-litre or 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with at least one electric motor.
Either way, we know from Mr Foston’s comments that it is engineered and ready for an electrified powertrain at some point. The question is, when?
Given the regular versions of the next-gen Ranger will start to roll out in Australia in mid-2022, it’s unlikely we will see the hybrid in showrooms before 2023.
As part of the next-gen Ranger program, Ford conducted extensive customer research to determine what features owners want and according to Mr Foston, there was interest from customers to have an electrified powertrain option.
“We have spoken to customers all around the world and there’s clearly two big drivers for electrification – one is through customers who have had ownership experiences in electric vehicles of some variety. And they’re asking about when it (Ranger) could be available with that technology,” he said.
“And there are also clearly legislative requirements that have been applied in a number of markers around the world. So clearly there is a big future for EVs in every segment, trucks being one of them as well.”
Speaking with CarsGuide at the Ranger reveal in Melbourne, Ford Australia president and CEO Andrew Birkic said customer attitudes around electrified powertrains were changing.
"I think we are seeing a shift and a transition when it comes to electrification. You’re seeing that in the VFACTS (sales) numbers monthly, we’re seeing that in the number of models. You’re also seeing changes at a state government level. The different rates of customer adoption, we're seeing investments in infrastructure also by business, lowering costs of technology, so that is all coming together. So I think absolutely there is a shift in customer demand."
While none of Ford’s rivals have actively confirmed that they are working on hybrid versions of their utes, a number are expected to hit the market in the coming years.
Hybrid pioneer Toyota is likely to offer an electrified version of its next-gen HiLux that’s due in about 2023. Under their alliance, Nissan and Mitsubishi are expected to introduce hybrid versions of their next-gen Navara and Triton that will share underpinnings.