Ford Maverick: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

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Now that the Ford Maverick has been fully revealed, we have all of the details. I won’t rehash those in this article because my colleague Steve already covered it. Be sure to check his article out to see all of the nitty gritty details. Now that details have been public and we’ve digested them for a bit, I wanted to follow up on my other piece and share what I think is good about it, what’s bad about it, and what’s just ugly.

The Good

It’s Not An EV, But It Will Make A Big Impact

Yes, I know the Maverick isn’t an EV. I know among CleanTechnica fans, that’s going to be the biggest gripe. That having been said, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.

As I pointed out in my earlier piece about this, data showed that the buyers for a truck this size were rather price sensitive. If the truck had been an EV, the price would have been $40,000 minimum for decent range, and probably could have come in around $30,000 if they had cut corners like Nissan does with the LEAF. They needed the pickup to come in at around $20-25,000 to sell well, though. In other words, had they made it an EV, it wouldn’t have had much of a positive impact due to low sales.

That they made it a decent hybrid for the base model (40 MPG is damned good for a small pickup truck!) shows that they wanted to have a positive impact, and if you run the numbers, it might even have a greater impact than making it a low-sales EV would have.

If we assume people are replacing this with a 20 MPG vehicle (an optimistic estimate), that means the hybrid will save about 2.5 gallons of fuel burnt per 100 miles. Had they made this an EV, it would have required a 60 kWh battery at minimum to be viable, and this truck has a 1 kWh hybrid battery. Getting 60 people to switch to this hybrid pickup (that they can actually afford) certainly has a much bigger environmental impact than selling just one EV (that most of the buyers couldn’t afford).

A hybrid isn’t ideal, but this is going to make a big difference where it counts (replacing sub-20 MPG trucks). We’d be fools to demand Ford do otherwise at this point. Battery prices will fall in the future, though, so we will see the economics of affordability change in the coming years and watch everyone make a small EV truck.

Good For The Big Cities

Smaller trucks take up less space, are easier to navigate in through cities, and have better pedestrian visibility than trucks like the F150. Lives will be saved.

I know the “personal freedom doesn’t matter” crowd would rather everyone be shoved onto mass transit like cattle to be brought in from the suburbs for their daily corporate milking in the urban core, but keep in mind that many very essential services arrive in trucks, even in cities. Handymen, small job plumbers, repair businesses of various kinds, electricians, and even government officials doing important work drive around in small trucks and need the space for their tools.

I’d rather see them in a 40 MPG truck than an F-150 or worse, not showing up at all when you need them. Plus, people in the suburbs wanting a truck for Home Depot could cut their emissions in half with one of these.

The Bad

The bad is that this truck is a unibody. I don’t think this will matter in the same way it matters for full-sized trucks, though. We are very unlikely to see this class of truck used for box trucks, honey wagons, or flatbeds.

The problem with the unibody this time is that it’s not going to be very well equipped for future electrification. As a potential EV or PHEV platform, it’s probably not going to be very good. In reality, it’s probably not in Ford’s plans for this truck. On the upside, Ford tends to refresh its trucks every 4-6 years. Opening up the segment with this low-cost hybrid and then introducing more electrification in the second generation Maverick could make a lot of sense.

The Ugly

There really wasn’t any good reason to make this truck front-wheel drive, but Ford let the bean counters convince them to do it to save a couple hundred bucks.

Don’t try to tell me that front drive is better. I can already hear the excuses about traction, etc., but let’s be real for a minute. None of the premium vehicle manufacturers are making front-drive vehicles. Not Tesla, not BMW, not Mercedes, and (until now) Ford didn’t curse their trucks with front-drive. In reality, Ford could have made a front-drive truck ages ago if it was truly the better option, but they didn’t want to screw up a product that was a best seller for over four decades.

Fact is, Ford made the Maverick front-drive because they figured they could get away with it. It’s a new vehicle aimed at the bottom of the barrel. Getting good fuel mileage was important, as was having a bed to put things in. Making it feel like a truck, not so much for this segment.

In reality, though, they passed up a great opportunity for both further electrification and for balancing the load. To start out with, a 4-door truck with a short bed isn’t nearly as front-biased, and won’t handle like a lawn dart the way an old long-bed single-cab Ranger did. They could have left some space under the bed for a medium-sized battery pack for a PHEV version that could have put more weight on the rear wheels and achieved a 50-50 weight distribution and then offered this as a premium option.

The cost of making a proper longitudinal drivetrain in a truck couldn’t have been that much less to really justify making the truck front-drive anyway.

Aside from the fact that it’s available as a hybrid, they really missed out on an opportunity to wipe out both the bad and the ugly in one blow. Let’s just hope it doesn’t ruin the new segment’s future by feeling too cheap.

Featured image by Ford.


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