Ford Motor has unveiled plans to invest $1.3 billion in the Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada. According to an April 11 statement from the automaker, the goal is to transform the facility into an electric vehicle hub.
The plant will be renamed the Oakville Electric Vehicle Complex and will be the center for building Ford’s next-gen EVs which are expected in the market by the middle of the decade. The entire retooling process is projected to last six months, beginning in the second quarter of next year.
“We are reusing all of its infrastructure, from the land itself to the buildings and even its roads to quickly prepare for a new generation of manufacturing,” said Dave Nowicki, director of EV manufacturing at Ford, during a media call.
The automaker was mum on the expected production capacity of the plant or how many EV models the facility will build after the retooling. In 2020 when Ford entered into an investment deal with the Canadian auto union, Unifor, the goal was to produce 5 EV models in the plant. However, there are speculations that the plan may have been scaled back to two vehicles.
Some of the changes expected to be made at the Oakville facility include adding a 407,000-square-foot battery pack assembly plant and combining three body shops into one. According to Ford, the Oakville facility will make use of battery cells from the Kentucky BlueOvalSK battery plant which is currently under construction.
The Oakville facility is the first time that Ford will attempt to retool a North American facility from producing gasoline-powered vehicles to making EVs. Prior to this, Ford either retooled parts of a facility, built on an existing facility, or break ground for new EV facilities.
At the moment, the Oakland facility will continue the production of the gasoline-powered Lincoln Nautilus crossovers and Ford Edge until the plant’s downtime in the second half of 2024. Ford has also declined to comment on what will happen to the gasoline-powered brands after the downtime.
The automaker has set the lofty goal of producing 600,000 EVs from 2024 and ramping that up to 2 million annual production capability by the start of 2027.
Ford is applying for a dashboard desk patent
The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has filed a series of patents that suggests that the Blue Oval may produce vehicles with reconfigurable interiors. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently published three applications that show how a deployable desk could be integrated into the dashboard of a vehicle.
Also, it shows how the interiors of the vehicle can be reconfigured to be more comfortable for rest when the car is parked—a feature that will come in handy for long-distance travelers. One of the documents with the title “Deployable Vehicle Desk” displays a flat surface stowed in a recess under the dashboard.
It can be popped out of the center of the dashboard for use. However, it is highly unlikely that this arrangement will work with a conventional center console. It is possible that the regular console will be ditched or replaced with a lower-lying model like in the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The other two patent applications were both named “Vehicle Interior Systems”. It appears they are both aimed at those that want to rest in their vehicle. The document describes retractable steering wheels and pedals as well as reclining seats and footrests just above the pedals, creating a compact bed space that mimics the fold-flat seats in business-class airline cabins.
The current F-150 pickup truck already offers fold-flat seats and a folding shifter that transforms the center console into a flat workspace. The new patent filing may be Ford’s way of taking this feature to the next level.
It is important to mention that some of the patent ideas don’t make it to production. Other published Ford patents include tech to make EVs do four-wheel burnouts and tech to increase the safety of railroad crossings.
Ford is creating augmented reality to help drivers find their cars
Ford is working on a new technology that will allow drivers to locate their vehicles using augmented reality (AR) simulations. Leveraging AR experience powered by smartphones, users can be pointed to the location where their vehicles are packed.
Many companies have been working on the concept of finding a parked car. Some navigation apps allow you to mark the position of your parked car and offer step-by-step directions to reach it. Apple Maps currently does this automatically when it is the primary navigation experience in the vehicle.
Ford wants to upgrade this technology using an AR-powered system whose primary role is to provide direction to the parked vehicle. The dedicated system will be able to do this by analyzing GPS information. Consequently, it can generate a walking route from the user’s location to the vehicle.
The augmented reality interface can be accessed with a mobile phone. Using AR-powered navigation, walking to the vehicle will rely on a 3D realistic view of the surroundings, similar to a feature that is already available on Google Maps. However, Ford wants to extend the feature’s applicability to ride-sharing services.
The aim is to guide users to the pick-up vehicle. According to Ford, some commuters step into the wrong vehicle far too often. However, with the technology, users can activate an AR-powered experience to scan nearby roads and buildings and mark the vehicle as it nears its location.
Ford says it may need additional systems that will help the user to identify the booked vehicle like activating the lights of the vehicle when the user approaches. It is hard to tell if this idea will ever make it to the market.