Electric motors whir as Vaughn Gittin Jr. slays tires. Smoke billows and Ford Performance’s latest all-electric demonstrator mixes it up with its gas-powered performance cousins. Far from being a modest commuter, this four-seat performer is out to prove electric power can do it all, and do it well at the extreme.
While the prospect of this much performance from an all-electric vehicle is tantalizing, it is not merely an excuse to shred some tires on video. The Mustang Mach-E can definitely do that with aplomb, but it is also the howling harbinger of a sea change at Ford and the auto industry in general.
“We are leaning into electrification big-time at Ford, spending over $11.5 billion on electrification and we are doing that with all of our iconic vehicles. Whether it is the F-150, whether it is the Mustang, whether it’s the Transit, these are all the vehicles that people know us for around the world,” Dave Pericak, Global Director of Ford Icons, explained. “We are leaning into that big time, because that’s where we excel. Whether it is play with the Mustang or work with the F-150, we are going to take electrification and we are going to show how it can enhance those experiences and get you a better product at the end of the day.”
Performance projects and racing machines are definitely some of the engineering exercises allowing Ford to improve its vehicles. By pushing both the hardware and the development tools to the extreme to find more performance, the strengths and weakness of the tools and products are revealed in an instructive manner.
“We really wanted to show what the Mustang Mach-E platform and electric vehicles in total are capable of,” Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports, told us. “Part of our mission in motorsports is to align to our road cars’ cycle plan and help with telling the story and the products, but it is also about the innovation and the tech-transfer to make those products even better.”
To help push the Mach-E platform to an eye-watering level, Ford Performance turned to one of its familiar partners. RTR Vehicles, led by drifter, off-road racer, entrepreneur, tire slayer and professional fun-haver, Vaughn Gittin Jr., lent its expertise in performance, styling, and rapid development.
“This is one of those projects that’s kinda like a fairy-tale collaboration to me. I have been watching and been very interested in electric technology as it really started coming into the mainstream,” Gittin said. “For a while, the technology was not ready for a project like this. As soon as we realized the technology was ready, we went and talked to our friends at Ford Performance and said, ‘Hey, we have an idea.’ And they said ‘Funny you should say that, because we have an idea,’ and that’s where it began. It was just these two parallel mindsets merging that created an epic collaboration.”
From that meeting, the two parties agreed to put their heads together to re-imagine the standard Mustang Mach-E as a do-it-all performer. Its prowess is on full-display in the video, where it puts its seven onboard motors (five more than the street-going Mustang Mach-E GT) and 1,400 peak horsepower to work on-track with its performance cousins driven by an all-star cast of Ford Performance drivers, including Gittin, Ken Block, Hailie Deegan, Chelsea Denofa, and Joey Logano.
“Like anything you do, any project, you have to have great people and great partners. So that’s what we did with Vaughn and RTR. We said, ‘What can this product really be?’ From that we decided that we didn’t want the car to be one-dimensional in what it could do,” Rushbrook said. “We wanted it to be an all-around athlete, a decathlon contender in some sense. It wouldn’t just be a drift car, but it could be a road-race car, a drag-race car — just an all-out performance car.”
“we went and talked to our friends at Ford Performance and said, ‘Hey, we have an idea.’ And they said ‘Funny you should say that, because we have an idea,’ and that’s where it began.” – Vaugn Gittin Jr.
To that end, Ford Performance engineered the chassis and powertrain with flexibility in mind. Control arms are swappable and steering angles adjustable, while the powertrain can toggle between all-wheel, front-wheel, and rear-wheel drive. As such, power can be split evenly (front and rear) or biased totally to one end of the Mach-E 1400, depending on its mission.
“The challenge was controlling the extreme levels of power provided by the seven motors,” said Mark Rushbrook, Motorsports Director, Ford Performance. “Mustang Mach-E 1400 is a showcase of the art of the possible with an electric vehicle.”
A huge part of making that happen was dialing in the aerodynamics for both brake cooling and downforce. Much like Ford Performance did on the Ford GT program, the aero development was crucial to delivering envelope-pushing performance. As a result of development in the virtual world, the Mustang Mach-E 1400 benefits from 2,300 pounds of downforce at 160 mph. Yeah, you read that right.
“It was all about airflow management to generate as much downforce as we could underneath the front of the car and balancing it with the rear wing to get the right front-to-rear balance,” Rushbrook said. “We used our standard computational fluid-dynamics tool run by our engineers in concert with the studio and Vaughn’s team to iterate on the design, shape, and what parts could be made to look and perform great. We’ve got a lot of downforce in the car, which was important for what we wanted this car to do, especially on the road course.”
Harnessing that much power meant pairing a 56.8-kilowatt-hour battery, featuring nickel-manganese-cobalt pouch cells, with controls and support hardware to deliver performance for a chunk of time. It also meant mitigating the downtime needed to recharge the Mustang Mach-E 1400 by cooling the battery during charging with a di-electric coolant.
“We can roughly get 80-percent charging time in less than an hour, which is an important part of what this car is because we want to demonstrate it to people. We don’t want to just make one run and have it charge the rest of the day and do anther run at the end of the day,” Rushbrook said. “The plan is having three people rotating through the car at one time, we can run the car through demonstrations for about an hour, charge it for about an hour, then put another group of people through the car in about an hour, and do that all day long. By circulating the coolant fluid during charging, it reduces the charging time required.”
Clearly, this one is meant as a true demonstrator, showing people just what an all-electric powertrain can do in a performance environment. It joins the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 concept, which debuted a few months back, in the Ford Performance stable. While both battery-powered machines are built for speed, they intentionally don’t share any hardware.
“Because we are learning as much as we can about these full-electrified powertrains, we didn’t want to simply replicate the same system in two different vehicles. We wanted to intentionally work with different partners and hardware to maximize our learning. They are different, and they are different in their purpose,” Rushbrook said. “The Cobra Jet 1400 is one-dimensional in the sense that it goes drag racing and it goes really fast down the drag strip, but it is not going to go around the road course and we are not going to go drifting with it. The systems are intentionally different because of their intended purposes, but also to maximize learning with two different sets of partners.
The results of this partnership with RTR Vehicles is certainly dazzling, but they are, perhaps, most impressive to the company’s chief Fun Haver. Despite having inside knowledge of Ford Performance and its vehicles for many years, this project really took him by surprise.