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Can Ford compete in the long-range electric vehicle market? (+video)

While specific details have not been released by the car maker, its new electric vehicle will likely be manufactured to rival the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Bolt.

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    A Ford logo is pictured at a store of the automaker, in Mexico City, Mexico.
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Ford Motor Company recently announced that it will produce its own long-range electric vehicle (EV), potentially challenging rival automakers that have already stepped into the EV market.

Details on the new Ford model have not been released, but it would likely need to have a range of about 200 miles off of a full charge to compete with the upcoming Model 3 (Tesla Motors), the new Leaf (Nissan), and the Chevrolet Bolt (General Motors). Ford’s newest model of the Focus Electric, in production since 2011, can travel up to 100 miles – up from the 75-mile range of previous years’ models.

“We want to make sure that we’re either among the leaders or in a leadership position,” Ford chief executive officer Mark Fields said of the automaker’s position in the EV market on a Thursday conference call, according to Bloomberg. “When you look at some of the competitors and what they’ve announced, clearly, that’s something we’re developing for.”

Ford’s move comes as EVs are gaining wider acceptance than ever before, and not only for their environmental impact. Fully electric cars are marketed based on their cleaner footprint and potential for savings, but the vehicles’ style and performance are now also larger factors affecting consumers’ car buying decisions as concerns like shorter ranges and higher pricing wane.

“They've graduated out of the class of something that's a bit of an oddity to drive,” Hyundai Group American vice president of corporate and product planning Mike O’Brien told the Associated Press in March. Hyundai has not announced plans for a fully electric model, but currently manufactures a plug-in hybrid version of its Sonata sedan that has a range of 27 miles using only its electric charge.

Ford’s upcoming EV will likely fall into a similar pricing bracket as the Bolt and Model 3, which retail for $30,000 and $35,000, respectively, at base price.

“It’s ironic that we’re seeing a new rush to pure EVs with a realistic driving range, even as fuel prices in the U.S. are at record lows,” Kelley Blue Book editor and analyst Karl Brauer told The Detroit News. “It will be a true test of the technology, and the concept of 200 miles being a sufficient range, if consumers embrace these models in a world of sub-$3-a-gallon gasoline.”

Mr. Brauer also said he believes Ford’s move could force other car manufacturers’ hands in entering the EV market, adding that he anticipates rivals like Hyundai, Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Toyota Motor Company, and Volkswagen AG will soon make “similar announcements.”

Ford in December released its five-year, $4.5-billion EV investment plan, including the addition of 13 new EVs to its product lineup by 2020. The company already produces several plug-in hybrid car models alongside the Focus Electric.

No name or further specifications for the upcoming EV have been announced, although it could be called the Model E; Ford previously trademarked that title and stopped Tesla’s Elon Musk from naming his company’s new EV that, resulting in the Model 3 designation.

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