Let’s face it – Canadians are well acquainted with winter driving. Our lives north of the border are, in large part, ruled by the frigid temperatures and slick surfaces that descend upon our cities from December until spring each year. The blistering winds, frozen roads, snow-covered sidewalks, and the endless rotation of base layers that dominate our wardrobe are seemingly as synonymous with our Canadian identity as hockey, Tim Hortons, and Justin Bieber.
But from the perspective of a driver, the winter season doesn’t just offer a sense of Northern nostalgia, it also ushers in some particularly treacherous driving conditions. There is no denying it – our winter season is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for a car that lacks winter-proof design and drivetrain. And so, as electric vehicles become increasingly popular across the Canadian masses, a common question reveals itself: are EVs truly built to tackle winter in Canada?
Keeping the experience and safety of Canadians in mind, Ford has spent decades bringing crowd-favourite vehicles to market that are more than capable of handling harsh conditions Canadian winters throw at them. From the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid Electric (PHEV) to the upcoming all-electric F-150 Lightning, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E (an all-electric SUV with the iconic Mustang nameplate), winter driving remains at the forefront of the Ford EV research & development process.
To put its Mustang Mach-E to the ultimate test, Ford heads over to the Smithers Winter Test Center, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The test center helps Ford to conduct extensive performance evaluations on vehicles, tires and components under the special challenges of extreme cold and hazardous road conditions. The Smithers Winter Test facility can fulfill an almost unlimited array of winter testing needs.
Video Disclaimer: U.S. models shown
NACTOY voted the Mustang Mach-E the 2021 North American Utility Vehicle of the YearTM, the Ford Mustang Mach-E has fared especially well on the Smithers Winter Test track. During early production of the Mustang Mach-E, Ford engineers quickly identified the importance of an eAWD setup and relied on hands-on collaboration between the powertrain group, the brake team, and Ford’s traction experts. For the Mustang Mach-E, the result was an eAWD specifically designed to adapt to changing conditions; from higher grip conditions (like on the highway) to slick conditions (like on snow-covered back roads) that require less acceleration and more control and maneuverability.
Translation: this electric all-wheel drive Ford EV is tuned to provide excellent traction. The Ford eAWD system is not mechanically coupled front-to-rear, which means it can apply torque independently to the front and rear axles. It can send up to 100 per cent of the torque to either axle at any time, up to torque/power limit of that axle. When the system determines that AWD performance is not likely to be needed, it enters an efficiency mode that balances the torque split in the manner that uses the least energy. When increased performance is needed, the system immediately and seamlessly changes the torque split to enhance the driving experience.
Choose from three drive experiences – Unbridled, Engage or Whisper – and your Mustang Mach-E will adjust the interior sound, lighting and driving dynamic to your style. There’s also One-Pedal drive Mode and the GT model comes with Unbridled Extend drive mode made for the track.
From a winter range perspective, drivers should expect slight variations between the range established by the predictive algorithm and the range listed among the spec list of the Mustang Mach-E. Low temperatures, as well as driving style (such as climate control use) impact the battery consumption of EVs, and the Mustang Mach-E is no exception. With this in mind, range limits will ultimately vary based on the tendencies and preferences of each individual driver. However, Ford drivers have the ability to “precondition”* their battery as well as the cabin when plugged in, using the “set departure time” feature using the FordPass™ App^. Not to mention, the available seat and steering wheel warmers are a popular feature of Ford’s most popular EVs.
Final verdict? When it comes to winter driving, Ford EVs certainly rise to the challenge.
* Effectiveness of cabin conditioning may be reduced by extreme outside temperatures or when using 120-volt charging.
^ The FordPass app, compatible with select smartphone platforms, is available via a download. Message and data rates may apply.
Trademark(s) of North American Car and Truck of the Year Corporation used under license by Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited.