Speaking with CarAdvice at the Ford GT innovation forum in Detroit yesterday, lead engineer Jamal Hameedi said cars such as the Tesla Model S only showcase their performance primarily in straight-line speed while hypercars such as the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari are weight-compromised.
“They are starting to knock on the door of performance with electric technology, but it’s very one-dimensional performance,” he said.
Hameedi believes Ford customers want more than just straight-line speed from their performance cars.
“Our enthusiast customers that we design our cars for, they go to tracks, they live, eat and breath road courses and some do drag strips too, but we would need to give them something more than that [straight-line speed].”
Ford considered electrifying the GT supercar but decided that the best approach was super-lightweight construction with plenty of usable power.
“We did consider it. [But] all those [electrified performance] cars are pretty heavy: the 918, the P1 and LaFerrari are all heavy. We thought for a very pure track car that we could deliver more in terms of driving dynamics without electric power.”
Despite all three of those cars setting amazing lap times around courses such as the Nurgburgring, Hameedi says the gains are made in the wrong places.
“If you look at the lap time trace of a 918, they make incredible lap time but they are making their lap time in the straights, not in the corners.”
“You can’t counteract that [extra] weight in a turn,” Hameedi said when asked by CarAdvice if the compromise for extra weight is worth the additional power gains an electric system would bring.
The Lotus-like philosophy of lightweight construction is at the heart of Ford’s lightweigthing program, as the company seeks to bring down the weight of its everyday cars while improving the efficiency of its engines for a double whammy of fuel efficiency gains.
The Ford GT pumps out around 450kW of power, but its weight remains a secret so far, with Hameedi indicating that it will be very light and the "cutting edge of power-to-weight ratio" in its class.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there that will appreciate [our] different take on that performance. You can offset the mass, that’s where LaFerrari, 918 … they are all carbon cars and they all offset the weight of the battery pack [with lightweight construction] and put the packs very low so they are not degrading the centre of gravity and all of that, so there’s a solution there.
"But if you can offset that weight [to begin with], what if there wasn’t something you had to offset, so the weight drops even further into race car levels of mass?”
The Ford GT uses 50 sensors and 28 microprocessors as part its computing power to keep the car going in the right direction at high speed. The car also employes active and automated aerodynamics for better downforce, which begs the question of why make a car lighter and more powerful, to only compensate it with electronic systems if it’s harder to drive?
“I don’t agree that it's harder to drive, I think it depends on how the car is developed. From a first principle standpoint, low mass is better for everything. The first order affects of a vehicle, low mass improves every single one of them, if a car is hard to drive because it happens to be low mass then in my humble opinion, it’s not well engineered.”
Nonetheless, Hameedi admitted that Ford engineers were still passionately debating whether the track mode in the new GT would switch all electronics aids off, even if it meant the car would set slower lap times.
“Do you truly turn everything off if you can make the car go faster with some things on? Do you leave them on or do you truly say do you want everything off? Okay then, you can be the slower guy but the hero,” Hameedi told CarAdvice.
What do you think? Do modern-day supercars need electrification? Let us know in the comments section below.