With the 2019 SEMA show about to kick off in downtown Las Vegas, automakers are also taking the opportunity to show off their most interesting creations to the crowd of aftermarket enthusiasts.
Ford isn’t holding back, bringing a very intriguing Mustang to the Nevada event, as they seem to every year. However, this time around, this particular pony is absent the expected V8 engine, supercharged or otherwise. In its place - literally - are a pair of dual electric motors, and used in quite an unexpected manner.
It’s called the Mustang Lithium, a one-off concept that was developed alongside Webasto and therefore uses their EVDrive technology and 800-volt battery systems. How much energy those batteries are capable of storing remains a mystery, but Ford is enthusiastically pointing out the sheer performance they’re able to extract.
A pair of electric motors usually means all wheels on the ‘Lithium’ should be capable of transmitting power and torque to the drive surface. Not so, and drive still goes to the rear wheels in this case. But with an incredible combined output quoted at north of 670kW and twist in excess of 1,350Nm, it certainly needs every traction advantage it can get.
Ford has given the electric muscle car a very unique powertrain configuration. Instead of the motors being placed on the axles themselves, drive is channeled through a Getrag MT82 ‘Calimer’, a 6-speed manual transmission that’s usually reserved for drag strip applications.
It’s super-strengthened billet steel internals have been proven in practice and are capable of reining in the onslaught of torque generated by the literal megawatt of power generated by those electric motors.
Delivering additional support is a Super 8.8 Torsen limited slip differential, suspension package and brakes lifted from the Shelby GT350R, a set of Forgeline lightweight wheels, custom carbon fibre body components, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S street tyres which, to be honest, might not be up to the job. Exhale too much as the light turns green and we expect a cloud of smoke to ensue.
The Mustang Lithium, then, does seem to have a proclivity to be accepted as a high performance and zero emissions road rover, even coming with its own portable charger for on-the-go topping up of its electricity reserves. That said, we still have no idea how fast the car really is nor how much it can expect to drive before its batteries are depleted.
While having three pedals and a gear lever is novel these days, and a true unicorn in an EV, we struggle to imagine a good reason for its inclusion other than to appeal to loyalists. After all, the whole point of a transmission is to compensate for a combustion engine's power and torque curves, ensuring that the car is kept at is optimum operating range as much as possible. Electric motors, famously, produce maximum drive instantaneously, negating the need for a traditional gearbox entirely.
In contrast to this one-off, later this month Ford are slated to pull the covers off their first production electric SUV, developed with all-new technology and supposedly taking many design and dynamic cues from the Mustang family.
Given the timing, it’s not impossible to say that this ‘Lithium’ was created to be the spiritual bridge between the current-era V8-powered cars and this upcoming electric Mustang SUV, easing the minds of those critical of this new direction to prove that the shift to electric drive need not be one void of excitement.
We’ll see about that.