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Ford’s Chevy Bolt rival may be more than a rumor after all

It looks like Ford really will build a 200-mile electric car to rival the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3. Although director of electrification Kevin Layden recently said that such a car was not in the cards, Ford CEO Mark Fields just confirmed its existence.

“Clearly that’s something we’re developing for,” Fields said in response to a question about the rumored electric car during Ford’s recent quarterly earnings call. His comments mark the first time a top executive at Ford has acknowledged plans to develop a 200-mile electric car, notes Automotive News.

A car with 200 miles of range is crucial because it’s much less restrictive than the shorter-range electric cars of today. The Tesla Model S just cracked the 300-mile barrier thanks to some updates, but getting that kind of range currently requires a battery pack that is too large and expensive for a mainstream model. Tesla’s Model 3 and the Bolt EV will both be priced below $40,000, and that’s likely the price point Ford would aim for too.

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Fields did not discuss any details of the car, but a previous report claimed it would be called the Model E. Tesla originally wanted to use that name for what became the Model 3, but Ford fought it. Rumor has it the car will be built alongside the Focus at a new plant in Mexico beginning in 2019. Ford may also offer hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, just like Hyundai is doing with its 2017 Ioniq hatchback.

In the meantime, Ford will launch a heavily-updated version of the Focus Electric for the 2017 model year. It will have a range of 100 miles, a big boost over the current version’s EPA-rated 76 miles of range. That’s half the range of the Bolt EV and Model 3, but it will at least be competitive with the current Nissan Leaf and other similarly-priced electric cars.

Ford is spending $4.5 billion on 13 new electrified models through 2020, including all-electric cars, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids. Many of those will likely be hybrids, including updates of current models and a possible hybrid version of the F-150 pickup truck. But a 200-mile electric car will be a much more powerful statement than those models.