Ford, GM electric pickups were a tough sell in the 1990s

This was a serious effort by Ford to make a vehicle that did more than simply comply with California’s zero-emissions mandate. Although the vehicle, introduced in 1998, used a standard Ranger body, Ford spent heavily on the powertrain, safety and creature comforts and made continuous improvements in its five years on the market.

The 1998-99 models were built with old- fashioned lead-acid batteries. The 39-cell pack nestled between the frame rails gave the Ranger EV a 50-mile driving range (at “optimal temperature,” according to a Ford brochure) before a six-hour recharge was needed. In cold weather, driving range plummeted. A full charge at 32 degrees was good for 35 miles.

The Ranger EV had a 90-hp electric motor and a single-speed transmission that drove the rear wheels. Ford said it could accelerate from 0 to 50 mph in 12.5 seconds and attain a top speed of 75 mph. The truck could haul 700 pounds.

It came with air conditioning, dual air bags, four-wheel antilock brakes and electro-hydraulic power steering. In 1999, Ford upgraded the batteries to lighter, more powerful nickel-metal hydride. The driving range increased to as much as 85 miles, depending on temperature, and hauling capacity improved to 1,250 pounds. Performance and charging times, however, were unchanged.

At launch, John Wallace, then Ford’s director of alternative fuel vehicles, said: “We’re in the EV business for the long term. We’re committed to making this work by providing good value.” Despite being offered in 22 states, only about 1,500 Ranger EVs were sold before Ford pulled the plug in 2002.

Ford’s next battery-electric vehicle, the Focus EV, didn’t arrive until 2012; it didn’t fare much better.

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