Ford Partners with PI to Design Charging Handles for Mustang Mach-E

  • News
  • Nov 19, 2019

On November 17th, Ford Motor Company officially announced the Mustang Mach-E, an electric crossover compact SUV, set for delivery starting in late 2020. In everything from the 300 mile range to the impressive performance specs and huge storage space, Ford has taken care to deliver on consumer’s rising expectations of what a performance-level electric vehicle should be. This level of attention to detail meant that every part of the experience had to be well considered, including the humble charging plug.

Mach- E Charger
The charging handle (or “coupler”) designed by PI for Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E SUV.

For this, Ford recruited the design team at Product Insight to help develop a solution that would be comfortable, secure, robust and unmistakably a Mustang.

Though relatively small and simple compared to the scale and complexity of the entire car, the charger plays an outsized role in the experience of using an electric vehicle. “As an electric car owner myself, I had experienced firsthand both the good and not so good aspects of charging” notes Jim Varney, Vice President of PI, “and it really made me appreciate the importance that the Ford team was placing on this part of the process.”

The charger handle itself presents a unique design challenge, as it is both a functional hand-held tool and an extension of the car. The ergonomic grip shape was designed to feel secure when either pushing (plugging) or pulling (unplugging), with subtle forms and soft-touch areas providing a natural home for the hand. The handle incorporates wrapping creases, chevron shapes and flowing, muscular forms – elements of the Ford Mustang design language – to link the charger visually to the car.

Mach- E Charger
Two versions of the charge coupler were developed to conform with different industry regulations for the North American market (top) and the European market (bottom).

PI worked very closely with Ford throughout the process, working almost as an extension of their design team, on multiple iterations and mock-ups to hone the design and feel of the charger. The design was subjected to brutal testing, including driving over it repeatedly, to make sure it would stand up to the rigors of daily life.

“This was in many ways a dream job for us” adds Jim. “Not only was it a great experience to work with an iconic American brand, as an EV program it is building toward a more sustainable future at the same time. I can’t think of a cooler job than that.”

Mach- E Charger
The button on the North American charger operates a release latch. (photo credit: Ford)

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