One of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E’s most interesting design features is its lack of traditional door handles. There are actually no handles at all in the rear, and only tiny door “pulls” up front. You may be wondering, then, how do you open the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E’s doors?
I attended the Ford Mustang Mach-E debut yesterday in the Los Angeles area, and one of the features that caught my attention was the door-opening mechanism. Each door houses a small, round button with a white, illuminated ring at its centre. In the front, the button is on the B-pillar just above the car’s beltline:
And the back doors have their buttons on the door’s rear vertically-oriented trim, also just above the beltline.
Pressing the button, which offers a satisfying click, pops the door, unlatching the closure from its striker. If you’re opening the front door, the next step after the electric latch has released the door from the B-pillar is to pull the dainty little handle integrated into the trim on the beltline. Here’s a video showing how it works:
Here are a few other angles showing the setup in the front:
The rear works in largely the same way, except there is no miniature handle to yank:
You press the button, then grab the edge of the door to let yourself in. Yes, you have to slide your fingers into the crack of the door to get into the second row. CNET’s car site, Roadshow, says there’s a little grip pad on the backside of the door, writing:
Once one of these doors is popped, you open them by pulling on a hidden grip pad in the the hem area where the outer door skin meets the inner door panel.
Also, according to TechCrunch, there’s some sort of safety in place to make sure fingers don’t get…tech crunched. From the story:
Pressing the button for the backdoor immediately pops it open just slightly. Then the passenger reaches into the ajar door to hit the latch. This might sound dangerous and apt for a crushed finger. Except there’s an immediate safety in place that doesn’t allow the door to close. TechCrunch tested it out.
The interior door handles are equally as interesting as the ones outside. Inside a “dip” in the trim that acts as a handle when closing the door is a little upright lever with a square hole in its centre:
Simply pulling that lever a few millimetres rearward engages the electric latch, popping the door open. Well, at least in theory, as the vehicle I was sitting in at the press launch did not allow me to get out of the car. I had to have someone open the door from the outside; The child safety feature may have been engaged (I’m not sure).
As for fail-safes, Ford told me each door has super capacitors in it so that, should the latches in the door fail to receive current from the battery (if, for example, the battery is dead), you can still get into the vehicle.
As for getting out of the vehicle in such a situation, Ford says the little levers shown above that require only a few millimetres of movement to activate the electric latches can be forced rearward farther than just a few millimetres. Doing so mechanically unlatches the doors. Ford says this mechanical release is only present in the front doors, so if the electric system (and the windows) fails for some reason, and you’re in the rear seat, you’ll need to jump up to the first row to get out.
Using the unlatch lever itself as a safety release seems like smart thinking, as, even if someone didn’t read their owner’s manual, I bet they’d yank the thing out fo desperation and eventually figure out how to escape.
You might recall our story last month about Bloomberg’s report on a wrongful death suit regarding the Tesla Model S’s retracting door handles, and how they apparently made it difficult for a police officer to open the vehicle to save someone’s life.
I asked Ford about how the Mach-E is designed for a scenario involving a crash and first responders. What if the super capacitors go bad? Or what if the super capacitors unlatch the rear doors, but the doors are jammed from a crash and there’s no handle to force the doors open?
I’ll update this story when I hear Ford’s response, but to get an idea of how the Mach-E might be set up, I looked at the Lincoln Continental’s “E-Latch” system shown in the video above. That system appears to be essentially the same that we see in the Mach-E: Little buttons on the doors actuate electric unlatch mechanisms, and super capacitors act as backups if the battery is dead.
Lincoln discusses what happens if the backup system doesn’t work, saying in the Continental’s owner’s manual:
Each door has a backup power system that allows the door to function if your vehicle has no power. The system has a limited number of operations before the power depletes and turns off. When the system turns off, the door remains open and unlatched and does not close.
If your vehicle has no power and the backup power system turns off, you can close and secure your vehicle by manually resetting each door latch using a key in the position shown.
The image below shows how an owner can reset the Continental’s latches using a key, allowing for the doors to once again latch and lock after automatically going into the unlatched mode following the backup system failure.
Once the passenger’s-side door latch has been reset, opening it without a functioning battery isn’t possible. Someone can, the manual says, still open the driver’s door after its latch has been reset by using the key:
If your vehicle has no power and the backup power system disables, you can manually unlock the driver door using a key in the position shown.
That’s right, there’s actually a key-hole in the Continental badge. Whether there’s a key hole somewhere for the Mach-E’s driver’s door, I’m unsure. I’m also not sure if the doors unlatch themselves when the super capacitors no longer do their job. I also still wonder how problematic it’d be not having a door handle in the rear, especially in a scenario where a first-responder might want to yank a door open (particularly after a crash), though I suppose breaking the window would be the move, there. We’ll see what Ford has to say.
Moving on to the cargo door, it is more conventional, with what looks like a squishy electric latch-release button at the base of the hatch as shown above. And the frunk, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have a physical button near it, though Ford tells me there is one inside the car, as well as one on the screen. I noticed the screen one on a prototype car that Ford gave me a ride in (see below).
The strangest thing about this whole setup is the lack of handles for the rear door, and I think the front door pull could be a little chunkier. But otherwise, it’s a variant of the “E-Latch” system found in the Lincoln Continental. It looks good, it’s a “fun” feature that will likely leave an impression on consumers, plus I bet it’s pretty aerodynamic.