(Adds detail, executive comments)
By Nick Carey
HALEWOOD, England, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co will invest an extra 149 million pounds ($180 million) to boost output of electric vehicle (EV) power units by 70% at its engine factory in northern England as the U.S. carmaker accelerates its push to go electric.
Electric drive unit production capacity at the Halewood plant will increase to 420,000 units a year, from 250,000 units, starting in 2024, the Detroit-based carmaker said on Thursday.
The move will bring Ford's total investment in the combustion engine factory's transition to production of EV parts to 380 million pounds.
"This is a very significant and important part of scaling up for our transformation," said Tim Slatter, head of Ford in Britain. "This is a really big deal for Ford’s business in Europe."
The EV power unit, which consists of an electric motor and gearbox, replaces the engine and transmission of a fossil-fuel vehicle.
Ford has committed to selling only fully electric cars in Europe by 2030 and only electric commercial vans by 2035. That puts it ahead of the European Union's plans to effectively ban the sale of new fossil-fuel passenger cars by 2035.
Slatter said Ford plans to have nine fully electric models on sale in Europe by 2024, with Halewood supplying power units to assembly plants in Romania and Turkey for five high-volume models, including an electric version of the popular Puma SUV.
Halewood is expected to supply 70% of the 600,000 EVs the company aims to sell in Europe annually by 2026, Ford said.
The latest Ford investment includes 125 million pounds in the plant itself and 24 million pounds in the development and testing of new EV parts for production at Halewood.
Ford said the investment will safeguard more than 500 jobs.
The UK government contributed to the initial EV power unit investment at Halewood, which was announced by Ford last year. ($1 = 0.8326 pounds) (Reporting by Nick Carey Editing by Edward Tobin and David Goodman)