Ford today opened its Cologne Electric Vehicle Centre in Germany, which will become its EV production hub in Europe.

After a €2 billion investment – Ford's largest to date at the plant that was first founded in 1930 – the historic site in Niehl, Cologne has been transformed into a modern electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

The factory will build the next generation of electric passenger vehicles, with Ford targeting an annual production capacity of more than 250,000 EVs when fully ramped. This will support the company's global plans to reach a run rate of two million EVs annually by the end of 2026.

The first model to be built at the Ford Cologne Electric Vehicle Centre will be the MEB platform-based Explorer SUV starting this year, followed in mid-2024 by a second EV described as a sports crossover. This second model is expected to be an SUV-coupe variant of the Explorer using the same MEB platform.

Designed to be highly efficient, the 309-acre (125-hectare) site features a brand-new production line, battery assembly, and state-of-the-art tooling and automation. 

Gallery: 2023 Ford Explorer Electric

Ford says the Cologne EV Centre will be its first carbon neutral assembly plant to open globally as part of the company's commitment to reach carbon neutrality across its entire European footprint of facilities, logistics and direct suppliers by 2035. 

For example, all electricity and natural gas required to operate the facility is carbon neutral based on being 100 per cent certified renewable electricity and biomethane. In addition, the heat required to warm the facility and processes is carbon neutral, as the local energy provider will offset the corresponding emissions from the assembly plant on behalf of Ford.

"Opening the Cologne EV Center is the start of a new generation of clean manufacturing and electric vehicles in Europe. This facility will now be one of the most efficient and environmentally responsible plants in the entire industry. I am thrilled to continue working toward a zero emissions future for our children and grandchildren."

Bill Ford, Executive Chair

Ford says that at the core of the Cologne EV Centre are digital advancements that connect machines, vehicles, and workers. The factory will implement self-learning machines, autonomous transport systems and big data management in real time to improve the efficiency of the production processes and get better over time.

The site will also feature new cognitive and collaborative robots, as well as augmented reality solutions, that will support human workers.

The electric Ford Explorer that will be made in Cologne will be the latest in a long line of iconic vehicles built at the site in the past, including the Model A, Taunus, Capri, Granada, and Fiesta. The plant has produced over 18 million cars for more than 90 years, and has been one of Ford's most efficient factories worldwide. 

Ford Cologne Electric Vehicle Center infographic