Ford Expands Hybrid Success to Electric Vehicles

Ford Expands Hybrid Success to Electric Vehicles

President Obama views Ford Plug-in Hybrid at Edison Electric

President Obama views Ford Plug-in Hybrid at Edison Electric

By John Addison (3/21/09).

Toyota’s global market share leadership has been helped by the success of its hybrids. Looking to a future that will increasingly emphasize fuel economy and lower emissions, Toyota will put 500 plug-in hybrid Priuses on the road in 2009.

Competition is just getting started in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. One company that Toyota must watch carefully is Ford. It is Ford with the world’s most fuel-efficient SUV – the Ford Escape Hybrid. It is Ford that is now selling a mid-sized hybrid which can be driven to 47 mph in electric vehicle mode – the Ford Fusion Hybrid.  It is Ford that is successfully testing the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid with major electrical utilities across the nation. It is Ford, not Toyota, which will be selling commercial electric vehicles in the United States in 2010.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California, this month. Ford will start selling commercial electric vehicle in 2010, a sedan EV in 2011, and a plug-in hybrid in 2012. “You’ll see more hybrids, but you will really see a lot more electric vehicles,” he said. Reuters

Last week, I discussed Ford’s plans with Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford.

This is the fifth year of success for the Ford Escape Hybrid and its cousins the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid. The vehicle has enough passenger room and cargo space to be popular with families to taxi fleets. The SUV delivers an impressive 32 mpg. It is the only SUV that could make the list of Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Vehicles.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, making it even more fuel efficient with less CO2e emissions than the Escape Hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid is powered by both an electric motor and by a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid engine. The advanced intake variable cam timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. The Fusion has a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel economy is not only a function of what we drive, but how we drive. Ford conducted a study that resulted in an average of 24 percent improvement in fuel economy when typical drivers were coached by eco-driving experts.  With the Fusion, Ford introduces SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide, which coaches hybrid drivers to maximize fuel efficiency. In the future, SmartGauge will be included in a number of Ford vehicles.

In addition to the visual feedback with SmartGauge, the new Fusion Hybrid includes Ford’s MyKey™ , a programmable feature that allows drivers, parents, or fleet owners to limit top speed and audio volume of vehicles, and set speed alert chimes to encourage safer driving. Tire pressure monitoring is another new feature that helps improve mileage.

United States Infrastructure Company (USIC), a utility services business that operates a fleet of 3,500 vehicles nationwide, could benefit from using MyKey, said Phil Samuelson, USIC purchasing and asset manager. The company uses many Ford vehicles, and its drivers put an average of 24,000 miles on each vehicle every year. “Operating a fleet equipped with MyKey technology could be great for our business and our drivers,” Samuelson said. “By encouraging safety belt use and limiting the top speed and audio volume on our vehicles, we’d be better able to protect our employees and our fleet investment while potentially saving fuel, too.”

What Ford is not offering in its hybrids and plug-in hybrids is a flexfuel engine. The U.S. flexfuel offerings from any automaker have failed to deliver respectable mileage when running on gasoline. Typically their mileage is reduced 27 percent when running on the E85 ethanol blend.

Ford may make hybrids even more affordable in 2010 with a new Focus hybrid or other hybrid 4-door sedan. By 2012, Ford will have a new more fuel efficient hybrid drive system. Currently, Ford hybrids use NiMH batteries. The more expensive lithium-ion batteries are planned for the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid offerings. By 2012, even the hybrid offerings may be lithium if a cost advantage can be secured. For 2012, Ford is evaluating battery technology and has not made final decisions, explained Nancy Gioia. Ford battery partner for the Escape PHEV is Johnson Controls-Saft.

A charging infrastructure will be critical to the success of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. “There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies.  Because they need less range, urban dwellers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.

Electric utilities in many areas are not ready for the load of everyone in a neighborhood charging an EV, especially at peak-load hours. Utilities will want to encourage smart charging during the night, when excess electricity is often available. Since 2007, Ford has been working with utilities and research organizations to develop extensive data from demonstrations of prototype Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrids. Ford now has over ten partners including:

  • Southern California Edison
  • New York Power Authority
  • Consolidated Edison of New York
  • American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio
  • Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala.; and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
  • Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C.
  • DTE Energy of Detroit
  • National Grid of Waltham, Mass.
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, a state agency.
  • Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Utilities need to lead with a smart-charging infrastructure and communications standards. In addition to Ford’s official plug-in demonstrations, fleets and communities have converted Ford Escape Hybrids to be plug-in. Google uses Escape plug-ins that are solar charged. Xcel is evaluating vehicle-to-grid in its Smart Grid City.

Drivers of the demonstration Ford Escape PHEV will make far fewer trips to the gas station. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. Look for faster charging 220 volt on-board charger in the future. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg – roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive.

Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. Ford is not waiting until 2012 to start selling battery electric vehicles.

In 2010, Ford also plans to begin sales of zero-emission battery-electric vans. To speed time to market, Ford will be collaborating with Tanfield’s Smith Electric Vehicles to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Smith Electric Vehicles will build the Transit Connect in Kansas City, Missouri.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is in offering a 4-door sedan that can achieve freeway speeds and has a range of at least 100 miles. In the typical U.S. household with two vehicles, one of those vehicles almost never travels over 40 miles in a day. In 2011, using Magna International to do the power system assembly, Ford will offer a C-sized 4-door sedan electric vehicle with both 110 and 220 volt on-board charging. The battery supplier is to be determined.

Through continued advances and strategic partnerships in hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicles, Ford is positioned to compete and even lead in growth segments of the auto industry.

Test Driving the New Nissan EV

Test Driving the New Nissan EV

San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV

San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV

By Tom Bartley (3/26/09).

Walking up to the new Nissan Electric Vehicle prototype car, my first surprise was getting into the right hand front seat.  This car was only one of two in existence and driving in Japan is like the UK, on the left side of the road.  I had never driven a right hand drive car before, but I felt more comfortable to see the brake pedal on the left and the accelerator pedal on the right.  The only real difference was using my left hand to release the parking brake and move the shift lever to DRIVE.

I was excited to receive the invitation to test drive the new Nissan EV during its announcement with San Diego Gas and Electric in San Diego on Monday, March 23, 2009.  This was to be a limited rollout using a “mule” and not the actual car, but I knew all that and still wanted to feel what it was like to drive it.  I didn’t pay much attention to the style looks or interior of the car because Nissan is developing the final production model with a different body in Japan.
This electric vehicle was so quiet, I worried just a little about the absent minded driver who would accidentally step on the accelerator without realizing this quiet car was ready to go.

As I eased my foot into the accelerator I asked the company driver if I could floor it.  He agreed and I looked for an opportunity.  Not much distance at first because we started out on the short side of the course along the pier.  The course was conveniently laid out such that the high speed long side would put me into the water if something failed and I couldn’t stop.  Definitely not a golf cart, the accelerator had some real control.  The car felt so comfortable that by the time I turned around and headed down the long side I had forgotten about driving from the right side.

The longer part of the course allowed a quick acceleration to 70 km/h (45 mph) on the speedometer before I tested the braking regeneration, not wanting to test the Port’s capability to recover me out of the water.  Nissan’s more than 18 years of electric vehicle experience was evident by the control smoothness and no transmission design.  Driving the car felt like an ordinary gasoline car with the extra spirit of a turbo kick after an initial start up.

I have driven many of the electrically propelled vehicles, including the fuel cell million-dollar prototypes, and I am familiar with the high torque off-the-line acceleration of electric motors.  Nissan was successful in making this car feel like any other gasoline car I was used to driving on the road.  I can’t say enough about the control system because I have observed how difficult that can be in an electric vehicle.  It’s not a sports car, but neither will parents with kids have any trouble keeping up with traffic or staying out of the way.

The test mule prototype was a square bodied five passenger, four door, mini SUV that looked like an oversized bread box or a shrunken HUMMER.  I saw the car take one trip around the pier track where I estimated the people load to be in excess of 700 pounds.  The acceleration performance seemed to be the same as when only two of us were in the car.  If the car handles the same empty or loaded, that’s HUGE.

Charging options are a standard 4 hour, special 26 minutes, or emergency to get me home.  Nissan and SDG&E are working towards making available pre approved according-to-code installations through the county.

One thing for sure, the car recycles braking energy and the number of brake jobs will be few and far between.
How much is it going to cost?  Nissan is acting coy, but probably around $30,000 plus or minus.  Don’t go away yet; it qualifies for the $7500 EV tax credit, making it somewhat competitive with small hybrid electrics.  Nissan says that the car will save money unless gasoline drops below $1.10 per gallon (fat chance of that ever happening again).  I don’t believe the quoted 90 cents to “fill the tank”, but maybe SDG&E has something up its sleeve with special charging rates in the middle of the night using the smart meters now being installed around the San Diego area.

Ok, I’d like to have one.  When can I get one?  Nissan is planning to provide 100 fleet vehicles in San Diego through SDG&E.  I saw conflicting reports on whether SDG&E was planning to use all 100 vehicles or would offer some of those vehicles to other fleets.  Nissan would like that number to go to 1,000 in preparation for a full blown production and will be accepting “soft” fleet orders during the next 12 months for probable delivery in 2011.  The general public won’t have its turn until 2012.  If I can sell my gas guzzling high performance high maintenance Corvette Classic I might look for a way to get one of the fleet cars.

United States Wind and Solar Grow as Coal Use Decreases

United States Wind and Solar Grow as Coal Use Decreases

Wind Power Grew 51% in U.S. 2008

Wind Power Grew 51% in U.S. 2008


According to the latest figures published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its “Electric Power Monthly” report released on March 24, 2009, non-hydro renewable sources of electricity enjoyed double-digit growth during the past year while coal, natural gas, and petroleum experienced notable declines and nuclear power remained stagnant.
Specifically, EIA reports that net electricity generation in the United States dropped by 1.0 percent from during 2008 compared to 2007. Coal-fired generation was down by 1.1 percent, natural gas declined 2.2 percent, and petroleum liquids decreased by 37.1 percent.
Nuclear generation during 2008 was essentially stagnant – increasing by only 0.3 percent compared to the prior year.
On the other hand, EIA figures show that renewable energy, including conventional hydropower, increased by 5.9 percent during 2008 — reflecting a combined increase of 0.9 percent in conventional hydropower coupled with a 17.6 percent increase in non-hydro renewables (i.e., solar, wind, geothermal, biomass).
In particular, according to EIA, net generation from wind sources was 51.0 percent higher than it had been in 2007 while solar electric generation jumped by 36.1 percent. More modest increases were enjoyed by geothermal (2.5 percent) and wood + other biomass (0.6 percent).
In 2008, conventional hydroelectric power provided 6.1 percent of the U.S.’s total net electricity generation, while other renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind) generated a bit more than 3.0 percent of electric power.
However, non-hydro renewables’ share of the nation’s electricity supply has been increasingly steadily. As of December 2008, non-hydro renewables had expanded their contribution to 3.4 percent. By comparison, non-hydro renewables accounted for 2.5 percent of electricity generation in 2007.
“Thirty years after the March 28 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, growth in that industry appears to have screeched to a halt,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “On the other hand, renewable energy is continuing the pattern of meteoric growth that it has been enjoying in recent years and likely to continue in the foreseeable future.”
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The data cited above are taken from Table ES1.B of the Energy Information Administration’s “Electric Power Monthly – March 2009” (released March 24, 2009). It can be found at:
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The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars for 2014

Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars for 2014

Toyota Prius tops Clean Fleet list with lowest GHG

An oldie but goodie – the Prius set us on a low-carbon car path

Electric Cars Rule the Fuel Economy Race

What a difference a few years make. We first did this list of the Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars in 2009 and had a mix of hybrids (including an SUV), a CNG model and even a straight gas-powered car, the Mini Cooper.

Fast forward to 2014 and the low-carbon stakes have been raised significantly. and this year if you don’t have significant electric drive you don’t make the list. Here’s a look back at our 2009 list; almost looks quaint now, doesn’t it. All good cars and all except for the Altima and Escape Hybrids still on the market (and it should be noted that both of those models were replaced by gas-only ones that get better fuel economy than the hybrids did).

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Honda Civic Hybrid
  3. Honda Insight
  4. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  5. smart fortwo
  6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
  7. Honda Civic CNG
  8. Toyota Camry Hybrid
  9. Ford Escape Hybrid
  10. Mini Cooper and Clubman

This list was developed by first searching the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable, with its extensive search capabilities. The EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45% highway and 55% city driving. The carbon footprint is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) based on 15,000 miles of driving, using the GREET 1.7 model.

For this year’s update we went back to and looked at the list of the Top 10 cars in fuel economy. It has some familiar names, but often with an electrified twist. Here’s the new list (and we expect some significant changes for 2015 as new models join the ranks).

  1. Chevy Spark EV
  2. Honda Fit EV
  3. Fiat 500e
  4. Nissan Leaf
  5. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  6. Smartfortwo EV cabriolet

    Tesla,Model S,electric car,MPGe

    Tesla Model S – two spots in the Top 10

  7. Smart fortwo EV coupe
  8. Ford Focus EV
  9. Tesla Model S (60 kWh battery pack)
  10. Tesla Model S (85 kWh battery pack)

Based on EPA’s test cycle and its previously mentioned 45/55 highway/city driving split, these cars deliver 119 to 89 combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), a measurement the EPA came up with to allow side-by-side comparisons with cars with gasoline engines.

Since two of the top 10 are essentially duplicates of others (the Smart and Tesla) I think it would be fun to look at the next two down the list. That’s were it gets interesting as you run out of pure electric cars and move into the plug-in hybrid world.  The next couple are:

  • Chevy Volt
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Ford C-Max Energi

I’m not stretching the list here – the bottom three are tied in combined fuel economy. And the ticket of entry for this combined Top 10 (which now covers 14 models) is 58 MPGe!

Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in car, hybrid

Ford has a plug-in version of its best-selling Fusion sedan

Also worth noting is that except for the pricey Tesla Model S, most of these models are relatively affordable, especially with special lease deals the automakers are offering. While they tend to be on the small side, a consequence of squeezing the minimum battery since that’s the vehicle’ biggest expense, it does include the fulls-zie Model S, midsize Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi SUV.

Of course, the down side is that many of them remain in limited availability with the majority of the all-electric models being steered to California where they can earn the manufacturer the zero emission vehicle credits needed to continue to sell cars in the largest market in the U.S.

And bubbling under this list are hybrids, diesels and advanced gasoline vehicles getting better fuel economy than ever before. Thankfully for all of us – and for our planet – driving with a lighter carbon footprint is getting easier every day.


Clean Energy from Freight Trains and Gravity

Clean Energy from Freight Trains and Gravity

Freight Rail's Downhill EnergyAll over the western United States, and to a lesser extent across the whole country, there are mountain grades crossed by railroad tracks.  The surface topology and the maximum rail slope limit of about 3% is a challenge to the trains that travel these tracks everyday.  It is common to see trains with four locomotives moving over 100 cars and 15 million pounds of weight.  15 million pounds moving downhill could be converted to clean renewable energy instead of heat lost in braking – These trains rely on a safety air brake system that uses friction brake pads and shoes to slow the downhill speed.

This is one example. Along the I-15 highway between San Bernardino and Barstow, California, through the Cajon Pass a double track rail line transcends a summit 2735 feet above the switch yard in San Bernardino 18 miles below.  On the average a train travels down the grade every half hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  If only 40% of the energy now used to heat the air could be recovered, it would supply enough power for 32,000 homes.  Alternatively, if the energy could be used to assist trains traveling uphill, over 1 million gallons of fuel would be saved every year.

How could this be done?  A hybrid-electric or electric train?  Or a power station?  There are developed technologies that would need refinement, but are available today.

Dual mode locomotives are in daily operation today along the East Coast where they run on either diesel fuel or electricity supplied from a third rail or overhead catenary.  Electric commuter rail cars are operating all over the world.  Linear motors technology used in Mag Lev trains are another way to transfer power and energy between the ground and a moving train.  To supply and collect power would require a connection to the power grid along the entire 18 miles.  Is it that much different than a wind or solar energy farm?  Power stations have an estimated life of about 50 years.  The cost of electrifying 18 miles of track could easily be paid back in less than 10 years with 40 years left of almost pure profits because there is no fuel consumption.  It would operate similar to a hydroelectric generator at a dam.

A hybrid electric train wouldn’t require an electric grid infrastructure, but would require energy storage on board the train.  It would take 4 or 5 energy storage cars (battery box cars) per train to generate and capture the braking energy, and supply propulsion assist to the locomotives.  The cost breakeven point is estimated at 4 years, just in time to replace the original batteries.  The profit picture looks better from there on out to the estimated rail car life of 35 years.

There are many passes with railroad track grades.  As exciting as this potential seems, it won’t happen without a large dose of government money and will power.

If downhill grades were operated like power stations, the power companies would have to partner with a railroad and not completely own the plant and facilities, a new type of business venture.  Almost all of the Western slope tracks with grades are owned by either Union Pacific (UP) or Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroads who are already spending $Billions (with a B) just to maintain and improve the current track infrastructure including enlarging switchyards with the latest controls in Southern California.  UP has deployed hybrid-electric Green Goat switch yard locomotives and more efficient diesel-electric switchers that use 700 hp Cummins gensets instead of 2300 hp engines.

Typically, the introduction of new technology in the railroad business takes decades to accomplish.  New “risky” technology will need immediate money or safety payback especially at a time when freight traffic is down.  However, rail electrification precedents exist all over Europe and light rail electric commuter rail exists in most urban areas of the US.  The East Coast even includes some third rail heavy rail electrically driven locomotives.  The US Army has built a hydrogen fuel cell electric locomotive and GE was reportedly working on a heavy rail hybrid-electric locomotive with energy storage.  The heavy equipment used in the rail business offers unique opportunities.  A 4 year breakeven on 35 year rolling stock life argues for action.

Tom Bartley has been writing about battery pack and ultracapacitor energy storage systems for over four years.  He has co-authored papers on the use of energy storage systems with braking regeneration for commuter railcar applications.  Tom Bartley has a BSEE and MSEE from Stanford University.  He is a life member of the IEEE and a member of SAE.  He is a director on the board of the San Diego Clean Fuel Coalition and is on three different committees of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.  He is currently an independent business analyst known as Tom Bartley Ideas.  Tom can be reached at: