By John Addison. Ford will introduce a battery-only commercial van in 2010, followed by a passenger car built on the same technology in 2011, and exciting plug-in vehicles by 2012. To accelerate commercialization, Ford will partner with leaders in drive systems, lithium batteries, specialty electric vehicles, and electric utilities.
Ford will build on its existing success with the Ford Escape Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid, an impressive mid-sized sedan that ranks in the Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Sedans.
Last summer, I met with Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, and Greg Frenette, Chief engineer for research and advanced technologies. They discussed Ford’s commitment to continued improvements in fuel economy with gas turbo direct injection (GTDI), lighter vehicle weight without any sacrifice in safety, transmission efficiency, and increased use of electric drive systems. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are definitely in Ford’s future. In fact, Nancy Gioia, has been driving her own Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid.
The Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid has been successfully in a number of fleet and research environments. One is Boulder, Colorado, which is becoming Smart Grid City. Working with a major utility, Xcel Energy, residents hope to lower their utility bills, improve energy efficiency, and develop city-wide support for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
University of Colorado Chancellor Bud Peterson and his wife, Val, were the first to let Xcel transform their home to be part of Smart Grid City. Xcel put solar panels on the house, gave them a new smart meter for vehicle charging, and a Ford Escape Hybrid which is converted to have vehicle-to-grid capability. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is a bi-directional electric grid interface that allows an electric vehicle to take energy from the grid or put it back on the grid. When fully charged, their car plug-in hybrid batteries have enough power to keep their home running for days by using V2G.
Seven more electric utility providers are joining the Ford and Electric Power Research Institute to expand real world testing with Ford Escape PHEVs. Utility partnerships and industry standards will be critical to the expansion of a smart-charging infrastructure and to the long-term viability of V2G.
Ford will have Johnson Controls-Saft develop an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power Ford’s first commercial plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The lithium-ion battery system that Johnson Controls-Saft is designing and manufacturing for Ford includes cells, mechanical, electrical, electronic, and thermal components. Initially the cells will be produced at the supplier’s production facility in France, but the system will be assembled in the United States. The five-year supply agreement includes delivery for committed production in 2012 with a target of at least 5,000 units per year.
Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the lithium-ion battery completed within 6 to 8 hours. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg. This 30-mile range fits the average daily needs of most U.S. drivers.
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 to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Tanfield’s Smith has over 100 electric trucks and delivery vans in service with customers today. More details may be announced at the Chicago Auto Show this month.
Battery-electric vans are well suited for many applications where ranges are limited and frequent stopping provides for regenerative braking. USPS has used electric postal vehicles for years. FedEx Express has ordered 10 Modec electric commercial vehicles for use in the United Kingdom.
At the Detroit Auto Show, Ford was showing a new battery-electric sedan developed jointly with Magna International with a 23kWh lithium battery pack. Commercial sales are planned for 2011 for a vehicle similar in size to the Ford Focus. Ford will compete with hundreds of battery-electric vehicle competitors including smaller specialty vehicle makers and Nissan, which is determined to be the early volume leader in freeway-speed electric vehicles. Ford will also be competiting with the plug-in Prius and Chevy Volt.
Given the success of Ford and Mercury hybrids, Ford is positioned to do well as it expands into these plug-in hybrid and battery-electric offerings. Success will lead to success, with larger and smaller Ford EVs being likely past 2012.
John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – will be available in paperback and ebook on March 25 at Amazon and other booksellers.