Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A Toe in the EV Water

The Countryman is the largest of the four Mini models and is also the brand’s only all-wheel drive offering. Now, it’s also Mini’s first electrified model sold to consumers. It received major changes for its second generation, which was introduced in stages last year.

While Mini’s EV excitement is focused on the upcoming all-electric small hatchback, the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid offers a taste of electrification to urban folks. They’ll find what plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are known for—electric commuting during the week and unlimited travel on the weekends. That’s better than a regular hybrid, which has no plug, and combines a gasoline engine and electric motor to improve fuel mileage ratings.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

PHEVs offer varying amounts of battery power. The Countryman’s 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery, which hides under the rear seat, provides an EPA-rated 12 miles of all-electric range. That’s low on the list, as most other PHEVs offer EV ranges from the teens and twenties to as much as 53 miles in the Chevrolet Volt. That makes a difference on how much pure electric driving you can do.

Almost All the Way to Work

My Melting Silver Metallic test car, for example, got me about two-thirds of the way to/from work before the petrol began to flow. I dutifully plugged in at each end, and fully charged the small battery overnight on 120-volt current at home or by lunchtime on the 240-volt Level 2 ChargePoint chargers at work.

The Countryman cleverly delivers all-wheel drive by placing a 134-horsepower 1.5-liter gas engine up front, driving the front axles, and an 87-horsepower electric motor in back, driving the rear ones. The total system horsepower is 221, and 284 pounds-feet of torque, enough to send the Countryman from 0-60 in a satisfying 6.8 seconds. The system switches back and

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

The big center display

forth based on road conditions to provide extra traction when needed.

Naturally, how you drive determines how long your battery power will last. You can also use three different settings to configure how it’s used. In AUTO eDRIVE, you get pure electric driving up to 55 mph, and the gas engine kicks in when needed (or when the battery is depleted). In MAX eDRIVE, you can drive in pure electric mode up to 78 mph (illegally), with the engine dropping in only if you exceed that. The SAVE BATTERY mode uses the engine only, keeping the battery charged above 90 percent for use later, for example, in town after a long freeway trip, where the EV mode is most effective.

Like most PHEVs, the 2018 Mini Countryman’s instrument panel provides some feedback on energy use and regeneration. A gauge on the left has a Power section, when the energy is flowing out of the battery, and a Charge section below it for when coasting or braking is generating power. The eBoost area of the dial shows when the motor is working with the engine for maximum performance.

The Numbers Are Good

The EPA gives the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid ALL4 ratings of 65 MPGe for Electricity + Gasoline, and 27 mpg for when it’s using gas only. I averaged 35.5 mpg during my test week.

The Countryman is just slightly bigger than the new Clubman, making it the largest Mini ever (a Maxi?) The main differences between the two big Minis are the Countryman’s all-wheel-drive capability, and its 4.6-inch taller stance.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A wide-track Mini

The new Countryman is also larger than its predecessor. It’s 8.1 inches longer on a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase, which translates into substantially increased rear legroom. It’s 1.3 inches wider, which adds up to two inches of shoulder room. Despite these increases, the car is still relatively compact, although the efficient space utilization makes it technically a midsize car per the EPA.

Since the brand re-emerged in the US in 2002 with its all-new Cooper hardtop (hatchback), it has appealed to people looking for motoring joy with a side of quirkiness. The large central dash display now holds audio and other information rather than the speedometer, but it has colors that react to settings changes. It still features toggle switches for windows and even the ignition.

The Final Numbers

The Countryman is assembled in Born, Netherlands, and contains half German parts (thanks to its BMW parent company), including its engine. The six-speed automatic transmission is Japanese.

My test car, with several options, including the $500 paint color, came to an even $40,000, including destination charges. The base price is $36,800.

The 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid will surely win over its traditional audience—stylish urban folks who want a slightly taller and roomier crossover vehicle with the Mini charms—and a small nod towards environmentalism. The EPA assigns the car just a 3 for Smog, but a commendable 8 for Greenhouse Gas. If you have a 10-mile commute, you could be driving the Mini as an EV all week.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: Volvo Electric Performance Brand Polestar Displays First Car/Showroom

News: Volvo Electric Performance Brand Polestar Displays First Car/Showroom

Images of Polestar 1/Showroom Released Ahead of Geneva Motor Show

Its new owners are taking the Volvo car brand to places it has never been before. The best evidence will be shown to the European public for the first time this week at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. The Polestar 1 will be the flagship of this new sub-brand focused on electric performance.

Polestar 1

First car for the Volvo electric performance sub-brand will be the Polestar 1

Order books for the Polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid GT, will open shortly, while production is slated to start mid-2019. According to Volvo, interest has been strong in the 600 horsepower (hp) coupe that will offer 93 miles of all-electric range. Two electric motors producing 218 hp drive the rear wheels while a 2.0-liter gas engine powers the front. That range can be expected to drop if you put the 738 pounds-feet of torque to work.

The Polestar 1 is also one of the first vehicles being sold on a subscription model. Buyers will pay an all-inclusive monthly fee covering vehicle use, insurance and including a pick-up and delivery service for maintenance, a number of car rental days and access to a range of concierge and on-demand services.

A Minimalist Cube

Prior to the show Polestar also showed drawings of its new minimalist cube retail stores and its headquarters, which is being built on Volvo grounds in Sweden. Polestar started as the performance brand for gas-powered Volvo tuner cars, essentially the Swedish version of AMG. It now is a separate brand with its own engineering and R&D departments, but still will benefit from the scale of larger parent Volvo.

Polestar 1

The Polestar 1’s interior follows recent Volvo styling trends

The brand’s retail stores, called Polestar Space, will open in mid-2019 in the U.S., China, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Other country locations will be added later. Polestar 2 and Polestar 3 models, both full electrics, are planned to follow next year as well. Polestar 2 is described as a midsize battery electric vehicle designed to compete with the Tesla Model 3; Polestar 3 will be an all-electric SUV.

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Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014

Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014

Nissan Leaf Update: We’ve linked to the most recent tests or news of these cars, including some 2014 models.

Nissan LEAF is an all-electric car with 70 to 100 mile range. 50,000 have been delivered globally. Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,980. Drive it at 30 mph and you might get 140 miles; drive it at 70 mph running the air conditioner, 60 miles. LEAF Test drive. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Leaf has had its price dropped since introduction and dealers offer some attractive lease programs. Chevy VOLT

Chevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt,which has 38 to 40 miles of electric range and total range of 380 to 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. GM has a complete Voltec Propulsion System roadmap, which envisions added offerings of pure battery-electric and diesel plug-in hybrids. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt has dropped its retail pricing and typically offers very generous leases. GM has augmented the Volt with a sister model, the much more expensive Cadillac ELR, in 2014 and also introduced the diminutive, but powerful pure electric Chevy Spark EV.   ford focus electric

Ford Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and crossovers. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric Test Drive

Ford C-Max EnergiFord C-MAX Energi, an exciting new crossover with more room than a small SUV. The 5-seat C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the lithium battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius V. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745.  Ford C-MAX Energi   2013 Ford Fusion

Ford Fusion Energi SE is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi is a strong contender since its a midsize sedan with a good reputation for handling and reliability. According to EPA testing, the Fusion gets a combined 58 MPGe (combining its electric and gas modes). Models start at $34,700. Toyota Prius Plugin

Toyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHEV’s 15-mile. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit.  In California, Toyota Motor Corp also offers the all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV. Toyota Prius Plug-in Test Drive and Review vs. the classic Liftback. Honda Fit EV

 

Honda Fit EV. 2013 Fit EV can be purchased for $36,200 or leased at a rate competitive with other EVs on the market. The new compact 5-door 5-passenger hatchback electric car uses Blue Energy lithium-ion battery pack for a 100-mile all-electric range. The new 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is a premium midsized sedan, also available as a hybrid, which we tested.   Tesla S Sedan

Tesla Model S Sedan has delivered its first 20,000 Model S electric cars and is still going strong, now charging into overseas markets. This luxury all-electric sedan that starts at $69,900 and has an optional battery pack for $20,000 more that gives the car a 265-mile range. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 5 + 2 passenger capacity, switchable battery option, and up to triple the electric range of competitors. Tesla is now taking reservations for 2015 delivery of the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla Model S and Model X  

 

Smart Fortwo Electric is driven daily by thousands of Car2Go car sharing members in San Diego and Portland and cities around the world. The new Smart Electric can be purchased for only $25,000 ($17,500 after federal tax credit). The 2-seat Smart Electric has a range of about 70 miles, which is great for dense urban areas, where its small footprint also helps with parking. The new third-generation Smart Electric has a more powerful  55kW EM-motive motor and 17.6kWh ACCUmotive lithium battery.

BMW i8 Electric Sports Coupe BMW is now selling the all-electric i3 (which also comes in a range-extended version) cars. The i3 builds on the company’s experience with the ActiveE (which featured the i3 powertrain in a 1-Series body) in San Francisco’s DriveNow car sharing program and with lease customers. In 2014, you can order the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe that dazzled movie audiences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. BMW will extend range with innovative super-strong, yet lightweight materials including an aluminum frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP for short. The i3 body consists of two independent modules: the Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis and the powertrain with the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor.   Mitsubishi i

 

Mitsubishi i (official name with small “i”) is bigger and with more zip for the U.S. market compared with its Japanese-market predecessor. This pure-electric city car is selling starting at $29,125. Mitsubishi will challenge the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5 door, will have a wheel base 5 inches wider for the U.S. market, but the micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that no other car can take except the Smart. The more powerful U.S. version will have an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Mitsubishi Electric Test Drive

Fiat division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles surprised everyone with the 500e, an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 that is in the

2013 Fiat 500e, fiat, 500e, electric car

2013 Fiat 500e

process of reintroducing the Italian automaker to America. The car surprised everyone because it was so good! While being presented to the media as a compliance car (i.e., the company would only build enough of them to meet California’s zero emission vehicle mandate and only sell them where credits toward that mandate would count), the early returns (including ours) lauded the car as exactly what an electric car should be – full of fun and projecting a personality commensurate with the significance of the vehicle for the environment.  

EV Forecasts and Renewable Energy

Electric car sales will triple in the U.S. each year from 20,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012 to 180,000 in 2013. This report is about freeway-speed U.S. available all-electric and plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicles. Accenture forecasts 1.5 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2015. Over 10 million electric vehicles are possible by 2020, especially if oil prices rise as battery prices fall. Single electric utilities have scenarios for charging over one million electric vehicles in their own service area by 2020. With renewable energy investment required of utilities in 30 states, these utilities are most interested in night time charging of electric vehicles with wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Utilities are also implementing smart grids and incentives for off-peak charging. More than 100 large and small competitors are fighting for share of the U.S. electric car and truck market. Some may be struggle to get significant share due to time delays and cost of safety and other regulatory approvals, delays in funding, or unpleasant surprises from a supplier. It’s a tough business. Even Tesla had to add 700 pounds and two years to get the first Roadsters in customers’ hands. We’ve been impressed with the performance of the VW e-Golfs that we’ve driven over the past few years and it is due to arrive late in 2014. Mercedes is in the process of preparing a B-Class electric for sale in the U.S. Electric cars with range extended by fuel cells continue to make progress. Hyundai is building 1,000 Tucson fuel cell vehicles and they are on sale in Southern California as of mid-2014. Mercedes has put 200 of the new F-Cell B-Class on global streets; Toyota putting 100 of its 400-mile range FCHV into fleet applications and has shown a concept of what the 2015 model will look like when it goes on sale; Honda also has shown its 2015 model in concept form and other auto companies are also moving forward with fuel cells. China could have several EV models delivered to U.S. customers in the near future from BYD or possibly other companies, but Coda’s experience trying to sell an electric version of a dated, poor quality Chinese model was not encouraging.

Top 10 Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

Top 10 Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

EPA Rates Them All; Finds Plug-ins Best;

100 MPGe May Be The New 40 MPG.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency spends a good portion of its time and manpower compiling a guide that compares like vehicles’ fuel economy, spaciousness (interior space) and engine technology. The result for 2014 vehicles (cars and trucks) is now available on www.fueleconomy.gov and has a new benchmark – the Top 10 fuel economy cars all feature a plug. Some are pure electrics and others are plug-in hybrids. The fuel economy numbers are astronomical by historical standards, but are setting the new benchmark for what a modern automobile needs to achieve to be considering a state-of-the-art environmental leader.

The side story to this list is that being a high-mileage hybrid or diesel (or gas-powered car) is fine, but it doesn’t set you apart as a true leader in the fuel economy department anymore. Not that long ago we were talking about

Spark EV-King of the HIll

40 MPG being the floor for an efficient vehicle; already, it looks like 100 MPGe (equivalent to gasoline miles per gallon on an energy basis) is now the ticket to be among the leaders.

Here are the Top 10 for 2014, with some commentary about each. Of course the biggest caveat is that these fuel economy numbers by design are miles per gallon equivalent, since some of these cars use no gas at all and others are capable to running for a significant amount of time without any petroleum.

1. Chevy Spark EV – 119 MPGe – Chevy’s spunky little electric car takes top honors in the fuel economy race with its efficient electric powertrain. When we tested it, the Spark EV lived up to its billing.

2. Honda Fit EV – 118 MPGe – Honda comes close to Chevy with its slightly larger Fit EV, though neither car has scored significant sales this year. Price cuts brought buyers into the showroom, but sales are still averaging less than 50 per month.

3. Fiat 500e – 116 MPGe – Right in the mix (after all, what a few MPGe’s when you’re into triple digits) is the fun little Fiat electric car. We gave it a spin and came away very impressed with the Italian approach to the EV.

4. Nissan Leaf – 115 MPGe (2013) – Even though it’s the best selling pure electric car, the Leaf was not included in the EPA listing for 2014 models since its 2014 model doesn’t launch until next month, but it is unlikely its

Best-seller and Top 4 MPGe

MPGe will change so we’ve included the 2013 numbers. We have spent plenty of time in the Leaf and find it to be well-suited to the task of almost replacing your internal combustion car.

5. Honda Accord PHEV – 115 MPGe – Honda’s engineers have scored a very impressive feat by producing a plug-in hybrid that turns in fuel efficiency numbers on par with pure electrics. Well received in the marketplace – and just named Green Car of the Year – we were impressed when we first had a chance to drive the Accord.

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – 112 MPGe (2013) – Another model missing from the 2014 EPA listing is Mitsubishi’s quirky electric car. As is the case with most plug-ins, it has struggled to find customers (although selling twice as many as the Fiat 500e or Honda Fit EV), which led to a price drop in the new model.

7. Smart fortwo ED coupe/conv – 107 MPGe – The diminutive Smart has a couple things going for it – it’s the only convertible electric car on the U.S. market right now, and it’s on its third generation and shows the lessons learned from earlier iterations. The zippy two-seater is primarily found in car-sharing programs.

8. Ford Focus Electric – 105 MPGe

9. Ford Fusion Energi PREV – 100 MPGe

10. Ford C-Max Energi PHEV – 100 MPGe (2013) – We can close out the Top 10 with a triumvirate of Ford models – its pure electric Focus and two plug-in hybrids (dubbed Energi), the Fusion sedan and C-Max wagon. having three models gives Ford the most variety of any automaker in the high-MPG stakes, although even with three models its cumulative sales still trail the single model sales of the segment leaders – the Leaf, Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S. That said, they are competent vehicles and have been building sales. They also represent a piece of Ford’s strategy that has the plug-in models offered along with non plug-in hybrids.

Ford Offers 3 Ways to Plug-in

Bubbling under the Top 10: While the task of being in the Top 10 in MPG (or MPGe) is getting more difficult every year, three models that are right below the No. 10 cutoff can claim other marks that may be even more impressive. They represent three of the top four best-selling plug-in cars (the other is No. 4 Nissan Leaf) of the most recent month (October 2013), a mark that in some ways is more impressive than their still-hefty fuel economy numbers. The three are:

  • Chevy Volt – 98 MPGe
  • Toyota Prius PHEV – 95 MPGe
  • Tesla Model S 60/85 – 95 MPGe/89 MPGe (2013 numbers)

BMW’s i3 will probably land in the Top 10

Two more to keep an eye on: Two vehicles (with three models) appeared to have not made the testing deadline for inclusion in the EPA guide, but can be expected to be in the mix as soon as their numbers are finalized. BMW’s new i3 (which will have a pure electric as well as a range-extended version with a small gas engine) will probably make it into the top 10 and bump out one of the Fords. Cadillac’s ELR coupe, since it is based on the Chevy Volt architecture, will probably turn in similar numbers to its four-door cousin so not crack the Top 10.

Missing in action: Gone from last year top fuel economy list are the Scion iQ electric, Coda sedan and BYD e6. None of the three made much of an impact although the latter two did represent the first Chinese cars on sale in the country and BYD is still likely to return with more models later in the decade.

Two new cars for 2014 that didn’t have reported numbers in the EPA guide and probably won’t make the Top 10 are exotic hybrids – the McLaren P1 and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Both are wonderful examples of technologies but are unlikely to have the efficiency of the more mundane models on the list.  The price for the Porsche starts at $100,000 while the McLaren will run a staggering $1.15 million.

Story & Photos by Michael Coates

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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.