With the exception of that last option, Ford is developing cars for every possible solution on the table. It's the company's strategy to prepare for a future that's impossible to predict.
"Rather than figure out which one crystal ball to look at, the one solution that jumps out as the right one, we're looking at multiple solution sets," John Viera, Ford's Director of Sustainable Business Strategies, explained in an interview today. "Whatever the answer is going to be -- biofuels, electrics, hybrids, fuel cells -- there's going to be multiple solutions."
As an example, Viera offered the Ford Focus, a car the company sells in markets around the globe. Ford has already developed the traditional gas engine that is the primary seller in the U.S., but also a diesel engine for European markets, an ethanol version in Brazil, and they'll soon have an electric powertrain that can be put in place in any of those markets.
This kind of plug and play flexibility amongst models, coupled with a manufacturing capability that can shift quickly to produce the vehicles most in demand (as gas prices rise and fall, say), is how Ford plans to adapt to a future where some kind -- or kinds -- of environmentally friendly technology will be in place in every car.
Without being able to predict the one solution that every company or car shopper will want to buy, Ford is going for a scattershot approach to cover as many bases as possible. But one solution is going to be omnipresent before too long: EcoBoost.
EcoBoost is Ford's new engine technology that can bring 10 to 20 percent improvement in fuel economy but still give cars the performance that American drivers seem to demand. (Ford's EcoBoost page gives it a 10-15 percent improvement in miles per gallon, but Viera told me 20 percent today). The technology can make a V-6 engine perform like a V-8, and an I-4 perform like a V-6, using less gas while still giving a kick.
While not being promoted as a game-changing (and potentially a company-saving) technology like GM's Volt, which may hit the streets as soon as next year, Viera said EcoBoost will have a big impact.
"If you're worried about reducing overall emissions, a 20 percent reduction in 80 percent of vehicles is better than an 80 percent reduction in a smaller number of cars," he explained.
We'll have more on Ford's EcoBoost technology in the future, as well as a look at how its flexible planning for a green future might affect fleet buyers and managers. In the meantime, check out Marc Gunther's coverage of Ford's 41-mpg Ford Fusion hybrid, as well as the ways Ford is trying to encourage more efficient driver behavior with its EcoGuide dashboard.