Ford, Edison Team Up to Bring Plug-in Hybrids to Market

Ford, Edison Team Up to Bring Plug-in Hybrids to Market

Under a new partnership announced yesterday, Ford and Southern California Edison will focus on bringing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to the masses, which will not only save customers money on their gas bills, but will also reduce petroleum-related emissions and improve the cost-effectiveness of the nation's electricity grid.

The companies said the partnership is the first of its kind to address PHEVs as a solution to concerns about powering the vehicles and homes of the future, as well as reducing the growing strain on the energy grid. Ford and SCE described the teamwork between energy utilities and automakers as essential to making progress on energy security and climate change.

"The Ford Motor Company team is firmly focused on delivering products people really want. This unique partnership with Southern California Edison will allow us to explore new solutions for our customers' growing need for energy conservation," said Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford. "By combining strengths, ours in hybrid technology, theirs in energy management, we can consider transportation as part of the broader energy system and work to unleash the potential of plug-in technology for consumers."

Among the goals of the partnership is to explore whether the currently expensive batteries in PHEVs, which are a primary reason the vehicles are not cost-competitive, may have other benefits that will increase their value. One idea the companies plan to examine is using PHEV batteries to charge and store energy at night, when the cost to produce electricity is low, and then use that energy during the more expensive peak hours of the day.

Additionally, Edison's has begun testing advanced battery designs at its Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona, Calif., that could bring energy-storing batteries to market sooner, not only to consumers but also for the utility industry.

In addition to lowering drivers' fuel costs by 50 to 75 percent when fueling up at the plug instead of the pump, widespread use of PHEVs will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted on the nation's roads every day, and can more easily use renewable energy sources as transportation fuel. By charging at night, PHEVs can use off-peak electricity to make the electric grid more productive and bring down electricity costs for residences and businesses. A study conducted by the Department of Energy found that if every light duty car and truck in America today used plug-in hybrid technology, 73 percent of them could be plugged in and powered by excess capacity in the electricity grid without constructing a single new power plant.

Under the terms of the multi-million dollar project, Ford and Edison will work in the coming years to evaluate and demonstrate PHEV options. Ford is giving SoCal Edison a demonstration fleet of 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid SUVs to benchmark and convert to plug-in hybrid technology. In addition to seeking a company to partner on developing the new batteries, the partnership may also look for additional funding from government and institutional sources to further develop the program.