Ford To Roll Out Plug-Ins, Battery Electric Vehicles in Coming Years

Ford To Roll Out Plug-Ins, Battery Electric Vehicles in Coming Years

Ford Escape plug-in hybrid - photos by Jonathan Bardelline

[Editor's Note: GreenBiz.com editor Jonathan Bardelline traveled to Michigan this week to cover Ford's green-car announcements; you can read his other reports here and here.]

Over the coming years Ford will introduce a range of electric vehicles, from continuing its work with hybrids to releasing plug-in and battery electric vehicles, all of which will use lithium ion batteries, said Sherif Marakby, director of sustainability mobility technology and chief engineer for Ford global hybrid core engineering.

Marakby gave an update to Ford's electric plans at a press event Ford held yesterday. [Full disclosure: Ford paid for my travel to Michigan and lodging for the event.]

In the last few years, Ford has doubled the number of hybrids it sells, now up to 50,000 a year. To date it has sold more than 100,000 hybrids, with fuel economy being the main reason customers buy them.

Next year, Ford will release a Transit Connect battery electric commercial van. In 2011, it will introduce a Focus electric passenger car, followed by a next-generation hybrid in 2012 and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Ford has been testing a fleet of 20 Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (pictured above) with the help of Southern California Edison and other utilities in the U.S. and Canada. Utility employees, Marakby said, have been driving the vehicles and seeing how they integrate with existing technologies, homes and utilities.

Ford is able to collect daily data about the vehicles' battery use and performance. They've even been able to incorporate electronics that allows homes to view the vehicles as a type of smart appliance, letting users program when they want the vehicle to charge, how long they want it to take and how much they want to pay for the charging.

Although Marakby could not comment on the specific cost of Ford's eventual plug-in vehicles, he said that Ford's battery technology would be cheaper than that of General Motors' Chevrolet Volt.

While most of Ford's electric experience has been with hybrids, it also wants to mass-market its plug-ins and battery electric vehicles. But Marakby also said the company understands that some types of vehicles will be directed at, or avoided by, specific markets. Anyone who does a lot of highway driving, for example, would not be an ideal user of a battery electric vehicle.

Ford Escape plug-in hybrid - photos by Jonathan Bardelline