Electric Cars for the Masses: Ford’s New Strategy

10FusionHybrid_01_HR-1.jpgMajor carmakers are in a head-to-head race right now to offer cleaner options for consumers and fleet managers. Ford is the latest to make an announcement that it will deliver affordable electric vehicle technology at high volumes in the next few years.
At Ford’s Drive Green Media Forum in New York City on Wednesday, Nancy Gioia (Director of Sustainable Mobility) repeatedly stated, “Electrification is not an option, it is the way forward.”

Ford’s electrification strategy consists of:
– A full battery electric van-type commercial vehicle in 2010.
– Next-generation hybrid vehicles in 2010.
– A full battery electric passenger car in 2011.
– A plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012.
As an academic researcher who has been studying the return of electric vehicle technology by major automakers, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of Ford’s wholehearted embrace in this direction.
Gioia mentioned three main reasons why Ford is going electric – climate change, energy security, and the economy. According to Gioia, E.V. technology has an advantage over other technologies in the near- and mid-term for reducing emissions, increasing domestic energy consumption, and stemming the eventual return of high oil prices.
Interestingly enough, some media representatives at the event challenged Ford’s strategy in terms of its economic potential. A few reporters made claims that consumer demand for efficient technology at a higher price point is unlikely in today’s financial situation.
In response, Gioia said that if consumers and fleet managers consider the lifetime savings of electric vehicles, then the answer is clear. Even at today’s oil prices, the cost of charging cars with electricity is still cheaper, and we can expect that savings to increase with the return of high oil prices.
Gioia also discussed fuel-efficiency improvements for their internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, including their 6-speed transmission, advanced technology engines, and “Eco-Boost” technology. Eco-Boost technology consists of direct fuel injection, turbo-charging, and engine downsizing. These improvements are intended to improve fuel economy by 20 percent, reduce C02 emissions by 15 percent, and increase torque.
In the next four years, we can expect 90% of Ford’s fleet to consist of improved ICE vehicles and 10% to consist of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all electric vehicles. Over time, electric vehicles are expected to make up a larger percentage of total volume produced.
By far, the most exciting part of this event was the chance to drive the new Ford Fusion hybrid and Ford’s all electric prototype vehicle. In two follow-up posts, I’ll give you the low-down on how both handled on New York City streets.
Shannon Arvizu is a Ph.D. candidate in environmental sociology at Columbia University. She also produces web videos for the promotion of clean technologies. Her latest project, “EV Grrls,” can be found at: www.evgrrl.wordpress.com

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at www.misselectric.com.

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