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Ford Electric Car for 2011

By John Addison (originally published in Clean Fleet Report 10/26/09).

My test drive of the new Ford electric car for 2011 demonstrated that Ford (NYSE:F) is building an electric car that millions will want. The Ford Focus EV prototype provided a quiet and smooth drive for a prototype. One Ford engineer indicated that he was going beyond a 60-mile daily range in Michigan without nearing battery depletion.

The Focus EV looks and drives like the popular gasoline powered Ford Focus four-door sedan. It comfortably seated four adults, but good luck if you want three people in the back – it will help if the one in the middle is a child. This BEV will appeal to mainstream drivers that want a sedan that looks and drives like a regular car. Instead of ever visiting a gas station, they will charge in their home garage and/or at work.

This prototype was a converted Focus. It did not include the SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide display available in Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids, nor did it include a navigation system with smart charge display user interface expected in the 2011 BEV. The final version is expected to have friendly yet sophisticated display options and some of Ford’s newly introduced telematics.

It drives with quicker acceleration than its gasoline cousin. The prototype, like the final version, had a Magna (MGA) electric drive system. Unlike the final version of the Focus EV, the prototype had a Magna Steyr battery pack taking part of the trunk space. One Ford rep believed that the battery cells were EnerDel (HEV) lithium titanate. Ford will make its own packs for the 2011 commercial version and would not state who will make the cells. Volvo is part of Ford Motor Company. The concept Volvo C30 Battery Electric Vehicle will use EnerDel batteries. Volvo will use A123 (AONE) cells in heavy vehicles integrating a Magna Steyr battery system. Ford has expressed a past preference for the cells to be made in the United States, which would include a number of candidates such as EnerDel and A123.

During my recent tour of a Johnson-Controls (JCI) Saft (SGPEF) joint venture design and manufacturing plant, I was shown a lithium-ion 13 kWh battery with cylindrical cells for the 2012 Ford PHEV. Johnson-Controls gave no indication that it was in the running for the 2011 Ford Focus EV.

No pricing has been announced for the Ford Focus EV. If it comes in at under $40,000 with a $7,500 tax credit, I would be interested in buying one. However, if Nissan or BYD beats Ford to the U.S. BEV market with better delivery and better price or lease rates, then they are likely to get my business over Ford.

In its drive for market share, volume, and improved profit margins, 2012 will be a big year for Ford when the company will have a common C-segment platform for a number of vehicles including the Focus, Focus C-Max, and Escape. As future gasoline price volatility causes shifts in consumer demand, Ford can quickly change its mix of what is manufactured on a common platform. For example if gasoline prices jump, Ford could increase production of vehicles with fuel efficient eco-boost and make less with conventional. Ford could also quickly increase production of electric cars.

The Focus EV will be made in America – Warren, Michigan. Ford is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market.

Clean Fleet Report predicts that in 2012, Ford will offer a new global Focus available with several drive systems: conventional engine, 2 liter eco-boost, electric vehicle, both hybrid and plug-in hybrid. By 2012, Ford may be using lithium-ion even for its hybrids. The vehicle will have better range because it will be lighter as Ford executes a strategy of removing 250 to 750 pounds per vehicle. Ford will be well on the way to a 35 percent fuel economy improvement over its 2005 fleet.

The new 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine will go on sale in the 2010 calendar year.
It is the first EcoBoost engine to include Twin-Independent Variable Cam Timing
(Ti-VCT) and will deliver a 10 to 20 percent fuel economy improvement versus larger-displacement V-6 engines. By 2012, the company plans to produce 750,000 EcoBoost units annually in the U.S. and 1.3 million globally. By 2013, Ford will offer EcoBoost engines in 90 percent of its product lineup. 2010 Focus Homepage

I get questions (or rather lectures that start with a questions), “Why would someone pay more for an electric vehicle, when you can’t even cost justify a hybrid?” First, some people make money with hybrids over comparable non-hybrids. When I bought my 2002 Prius for $20,000, I paid about $4,000 more than for a non-hybrid with similar features. Over seven years, the car saved my wife and me over $5,000 in gasoline, and then I sold it about $4,000 more than a similar non-hybrid.

While I was test driving the Focus EV in San Francisco, I saw many taxis that were Ford Escape Hybrids, Toyota Priuses, Toyota Camry Hybrids, and even a Ford Fusion Hybrid Taxi. These taxis put on 90,000 miles per year. Hybrids make the owners money by saving a fortune in fuel. New York has over 2,000 Ford hybrids in its taxi fleet.

The fact is that hybrids make money for some owners and not for others. It depends on how the cars are used and how often. In the past 12 months of severe economic downturn, Ford has increased its hybrid sales 73 percent.

Early adopters will not shell out $40,000 for an EV to save money over a sedan for less than half that cost. For mass market success, auto makers and battery makers must drive cost down the learning curve over a few years. Competition is growing for battery electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid car leadership. By 2020, these vehicles could represent up to 25 percent of Ford’s production – that’s 2 million cars annually with electric drive systems and advanced battery packs.

<!– By John Addison, Oct 26th, 2009. Learn about the future of cars and transportation in John’s new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet.–> By John Addison. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers. (disclosure: author owns stock in Ener1, parent company of EnerDel)

Ener1 Takes Stake in Electric Vehicle Maker Think Global

Ener1 (HEV) took the lead among a group of investors that plans to inject $47 million of equity funding into Think Global AS, the Norwegian electric vehicle producer. Ener1 effectively expands its existing 10 percent stake to a 31 percent stake in Think. Ener1 is the parent company of EnerDel, a leading manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion automotive battery systems and an existing supplier to Think.

Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer stated, “Ener1 and Think have collaborated for years on systems development, and today possess a unique ability to bring together category-leading technologies in a fully integrated platform, to suit a wide variety of vehicle applications.” Ener1 appears to be pursuing a business model similar to Bosch Automotive and Magna (MGA). Gassenheimer added, “As a key battery supplier and now partner in the production and marketing of electric drivetrain solutions for a range of next-generation vehicles, Ener1 looks forward to a strong future relationship with this industry leader.”

EnerDel and Think have also agreed to enter into a new long-term battery supply agreement as part of the transaction. EnerDel will receive certain exclusivity rights for the supply of lithium manganese titanate batteries for Think’s current and upcoming new vehicle models.

“This investment cements our partnership with one of the leading advanced battery manufacturers in the world,” said Think CEO Richard Canny. “In addition to ensuring supply of high-performance battery systems, the new deal will enable us to more fully capitalize on our advantage in the marketplace with the only ‘plug-and-play’ electric vehicle drive system with prismatic lithium-ion technology.”

Ener1 develops and manufactures compact, high performance lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles. In addition to the automobile market, applications for Ener1 lithium-ion battery technology include the military, grid storage and other growing markets.

Ener1 also develops commercial fuel cell products through its EnerFuel subsidiary and nanotechnology-based materials and manufacturing processes for batteries and other applications through its NanoEner subsidiary.

Think is a pioneer in electric vehicles, and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years. Think is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to market a ‘plug and play’ mobility solution in the business-to-business sector.

The equity funding allows financially struggling Think to exit court protection and resume normal operations with the production of the ready-to-market TH!NK City.
Also participating in Think’s restructuring is Valmet Automotive, a provider of automotive engineering and manufacturing services of premium cars. In 40 years the company has produced over 1,100,000 high-quality vehicles in Finland. Valmet Automotive manufactures Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayman for Porsche AG. The manufacturing of Fisker Karma hybrid vehicle starts in 2009. The company is a part of Metso.

Diversifying into system integration around a technology platform is an intelligent strategy for Ener 1 who faces tough competition from battery giants who have joint ventures and strategic relationships with major auto makers. Competition includes Panasonic, Hitachi, NEC, LG Chem, and Johnson Controls-Saft.

By John Addison. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.