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Ford Grabs Market Share

If you are working at Ford (F), it looks like the downturn in auto sales is ending. In June, sales fell only 11 percent over a year ago. Optimism does not permeate all of Detroit; General Motors (GM) sales feel 33 percent for the month; Chrysler, 48 percent. Even Toyota (TM) U.S. sales were down 32 percent June over June last year.

Ford is the only one of the Big Three Detroit auto makers that avoided bankruptcy and a federal bailout.

Ford ended June with a 60-day supply of vehicles on hand, down 38 percent from a year ago. Fewer inventories could lead to improved profit margins. Those inventories will shrink with a new “cash for clunkers” program that provides added government discounts of up to $4,500 for trade-in vehicles getting less than 19 mpg. It’s not all rosy, however, with many potential buyers being unable to get an auto loan.

Fuel Economy

Oil prices have doubled – fuel economy is back in. Ford helps at the pump with new EcoBoost technology and hybrid technology. Ford is the only Detroit maker that was on Clean Fleet Report’s Vehicles with the Lowest Carbon Emissions.

June sales of the company’s hybrid vehicles totaled 3,649, up 91 percent versus a year ago. Ford will extend its current hybrid success with added models. During my recent test-drive of several vehicles that already meet the 2016 CAFE requirements, the midsized Ford Fusion Hybrid demonstrated that you can enjoy fuel economy in a larger car with comfort and safety. The Ford Fusion Hybrid has an EPA certified rating of 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The car can be driven up to 47 mph in electric mode with no gasoline being consumed. Ford will start selling pure battery electric vehicles next year that will lower its fleet mileage average. CAFÉ

As gas prices increase, the Ford Ranger pickup sales also increased. The model with a 2.3L engine and stick shift gets the best gas mileage of any U.S. pickup at 23 mpg. Ford has the mileage champions in both pickups and SUVs.

The best mileage SUV on the market is the Ford Escape Hybrid with 32 mpg. In 2012, Ford will also offer a plug-in version of the Escape Hybrid that will blow-away the 35.5 mile standard.

Electric Future

The expansion of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric offerings will be helped by Ford recently securing $5.9 billion in federal loans with a lower 5 percent interest rate.

Ford’s first EV will be the new battery-electric Transit Connect vans. These city vans will appeal to green retailers and service companies that make deliveries and follow routes that match the 100 mile range of the electric vans. The vans are made in collaboration with Tanfield’s (TAN.L) Smith Electric are now selling in Europe and will start U.S. sales next year.

In 2011 Ford will offer a new battery-electric Focus sedan made in collaboration with Magna International (MGA). Now that most U.S. citizens live in urban settings, the idea of a primary or secondary car that never needs gasoline will have growing appeal.
In 2011 Ford will offer a new battery-electric Focus sedan made in collaboration with Magna International. Now that most U.S. citizens live in urban settings, the idea of a primary or secondary car that never needs gasoline will have growing appeal. Although Nissan will have a head start with thousands of freeway-speed electric vehicles already in use by U.S. customers, Ford could catch-up if it offers the Focus EV for less than $30,000.

The competition will boost revenues for Ford battery supplier Johnson Controls-SAFT; Nissan is in a li-ion JV with NEC.

In 2012, the Ford Escape Hybrid, already the most fuel efficient SUV, will get a lot more efficient by also being available as a plug-in hybrid. The PHEV Escape Hybrid is already being tested in a number of fleets.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally stated earlier this year. Now Ford is executing its electrification strategy.

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

Ford Expands Hybrid Success to Electric Vehicles

By John Addison. Toyota’s (TM) global market share leadership has been helped by the success of its hybrids. Looking to a future that will increasingly emphasize fuel economy and lower emissions, Toyota will put 500 plug-in hybrid Priuses on the road in 2009.

Competition is just getting started in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. One company that Toyota must watch carefully is Ford (F). It is Ford with the world’s most fuel-efficient SUV – the Ford Escape Hybrid. It is Ford that is now selling a mid-sized hybrid which can be driven to 47 mph in electric vehicle mode – the Ford Fusion Hybrid. It is Ford that is successfully testing the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid with major electrical utilities across the nation. It is Ford, not Toyota, which will be selling commercial electric vehicles in the United States in 2010.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California, this month. Ford will start selling commercial electric vehicle in 2010, a sedan EV in 2011, and a plug-in hybrid in 2012. “You’ll see more hybrids, but you will really see a lot more electric vehicles,” he said. Reuters

Last week, I discussed Ford’s plans with Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford.

This is the fifth year of success for the Ford Escape Hybrid and its cousins the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid. The vehicle has enough passenger room and cargo space to be popular with families to taxi fleets. The SUV delivers an impressive 32 mpg. It is the only SUV that could make the list of Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Vehicles.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, making it even more fuel efficient with less CO2e emissions than the Escape Hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid is powered by both an electric motor and by a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid engine. The advanced intake variable cam timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. The Fusion has a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel economy is not only a function of what we drive, but how we drive. Ford conducted a study that resulted in an average of 24 percent improvement in fuel economy when typical drivers were coached by eco-driving experts. With the Fusion, Ford introduces SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide, which coaches hybrid drivers to maximize fuel efficiency. In the future, SmartGauge will be included in a number of Ford vehicles.

In addition to the visual feedback with SmartGauge, the new Fusion Hybrid includes Ford’s MyKey™ , a programmable feature that allows drivers, parents, or fleet owners to limit top speed and audio volume of vehicles, and set speed alert chimes to encourage safer driving. Tire pressure monitoring is another new feature that helps improve mileage.

United States Infrastructure Company (USIC), a utility services business that operates a fleet of 3,500 vehicles nationwide, could benefit from using MyKey, said Phil Samuelson, USIC purchasing and asset manager. The company uses many Ford vehicles, and its drivers put an average of 24,000 miles on each vehicle every year. “Operating a fleet equipped with MyKey technology could be great for our business and our drivers,” Samuelson said. “By encouraging safety belt use and limiting the top speed and audio volume on our vehicles, we’d be better able to protect our employees and our fleet investment while potentially saving fuel, too.”

What Ford is not offering in its hybrids and plug-in hybrids is a flexfuel engine. The U.S. flexfuel offerings from any automaker have failed to deliver respectable mileage when running on gasoline. Typically their mileage is reduced 27 percent when running on the E85 ethanol blend.

Ford may make hybrids even more affordable in 2010 with a new Focus hybrid or other hybrid 4-door sedan. By 2012, Ford will have a new more fuel efficient hybrid drive system. Currently, Ford hybrids use NiMH batteries. The more expensive lithium-ion batteries are planned for the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid offerings. By 2012, even the hybrid offerings may be lithium if a cost advantage can be secured. For 2012, Ford is evaluating battery technology and has not made final decisions, explained Nancy Gioia. Ford battery partner for the Escape PHEV is Johnson Controls-Saft (JCI, SGPEF).

A charging infrastructure will be critical to the success of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. “There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies. Because they need less range, urban dwellers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.

Electric utilities in many areas are not ready for the load of everyone in a neighborhood charging an EV, especially at peak-load hours. Utilities will want to encourage smart charging during the night, when excess electricity is often available. Since 2007, Ford has been working with utilities and research organizations to develop extensive data from demonstrations of prototype Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrids. Ford now has over ten partners including:

  • Southern California Edison
  • New York Power Authority
  • Consolidated Edison of New York
  • American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio
  • Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala.; and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
  • Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C.
  • DTE Energy of Detroit
  • National Grid of Waltham, Mass.
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, a state agency.
  • Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Utilities need to lead with a smart-charging infrastructure and communications standards. In addition to Ford’s official plug-in demonstrations, fleets and communities have converted Ford Escape Hybrids to be plug-in. Google uses Escape plug-ins that are solar charged. Xcel is evaluating vehicle-to-grid in its Smart Grid City.

Drivers of the demonstration Ford Escape PHEV will make far fewer trips to the gas station. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. Look for faster charging 220 volt on-board charger in the future. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg – roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive.

Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. Ford is not waiting until 2012 to start selling battery electric vehicles.

In 2010, Ford also plans to begin sales of zero-emission battery-electric vans. To speed time to market, Ford will be collaborating with Tanfield’s Smith Electric Vehicles to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Smith Electric Vehicles will build the Transit Connect in Kansas City, Missouri.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is in offering a 4-door sedan that can achieve freeway speeds and has a range of at least 100 miles. In the typical U.S. household with two vehicles, one of those vehicles almost never travels over 40 miles in a day. In 2011, using Magna International (MGA) to do the power system assembly, Ford will offer a C-sized 4-door sedan electric vehicle with both 110 and 220 volt on-board charging. The battery supplier is to be determined.

Through continued advances and strategic partnerships in hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicles, Ford is positioned to compete and even lead in growth segments of the auto industry.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Ford Partners to Commercialize Electric Vehicles

By John Addison. Ford will introduce a battery-only commercial van in 2010, followed by a passenger car built on the same technology in 2011, and exciting plug-in vehicles by 2012. To accelerate commercialization, Ford will partner with leaders in drive systems, lithium batteries, specialty electric vehicles, and electric utilities.

Ford will build on its existing success with the Ford Escape Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid, an impressive mid-sized sedan that ranks in the Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Sedans.

Last summer, I met with Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, and Greg Frenette, Chief engineer for research and advanced technologies. They discussed Ford’s commitment to continued improvements in fuel economy with gas turbo direct injection (GTDI), lighter vehicle weight without any sacrifice in safety, transmission efficiency, and increased use of electric drive systems. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are definitely in Ford’s future. In fact, Nancy Gioia, has been driving her own Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid.

The Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid has been successfully in a number of fleet and research environments. One is Boulder, Colorado, which is becoming Smart Grid City. Working with a major utility, Xcel Energy, residents hope to lower their utility bills, improve energy efficiency, and develop city-wide support for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

University of Colorado Chancellor Bud Peterson and his wife, Val, were the first to let Xcel transform their home to be part of Smart Grid City. Xcel put solar panels on the house, gave them a new smart meter for vehicle charging, and a Ford Escape Hybrid which is converted to have vehicle-to-grid capability. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is a bi-directional electric grid interface that allows an electric vehicle to take energy from the grid or put it back on the grid. When fully charged, their car plug-in hybrid batteries have enough power to keep their home running for days by using V2G.

Seven more electric utility providers are joining the Ford and Electric Power Research Institute to expand real world testing with Ford Escape PHEVs. Utility partnerships and industry standards will be critical to the expansion of a smart-charging infrastructure and to the long-term viability of V2G.

Ford will have Johnson Controls-Saft develop an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power Ford’s first commercial plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The lithium-ion battery system that Johnson Controls-Saft is designing and manufacturing for Ford includes cells, mechanical, electrical, electronic, and thermal components. Initially the cells will be produced at the supplier’s production facility in France, but the system will be assembled in the United States. The five-year supply agreement includes delivery for committed production in 2012 with a target of at least 5,000 units per year.

Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the lithium-ion battery completed within 6 to 8 hours. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg. This 30-mile range fits the average daily needs of most U.S. drivers.

In 2010, Ford also plans to begin sales of zero-emission battery-electric vans. To speed time to market, Ford will be collaborating with Tanfield to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Tanfield’s Smith has over 100 electric trucks and delivery vans in service with customers today. More details may be announced at the Chicago Auto Show this month.

Battery-electric vans are well suited for many applications where ranges are limited and frequent stopping provides for regenerative braking. USPS has used electric postal vehicles for years. FedEx Express has ordered 10 Modec electric commercial vehicles for use in the United Kingdom.

At the Detroit Auto Show, Ford was showing a new battery-electric sedan developed jointly with Magna International with a 23kWh lithium battery pack. Commercial sales are planned for 2011 for a vehicle similar in size to the Ford Focus. Ford will compete with hundreds of battery-electric vehicle competitors including smaller specialty vehicle makers and Nissan, which is determined to be the early volume leader in freeway-speed electric vehicles. Ford will also be competiting with the plug-in Prius and Chevy Volt.

Given the success of Ford and Mercury hybrids, Ford is positioned to do well as it expands into these plug-in hybrid and battery-electric offerings. Success will lead to success, with larger and smaller Ford EVs being likely past 2012.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – will be available in paperback and ebook on March 25 at Amazon and other booksellers.