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Ford and Edison Partner on Plug-In Hybrids

9 July 2007

by Jack Rosebro

08fordescapehybrid_02
The 2008 Escape Hybrid will serve as the base for the PHEV conversions.

Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally and Edison International CEO John Bryson announced today that Ford is partnering with Edison subsidiary Southern California Edison in a multi-year, multimillion dollar project to, in Mulally’s words, “investigate and figure out how to commercialize plug-in hybrids.

Ford will supply twenty stock Escape hybrid SUVs to Southern California Edison, to be placed with “average consumers.” After real-world baseline data is collected from the vehicles, Ford will convert the Escapes to plug-in hybrids with lithium-ion battery packs from an unnamed battery supplier, then return them to consumers for comparison testing.

SCE will supply smart electrical meters with two-way communication, as well as project evaluation services through its EV Technical Center in Pomona.

The partners may seek additional project funding from participants such as the Electric Power Research Institute, the US Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Ford will initially work exclusively with SCE to develop the testing procedures and define its initial demonstration fleet. As Ford’s plug-in hybrid program grows, the automaker will look for broader participation as it develops a business model not just for Southern California, but potentially nationwide. SCE has worked for more than 20 years with all major automakers and will continue seeking alliances between the two industries that advance plug-in hybrid technology.

The first PHEV conversion is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, with all twenty Escapes converted by 2009. Both Ford and Edison are actively seeking project participation from state and federal government agencies.

Holding up a standard 110V extension cord, Bryson stated “We need to make the future as simple as this...[Electricity] is the only alternative fuel with an infrastructure that has already been built.” Mulally added that “for the first time, we are going to look at the total energy system as a system.

070907_plugin
Ford and SCE say that smart plug-in vehicles could become part of an integrated smart home and grid energy system of the future.

Although both men stated that the project is designed in part to investigate vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, they did not specifically confirm whether the project vehicles will be V2G-capable. However, Edison envisions “smart plug-in hybrid vehicles ”as part of “an integrated smart home and grid energy system of the future,” and the two companies also plan to explore the potential residual value of PHEV battery packs when utilized for bulk energy storage, possibly in the home, after the packs reach the end of their usable life in a vehicle.

Both men cited barriers to the commercialization of PHEVs: Mulally remarked that “we have a lot of regulatory and public policy issues to address,” while in response to the inevitable “when will PHEVs be sold?” question, Bryson opined “I think that’s a decade down the road.” Mulally put the timeframe for the industry at five to ten years, and added that Ford sees PHEVs as a bridge to an all-electric fleet.

Asked if a convergence between the electric utility and transportation industries is inevitable, Bryson emphatically stated “Yes,” then qualified the statement as currently more of a hope than a reality. Ed Kjaer of Southern California Edison added that SCE plans to equip all five million of its users with smart meters by 2012.

The California Cars Initiative (CalCars) has posted an analysis of the Ford/SCE which terms the Ford/SCE announcement as “a welcome and very important baby step,” but notes the lack of specific commitments to PHEV development and commercialization.

Mulally and Bryson worked together at The Boeing Company in the past, and Bryson remains a director of Boeing.

Mulally cited the project as a convergence of “the great names of Ford and Edison.” Henry Ford was once Thomas Edison’s chief engineer, and the two remained friends after Ford left to build his own empire.

The Ford/Edison announcement comes less than a month after Google announced that it had partnered with Pacific Gas and Electric to demonstrate plug-in hybrid and vehicle-to-grid technology (earlier post).

July 9, 2007 in Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (39) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Good for Ford and Edison. If they can create a product to resonate with the history - it could be a marketing coup. Don't recall Ford announcing a line of PHEVs yet.

Not enough. I want a 40 MPG Hybrid Ford Fusion darnit!

I think its a great first step. If they don't catch up to GM's Volt though they will be left in the dust (assuming the Volt actually gets to the show room of course).

Ironic isn't it Ford was the company that killed the electric cars of the '20s by inventing mass production using an ICE in his model "T." At the time there were approximately 30,000 BEVs running U.S. city streets.

90 to 100 years later, Ford is serious about building electric cars.

Not enough!! I want a 70MPG Ford Edge with a Diesel engine and a LI-Ion battery PHEV. Anthing less is not answering market demand for high fuel efficiency vehicles.

I have a deep contempt for SUV's.  Even the hybrids fall well short of the fuel efficiency we need.

If Ford starts making PHEV Escapes, I will have to reconsider.

A baby step .. but it's a step. I don't see anything here that couldn't be accelerated if the price of oil goes through the roof.

Tom:

Tell them, then. Get a petition going. Show them that it's worth the billion dollar investment and they can turn a profit at it. Shoe them they'll sell a million of them, and you'll get it.

Otherwise, I could say I want a BEV that has a 300 mile range and recharges in ten minutes. The technology may be there, but whether the economics work is way up in the air.

This is what I like to see! Let's hope that Ford is serious and that the other manufacturers are paying attention. I also like that it's Ford and Edison. How iconic.

Why Ford has needed a partner like Edison ? We know that Hymotion (a canadian company) has already Escape PHEV. All the technology is there.
It seems to be a show, simply a show.

What's baffling is the comment that all this is 10 years out, like there's some pioneering design challenge to this in the year 2007. It speaks poorly of Mr. Mullally if he listens to advice like this and warning bells aren't going off. If they stick to that schedule it's quite possible that in three to five years' time others have shipping models but he doesn't.

Not Enough!!! I want an infinity mpg DeLorean with a Mr. Fusion adaptation in series with a flux capacitor!--Darn it!

Why does it take real-world data to test consumers of the Escape? They're already at market. Second, why would it take 2 years to convert 20 plug-ins? This is a BS marketing ploy.

Dave:
Why do you feel that this is a "BS marketing ploy"? Seems to me anyone working with new technology would be extremely wise to first test their equipment in real world applications. As far as taking 2 years, well, Rome wasn't built in a day either.

Schmeltz, I agree with your first post, but you forgot to include the Linear Accelerator.

Seriously, a decade of R&D seems, well, so Ford like.

Are plug-in hybrids really "building Rome in a day"? If so, Ford should be embarassed. People hack Priuses in the garage every day.

A "garage hack" is far from an engineered, tested and field verified program that will have millions of dollars riding on it. I really can't stress enough that programs such as Hymotion or EnergyCS conversions are nowhere near on the level as an OEM program like this will be.

Jim G:
I recently read that Toyota frowns on those hackers who are converting Prii into Plug-ins--(actually this admission suprised me a little bit). Perhaps Toyota doesn't want to be made to appear slow in their research? I don't know their reasons other than just assuming they want to have the stuff right when it finally does come on the market, whereas the hackers have the luxury of being wrong. Perhaps Ford is taking this same approach too. I can't fault anyone for taking the time to dot their i's and cross their t's. We have to consider that if a PHEV is brought to market, and it is a major flop for what could be a myriad of reasons, the bad press damage to the PHEV cause could be irreparable.

I'm not a car engineer but I think it's safe to assume that there's a little more to the whole Plug-in conversion thing than putting some bigger and better batteries in and stringing some wire. If it was that easy, someone would have done it by now (on mass scale). I've read that one of those conversions such as by Cal-cars can run around $10,000. To some people $10 grand extra is laughable, but to me and many others, that hurts. I know we have the technology and that it has been proven it can be done, but now it has to be proven that PHEV's will:

1. Work all the time with no major glitches.
2. Last 8-10 years or 150,000 miles.
3. Be competitively priced up against ICE's.

I suspect number 3 in that list is one of the major stumbling blocks for the automakers right now.

This is a smokescreen as in "comcept cars", a bait and switch if you will. All too familiar move by what remains of the Big 3.

Ford can say whatever they want but whatever they are spending millions and multi years will be an expensive marketing plan to keep the public interested in what is coming down the pike in the future from Ford.

Ford backed away from hybrids, backed away from diesels and has been manufacturing exactly what they want to sell for decades instead of what the public wants to buy.

I am sure if someone actually markets a plug in hybrid, Ford will license the technology and be fourth or fifth to market.

All they really want to market is an unreliable, gas guzzling V-8 engine in a SUV.

So crash testing and whatnot is going to take ten years? What car takes ten years to develop? This is laughable.

Schmeltz: if a Cal-cars modification is $10,000,

A) There are buyers who will pay that premium, even if you and I wouldn't
B) Ford are a mass market manufacturer with the infrastructure, talent and experience to produce such technology more cheaply than that; plus, as the original manufacturer, it can be integrated into the design rather than bolted on.
C) If it's a question of the capital, Ford can go to Wall Street tomorrow and say "we need 3 billion dollars for plug-in hybrids development" and get the funds, and Moody's will still rate their bonds well.

If Mullally really wants to set the direction he probably needs to fire a few people.

MLHM5:
Funny how you bash Detroit in your post, but you omit any mention of a complete abscence of a PHEV from Toyota, Honda, or Nissan. If Toyota or any of the other import nameplates can do no wrong, then where is their PHEV?

You also bash Detroit for wanting to sell V-8 gas guzzlers, and again you conveniently forgot to include Toyota with it's Tundra, Sequoia, 4 Runner, and Land Cruiser,and Nissan with its Titan and Pathfinders.

I found it interesting (I'm sure it's not planned) that Ford made this announcement on the same day that the IEA comes out and announces that oil demand will exceed supply within 5 years short of major investment or a recession. Something tells me we don't have the luxury of taking 10 years to fuss with i's and t's. I suspect that no. 3 on Shmeltz's list won't be a problem when people start to understand that gas prices aren't coming down ... ever.

It's true the Li-Ion batteries are not quite there yet. Toyota just delayed their introduction in the new Prius line. But on the other hand Tesla is charging full steam ahead. Probably has to do with quantity availability and Toyota's unwillingness to have any level of unreliability in a street product. But I do think Ford is still dragging their heels.

All this will be moot with $10.00/gallon gasoline. Think it can't happen? We were paying $1.10 in 2000, now it's $3.30. It will be a blink of an eye before it triples again. Not counting the inevitable new carbon taxes. 2012-2014 tops. Cantarell and the North Sea already in double digit decline, China and India ramping up demand. Saudi Arabia can't increase their output. Get real, we're on a plateau of 85mbpd, and we'll be lucky to maintain it.

We're about to witness a stunning national bankruptcy as most of the passenger-light-truck fleet becomes unusable long before it's worn out. Think about paying $310 to fill up an Escalade (Escalation), Denali (Denial) or Yukon (Youcon), to go--what--500 miles? PHEV's and electrics will carry a huge price premium if people wait until this scenario happens.

Jim G:
You made some good points. I agree that Mulally needs to shake it up at Ford or they are going to be history. I don't know if it is going to be that easy to run to Wall Street anymore for more money though, when they are already leveraged to the hilt. I'm hoping they can get their situation turned around.

Neil:
I would add also that car prices won't be coming down ever, either. Maybe I could broker a deal with some of the Amish in my neighborhood for a couple of good horses? :)

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