by Jack Rosebro
|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.”
|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).