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Ford doubles electric drive market share in US from 2012 to 2013; surging with plug-in hybrids

4 October 2013

Ford3
Ford’s changing share of the hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, battery-electric vehicle segments and total ED market in the US in 2012 and YTD 2013. Data: EDTA, Ford Motor. Click to enlarge.

Ford Motor Company’s C-platform electric drive strategy has driven an increase in Ford’s overall electric drive market share (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric) from 7.3% in calendar year 2012 to 14.7% for the first nine months of 2013.

Specifically, out of 487,480 electric drive units sold in 2012 (according to data from the Electric Drive Transportation Association), Ford accounted for 35,719 units (7.3%). From January through September 2013, total electric drive sales were 457,704 units (EDTA); Ford’s electric drive sales climbed to 67,232 units during that period (14.7%).

2012 was something of a transition year for Ford with its electric drive vehicles; the venerable Escape Hybrid was phasing out, while only the new Fusion Hybrid and the MKZ Hybrid had a full year of sales. The Focus Electric went on sale in June; the C-MAX hybrid went on sale in September; the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid in October; and the Fusion Energi wouldn’t go on sale until February 2013.

Accordingly, in 2012, Ford only held a 7.5% share of the conventional hybrid market in the US (434,645 total units sold, according to EDTA, with Ford accounting for 32,660).

Fordedrive
Monthly 2013 sales of Ford electric drive vehicles. Data: Ford. Click to enlarge.

But for the first nine months of 2013, Ford’s sales of conventional hybrids (Fusion, C-MAX and MKZ) zoomed to 58,262 units, or 14.9% of the industry’s 389,725 units sold. (The flap over realized fuel efficiency of the C-MAX and its subsequent relabeling to a lower window-sticker mpg (earlier post) appear to have some slowing impact on its market performance. Chart at right.)

On the battery-electric vehicle side, despite stronger sales, the Focus Electric has seen its electric drive market share slip from 4.8% in 2013 (685 units out of a total 14,251) to 3.8% (1,335 units out of 35,261 units total).

However, with both of its plug-in hybrids (C-MAX and Fusion Energi) in the market in 2013, Ford saw its share of that element of the electric drive marketplace surge from 6.2% in 2012 to 23.3% so far in 2013: 7,635 units out of an industry total of 32,718 plug-in hybrids.

At this week’s Plug-in 2013 Conference in San Diego, Green Car Congress had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Tinskey, Ford’s Associate Director, Vehicle Electrification & Infrastructure, to talk about Ford’s strategy and performance in this area.

You know we are on an upward trend and we are pretty proud of where we stand. Last year at this time, we only had a fraction of the market, now we are running close to 15%. It’s been pretty amazing growth from hybrids, plug-in hybrids and BEVs. It’s primarily been conquest customers. Especially in cities like LA and San Francisco, we are really bringing in primarily, for the most part, Toyota customers.

The products we have, the C-MAX Energi, the Fusion Energi, and their hybrid counterparts, as well as the Focus Electric are all offering something for everyone, so the demographics are quite varied.

We’ve been seeing a bulk of our sales in hybrids, followed by plug-in hybrids, followed by the battery electric. I can’t really comment on what is likely to happen, but I can say that there are hypotheses that the hybrid owners are going to maybe be our next plug-in hybrid customers.

Our strategy is based on offering electric powertrains for everyone. We can take Fusion, we can offer it as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and as an EcoBoost. The plug-in hybrid and the hybrid essentially share most of their components—both from a vehicle and an electric powertrain standpoint. There is not a lot of difference aside from the bigger battery and the inverter. It allows us to really get scale. Between those two, we are selling a lot more volume than if we sold a plug-in alone or a hybrid alone. So it’s a really good strategy from that standpoint.

From an aspirational standpoint, our assumption is that people get used to the electric mode in hybrids. The bulk of [electric drive] customers are buying hybrids, which are now becoming mainstream. And they are not going to want to go back. In fact, they are probably going to want to go further. My sense is that those customers will migrate to plug-in hybrids as we move forward.

—Mike Tinskey

For now, he suggested, platforms for plug-in models will remain C-segment or C/D. Although at some point there will be a migration into D-segment and beyond, larger platforms, especially the light-duty truck platform, will have to wait until battery costs come down to enable decent electric range at acceptable cost.

For Ford, Tinskey noted, there is also a problem with smaller platforms (e.g., B and below): battery packaging.

It’s not impossible, it’s just becomes more challenging. In our case, our strategy is built on how to leverage a global platform and get not only a diesel or a gasoline powertrain into the product, but how do you also get an electric powertrain into the product. When you go down to a B-size platform with that type of strategy, you basically would have to use the majority of the trunk space. So we’re likely going to see some of that product, but it’s going to be purpose-built.

—Mike Tinskey

October 4, 2013 in Electric (Battery), Hybrids, Plug-ins, Sales | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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From a business point of view, making a PHEV and an HEV share the same platform can benefit from reduced development cost and economy of scale.
However, from an engineering point of view, making a clean-sheet dedicated, optimized PHEV cannot share the same platform with an optimized HEV.

This is because a PHEV requires 1/2 the engine size as the HEV as well as smaller motor and generator. The PHEV does not need the planetary power split gear box. The reduction in engine size, generator and motor size, and inverter size can fully or partially pay for the larger battery pack without incurring much additional cost, weight, and internal space, thereby making the PHEV more competitive with HEV and ICEV to the general public.

I think the future of mass marketed cars is to build two optimized lines of platforms:

Platform I supporting classic gasoline, diesel or hybrid power-trains (this is what Toyota has publicly stated they are doing by making the hybrid option available in all their traditional cars before 2020).

Platform II supporting hybrid, plugin-hybrid, BEV, bi-fuel either gasoline/gas or diesel/gas and hydrogen fuel cell cars (this could be what Toyota have in mind with future versions of their Prius brand. Recall they are already doing a Prius hybrid and PHEV Prius. However, admittedly currently Toyota do not seem to believe in BEV and bi-fuel options for mass market cars but believe more in a future mass market for fuel cell cars. I think this is wrong and that fuel cells will not be competitive with the alternatives for many decades to come if ever).

Also you cannot build one platform that supports any kind of power-train as it will need to be large enough to accommodate the largest kind of power-trains (those in platform II) and that would be inefficient and uneconomical for cars with smaller power-trains (those in platform I). Compromises like using luggage or cabin space for gas tanks or batteries is not viable either because some 90% of the car buyers will not buy such a limited car.

Moreover, battery only cars BEVs will continue to be niche as long as the prices of making automotive grade batteries is as high as it is or over 500 USD per kWh. To do a full range 300 miles car you need at least 80 kwh or over 40000 USD worth of batteries. This is niche territory and it will take decades if ever to go below about 7000 USD for such a battery pack which is where it needs to be before BEVs will be the only power-train we need.

This is a good development. What we need is more and more cars using PHEV to get the production of batteries up to volume levels, just like it happened before in other areas, such as laptops, mobile phones, cameras, etc. I am looking forward to 2014 when VW will be entering the market, with Audi A3 E-tron and Volvo with V60. Too bad Lexus seems to be ignoring the PHEV market.

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