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Ford’s View on Electrification Enablers; Looking for Battery Commonization

Ford’s view of the different enablers for successful vehicle electrification. Click to enlarge.

Noting that “once you plug the vehicle into the wall, success becomes a team sport”, Mike Tinskey, manager of Ford’s sustainability activities focused on electric vehicles and infrastructure, outlined what Ford sees as enablers for electrification (“controllable success factors”), during a presentation at the Plug-in 2009 conference in Long Beach this past week.

Prior to his current position, Tinskey led Ford’s product planning and product management activities for hybrids and for developing and implementing the electric vehicle strategy announced last January (earlier post). During his talk, he suggested that migrating to some battery commonality would be a huge win for the industry simply because it would support a more rapid achievement of the higher production volumes required to bring prices down.

We as OEMs are currently on a path to design, sell and service all unique battery packs. It’s easy to identify the problem. As you have unique packs and cells, it creates a challenge and an obstacle to having secondary ownership, to having some unique receipt models, service costs, and the list goes on and on.

The biggest issue with batteries now is not necessarily the technology, it’s the volume. If the battery manufacturers could get north of 100,000 packs, annually, prices come down drastically. One path forward is that we all collectively focus our initial volumes on common packs. That’s easier said than done. I don’t want to paint a picture that this is something we can get solved tomorrow. But we definitely have this in mind as a long-term goal. Right now we’re just making sure we get the product right, it’s a quality product, and it works.

But if we could get movement to migrating to some commonality, overall that would be a huge win for the industry.

—Mike Tinskey

Ford’s product approach to electrification. Currently, Ford has four full hybrids on the market. For the mid-term (2011-2020), Ford will increase its use of hybrid technology, and introduce plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV) on the market. For the long-term (2020-2030), Tinskey said, Ford will focus on volume expansion of hybrid technologies, continue to leverage PHEVs and BEVs, and introduced fuel cell vehicles. There is also an accompanying long-term focus on clean electricity and hydrogen for fueling.

We look at powertrains as powerpacks, and we view emerging technologies as powerpacks also. We've taken the approach that the vehicle can be a global platform&madsh;and you can really enjoy some economies of scale from that—and then you can take these powerpacks and react to local market conditions, and put those powerpacks in as appropriate as the markets develop.

Where the markets develop, we can react very quickly and introduced a BEV, or plug-in, or diesel, or EcoBoost fairly rapidly.

—Mike Tinskey

Ford chose to develop many of its electrified products on its global C platform—a high-volume platform that sells millions every year.

Specifically on the BEV side, Ford has announced two vehicles: the electric Transit Connect light commercial van in 2010, and the battery electric Focus in 2011 (using new styling and with a new model). Both of these are C-platform applications. Ford will introduce a plug-in hybrid version with its next generation hybrid vehicles in 2012.

Third-party (i.e., not Ford’s) global market projections for electric vehicles range from a bottom-scraping 0.14% (about 100,000 units) to 3-4% (approaching 2.5 million units) of the market by 2020. After 11 years, hybrids have a 0.8% share globally. Click to enlarge.

Citing the wide variance in industry projections—ranging from the extremely conservative to the wildly optimistic—Tinskey noted that the large degree of uncertainty contributed to Ford’s adoption of its current electrification strategy which is designed to optimize flexibility and response time.

Market enablers for electrification. In addition to battery commonality, Ford sees other success factors contributing to successful electrification as:

  1. The charging infrastructure. Ford sees home charging as the segment where the most frequent charging will occur, followed by fleet depot charging, charge at work, and then public charging, in that order. For the next four years or so, he sees no major charging infrastructure. Standards are critical for success here. Tinskey also noted that fast charging present challenges on vehicles, due to the sizing of onboard electronics.
  2. Supporting policies.
  3. Utilities, vehicle-to-home (V2H), and vehicle-to-grid (V2G). Ford is a little bearish on the concept of V2G at this point, he said. “Let’s figure out V2H—then we can figure everything else out.” Key for success here is working with utilities and emerging standards for messaging and communications between the vehicle and the grid and utility.
  4. Utility partnership and renewable power generation.
  5. Alternative business models (e.g., Better Place) and alliances.
  6. Government incentives and grants.
  7. Secondary uses for the battery pack (this is linked to the commonality issue, as repackaging common formats would reduce cost and make sales less convoluted.
  8. Demonstrations and early fleet sales.



Ford is on the right track but a lot of it is wishful thinking (for them as a business) since there is a diverse amount of research going on with batteries, charging, etc. I love the idea of really pushing home charging though - this would create competition for commercial charging businesses (ie. electricity stations (kind of like gas stations)) - force them to be more efficient & cheaper (or else not even exist if they can't compete).


"commercial charging businesses (ie. electricity stations (kind of like gas stations))"

The funny thing about gas stations is they make more money selling you a can of pop than a gallon of gas. People need to go to gas stations to fill up their cars and the station owner uses this fact to lure you into buying his real money makers.

People don't need to go to a commercial charging business to juice up their EV [they can do that at home] so any commercial charging business will have to do the opposite to a gas station; instead of being a place you have to go to to fill up and then end up shopping commercial charging businesses will have to be set up in places where people need/want to go for other reasons. Places like the parkade of your local mall, your place of employment or your school. Heck if your car's got fast charging ability your local drivethrough could have a charger under the window. Going to a Starbucks to get a buzz could take on a whole new meaning.


There are a few problems of comparing EV growth with hybrid growth.

Firstly, from a user perspective a hybrid is still a gasoline vehicle like any other, except with improved fuel efficiency. So it is not as disruptive a technology as electric vehicles. That may be an advantage or a disadvantage. On the one hand, I see many people on the internet that are dying to get their hands on one, and are very willing to pay a premium price and at the same time live with the limitations of a BEV. Because the EV's are so vastly different, they will get an enhanced 'Prius effect' and easily take its place as the ultimate 'smugmobile'. The disadvantage is that the infrastructure we currently have is optimized for gasoline vehicles. People are conservative at heart, clinging to things that are familiar.

Secondly, the Prius was the only practical hybrid on the market for most of those 11 years. EV's are coming in droves now.

Thirdly, the Prius was introduced when gas prices were very low and things like oil dependency or peak oil or global warming did hardly get the attention they are getting today.

Account Deleted

Ford is probably right in saying that the frequency (volume) of charging is 1) home, 2) fleet depot, 3) work and 4) public in that order. In percentages for society as a whole perhaps: 55%, 20%, 15% and 10%. However, as an enabler of electric vehicles it is critical that all highways are equipped with fast chargers (min 60kW) for every 20 mile or so. It is critical because it will make it possible to sell EVs with low range (60 to 100 miles) that therefore also only need small battery packs that therefore cost less. And low price is the best enabler an EV can get. Many emerging EV makers have directly said that they will limit their launch of EVs to areas where there is a public EV charging infrastructure, including Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Another good point by Ford is that batteries are far less costly when you buy them for an EV that sells over 100,000 units a year. That would be Nissan’s LEAF with planned production of 200,000 units by 2012 of which 150,000 will be made in the US thanks to the 1.6B USD grant from the Obama administration to refit Nissan’s US factory. Nissan’s North America Product Planning Vice President Larry Dominique has said they can do the 24 kWh 100 mile range battery for the LEAF for “a lot less than 12,000 USD a piece” and he also say/hint that the $25-33,000 price target for the LEAF will include the price of the battery “We want our customers to have just one payment".

Henry Gibson

The main problem with automotive batteries is the mythical lithium. The myth is that lithium is the best material to make into batteries. The myth about lithium is that it has the highest energy density. This myth about the energy density is untrue. Per kilogram of fuel or fuel and oxydizer, hydrogen is better, and this is the reason fuel cells keep getting attention and were used in space vehicles.

Plutonium 238, which is not explosive, has far higher energy density than hydrogen or lithium or anything other than a fusion or fission reactor or very rare isotopes.

Pu238 can be safely contained in a steel box and was once built into people inside pacemakers for very long life operation, and a few people may still be using them.

The myth about lithium also applies to fuel cells and Pu238. They all cost much to much for widespead use. Bill Gates could afford a Pu238 powered car that would never need to stop for fuel again in his life. When fusion reactors are fully working they could make large quantities of Lithium triteride which may be more energy dense than Pu238, but the fusion reactors could also make Pu238 from used reactor fuel rods.

The myth about lithium has people believing that electric cars need a long range and fast charging.

The myth about lithium has people believing that electric cars need high performance and fast acceleration in addition to long range and fast recharging. Many if not most people are satisfied most of the time if their cars get them to their destination.

Plug-in-hybrid cars with low capacity batteries and range extender generator chargers are an engineering compromise which will allow cheap mass produced batteries, infinite range with stops at ordinary gas stations, but daily commutes with little or no use of fuel. Sufficiently efficient 5KW to 10KW, single moving part turbines could be engineered by Capstone to burn diesel as cleanly as natural gas on rare occasions when battery boosting was necessary. CO2 is not dirty; every live and many dead plants and animals produce it and all plants need it. Every human also produces it and most US dwelling humans pay for its release in large quantities.

Lead batteries have been sufficient for electric automobiles and trucks for more than a hundred years, and now with innovation are more than sufficient. ZEBRA batteries are ultra sufficient and could be cheap enough in quantity as proposed. ..HG..


Henrik, thanks for the link.

If they can get the Leaf on the market for that $25,000 - $ 33,000 price range by 2012 then that is much better than I thought possible only a year ago. Things are moving really fast now.


Would that price include the $7000 federal rebate?


"According to Larry Dominique, vice president of product planning for Nissan North America Inc., Nissan plans to price the new LEAF electric-car to compete with $25,000 to $33,000 mass-market cars in the United States. Dominique said that does not include any government incentives offered to buyers, reports Automotive News."

Test market 2011, launch 2012.


Does Ford make the most fuel efficient cars in the world as of right now?


"People don't need to go to a commercial charging business to juice up their EV [they can do that at home] so any commercial charging business will have to do the opposite to a gas station...." Ai Vin if the charging technology at a commercial charging business was leaps and bounds ahead of what people had available at home, I'm sure people would go there and pay a little more to charge. Other businesses would only install charging equipment if it was cheap enough. Consumers will continue to make decisions based on what is cheapest, easiest, fastest, most effective.



There's no doubt that the majority will eventually recharge their PHEV and/or BEV at home most of the time.

However, on longer trips or for people working 40+ miles away from home, another type of charging station may be required.

Standardized fully automated Commercial quick charge stations will be required. Many could be contactless or wireless for those of us who do not want (or are reluctant) to handle a power plug.


Yeah but you can get this "better" charging at home too, over the internet no less;

As for faster charging: At home, work or school there's generally little reason to need a fast charge because your car will be parked for a long time [like 8+ hours]. In fact the average car spends 23 out of every 24 hours parked. Even in places where you face a 2 hour rushhour commute both ways it still means your car is parked for 20 hours.

Account Deleted

Henry Gibson:
Fuel cells were used in the Space Shuttle because they used an already available resource (liquid hydrogen and oxygen) and produced a necessity for astronauts (clean water) as waste. You should note that *none* of the proposed fuel cells for automotive use are of the type used in the space shuttle. Guess why...

Pu238 sounds good until you realize production is very limited (NASA is having trouble getting even the necessary amount for their probes) and energy generation is done using low efficiency thermocouples. Using most heat engines is out of question because of the low grade heat produced by it. Once again, noone but NASA uses this form of power because...

If lithium batteries are so bad, how comes all consumer electronics use them? I still remember my lead battery powered camcorder. Just a battery was bigger and weighed more than my current camcorder does. Lead batteries are still used in automotive applications because they are great when you need a lot of power in an instant. Like a starter motor does.

Diesel sounds great until you start thinking where you will get it from. Iraq? Iran? Venezuela? There is a reason for the craze about biodiesel, algae and stuff like that.

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