|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.
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:
- 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.
- Supporting policies.
- 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.
- Utility partnership and renewable power generation.
- Alternative business models (e.g., Better Place) and alliances.
- Government incentives and grants.
- 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.
- Demonstrations and early fleet sales.