The Ford Motor Company remains bullish about vehicle electrification, a broad category that includes traditional hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles. The automaker has seen some success with its early EVs including the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Ford also sells a Transit Connect EV for fleet use and recently began offering a battery electric version of its popular Focus compact. Those models are being joined by a family of new hybrids including the 2013 Ford Fusion, the next generation Lincoln MKZ and two hybrid versions of the Ford C-MAX, its Toyota Prius V fighter. Ford, however, has much catching up to do as contributor Jason Lancaster recently noted.
EV growth has been gradual, but remains far below what production capacity can provide. Some experts, including Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk, believes that that in 20 years 50 percent of the cars produced will be EVs reports Daily Tech. President Obama has stated that he wants to see 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, representing just a fraction of the 250 million registered cars in America.
Ford seems to be preparing for a possible technological and engineering break-through that might expand the range of EVs while dropping the cost. The current crop of pure electric vehicles on the market are pricey and without the current $7,500 federal tax credit would have near zero appeal except by early adopters. The Ford Focus EV, for instance, is priced from $39,200. The gas-powered Focus, meanwhile, is priced from $16,200. Even with the full federal tax credit in play, the BEV Focus costs nearly 100 percent more than the standard Focus.
Advanced Electrification Center
Nevertheless, Ford has added 60 engineers in the past year, dedicating more than 1,000 engineers to work on vehicle electrification with dozens more expected to be hired in the next year. These engineers work under one roof at the Advanced Electrification Center in Dearborn, Mich. near Ford’s global headquarters. The center is located on Ford’s 500-acre technical campus in a building constructed in 1993 for noise, vibration and harshness testing. In 2009, as Ford ramped up its vehicle electrification efforts, the building repurposed to handle its current tasks.
Ford says that it is accelerating its hybrid and pure electric vehicle development with an eye to increase it by 25 percent. They’re doing this by developing more of the related technologies in-house, a move that will save the company time and money. Those cost savings will ultimately benefit the consumer as well.
Included in the mix are what Ford describes as highly specialized machines that allow its engineers to test and simulate a variety of conditions including battery power and performance saw well as battery life. Ford is able to mimic extreme weather conditions ranging from Arctic cold to desert heat to test thermal behavior.
Five New Models
By next year, Ford will have tripled its vehicle electrification capacity as it completes the roll out of five new models. The BEV Focus will be followed by a new Ford Fusion Hybrid, a Fusion Energi, the C-MAX hybrid and the C-MAX Energi. “Energi” is a Ford term used to describe its line of plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) models.
Early on, Ford relied heavily on third-party suppliers for its hybrid systems, companies that tested and designed these technologies, driving up costs and slowing down the implementation process. With more tasks completed by its engineers, Ford can compete with Toyota, the runaway leader in all things hybrid.