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Ford's pure-electric plug-in Focus, shown here, is being developed with the help of supplier Magna International and hopes to hit the market in 2011  (Source: Detroit News)

A production version of the prototype Ford Escape Hybrid Plug-In variant, seen here, will be delivered by Ford in 2012.  (Source: USA Today)
Ford Focus pure electric will land in 2011, plug-in Ford Escape Hybrid will land in 2012

Ford seemed reticent to jump onto the electric car scene.  Instead, over the last year it focused on key fuel saving and performance technologies like dual-clutch shifting, direct injection, and hybrids.  Its hybrids include the new Ford Fusion Hybrid which boasts great gas mileage thanks to its revamped hybrid powertrain.

Meanwhile, Ford's domestic competitors prepared to jump onto the electric car scene.  GM has high hopes riding on its Chevy Volt plug-in, while Chrysler has two converted models and an electric roadster in the works.

After months of talks with Magna International Inc. over a partnership to produce an electric vehicle, Ford finally privately decided to jump on the electric boat.  What really convinced Ford, its executives revealed, was a surprise from its partner Magna.  In September, Magna pulled up to Ford in Dearborn, Michigan in a fully retrofitted plug-in Focus, something Ford had no idea they had finished.

"It was a phenomenal car.  We were highly, highly impressed," said Ford’s Lisa Drake.

Today, Ford made its plans public with Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. announcing that his company is getting into the electric vehicle business according to Detroit News.  Ms. Drake will be leading Ford's half of the new efforts.  She says that the soaring gas costs, which went up to $4/gallon over the summer, were a key reason Ford decided to go electric.  And she expects gas to go back up in the future, "We were modeling $10 a gallon. We were modeling $12 a gallon.  We decided we need to be ready the next time this comes around."

However, while Magna might have convinced Ford that it was time to bring the technology to production, Ford has been quietly working on electric cars for a long time under the codename "Project M".  The project saw a partnership with Southern California Edison and the Department of Energy to retrofit test fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids to plug-ins in 2007.  However, Magna's aggressive development of its plug-in technology and the soaring gas prices convinced Ford to take the tech from the test track to the streets.

Last spring, Greg Frenette, the head of Ford's zero emissions vehicle programs, announced to his team that they would be delivering a new production hybrid by 2012.  The new hybrid will be a plug-in iteration of the Escape Hybrid which Ford has been selling since 2004.  The new model can plug directly into the wall and can go up to 40 MPH before having to burn gasoline.  The fuel economy figures for the vehicle under optimal conditions are 120 MPG in city driving tests and 70 MPG on the highway.  Mr. Frenette states, "[The announcement] gave [my engineers] a sense that this was more than just an academic exercise.  But this is what we're supposed to be doing. Moving this into production is what this is all about."

However, Ford isn't stopping there.  In addition to its plug-in hybrid, its partnership with Magna will deliver a new battery-only vehicle based on Ford's global Focus platform, due out in 2010.  It will not have a gas motor and will feature a range of 100 miles on a charge which is plenty for most Americans, says Ford.

Not all are convinced that Ford's electric foray will see success, though.  Analyst Jim Hall of Analytics LLP in Birmingham, MI states, "There still is not a viable market for a pure electric vehicle because of the range limitations.  It's psychological. They're going to have to re-educate consumers." 

However, he does see some benefits for Ford.  He states, "Building electric vehicles gets the emissions monster off their backs, and it also helps their fleet fuel economy average in a big way."

The new electric vehicles will help Ford meet the stricter "California emissions" that multiple states are expected to soon adopt, courtesy of President Obama's push to allow states the right to regulate their own emissions standards.  And whatever critics may say, Ted Robertson is convinced that Ford and Magna are a match made in electric heaven.  He says Magna could have built the whole vehicle if they wanted.  He adds, "Magna wants to be a leader and in the forefront of any new technology being developed.  There are very few suppliers who can do a whole vehicle and Magna is one of those. It was a great marriage."

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Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By FITCamaro on 2/3/2009 9:35:27 AM , Rating: 5
They're pushing ahead in a lot of places.

That said, I would never buy a pure electric vehicle. At least not with ranges only being 100 miles or so. Until it can go 300-400 miles on a charge at 80 mph, recharge in < 10 minutes to a full charge, and do it again reliably for 10 years or more without needing a $10,000 battery pack every 5 years or so.

By Ytsejamer1 on 2/3/2009 9:40:14 AM , Rating: 3
I have to agree with that thought...I'm happy Ford is taking control of the potential with electric and electric hybrids. The argument whether one is better, etc, etc is probably worth being it its own thread.

It's good to see the company give itself options in a world where oil prices can swing violently.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By semo on 2/3/2009 9:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
can't wait for those pure electric cars to come out (from big boys that is).

for the foreseeable future though i think serial hybrids are the most viable option. i wonder if another big jump in oil prices could accelerate infrastructure upgrades. how long away do you think is the first ever car park with charge stations for each bay? who'll have it? California, Tokyo, London?

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By elessar1 on 2/3/2009 10:06:15 AM , Rating: 2
Yes... serial hybrids where the non electrical motor can be changed for other sources of electricity (generators) would be sweet...

- Gas / Electric
- Diesel / Electric
- Ethanol / Electric
- Flexfuel / Electric
- FuelCell / Electric


RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By oab on 2/3/2009 10:17:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's called the Chevy Volt.

It's electric drive w/ a gasoline generator.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Spuke on 2/3/2009 11:38:03 AM , Rating: 3
California, Tokyo, London?
California, I'm afraid, has disappeared completely up its own a$$hole. We can't even pass a friggin budget. We're not pioneering anything here.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By HrilL on 2/3/2009 12:41:18 PM , Rating: 2
While that is true we still have the worlds 5th biggest economy so if we can get our politics worked out then we could be a great economic powerhouse.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Spuke on 2/3/2009 2:07:34 PM , Rating: 3
Our politics are crap. Have been for awhile now and will be this way for quite some time to come. Hence, our budget problem.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By oab on 2/3/2009 10:20:04 PM , Rating: 3
From my understanding is that the California budget requires a 2/3rs majority in the state legislature to pass, and that not enough republicans/democrats are breaking ranks on the votes.

Partisanship at its finest.

California after all has stopped paying all of the suppliers it uses, and is issuing IOU's in lieu of tax credits because it is facing a $40 billion shortfall.

No-one can agree on what programs to cut.

By HrilL on 2/6/2009 2:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
Cut everything other than education and then create what else is needed freshly and this will get rid of a lot of the wasteful spending we currently have going on. Educations also needs a complete overhaul and more regulations. Our local school districts keep voting in high pay for themselves and a superintendent for a school board doesn't need to make 130,000 a year when some of the schools are getting the shaft and can't even get enough books let alone daily supplies like paper. If you want more money get a real job don't take it from out kids.

By Spectator on 2/4/2009 3:02:32 AM , Rating: 2
It has been discussed here in UK.

Seems possible our first charge in car park points will probably be big super market chains. Good choice really.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Chris Peredun on 2/3/2009 10:03:41 AM , Rating: 1
That said, I would never buy a pure electric vehicle, until ...

Agreed. While it would be excellent for my daily commuting and short trips not very far away, I would need to have a second vehicle for making road trips to see family - and there goes any cost savings right there.

Jim Hall can wax philosphical all he wants about how it's a perception problem and the need for consumer education, but a gasoline vehicle offers the distinct advantage of being able to go ~500 miles on a tank, refill in a few short minutes, and be off again.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By mcnabney on 2/3/2009 11:54:43 AM , Rating: 4
What Ford is talking about is a COMMUTER CAR. Most American households already have two cars. Might as well make one of the cars an inexpensive to operate commuter car.

ie - one minivan and one commuter car for a family of four. The van would be used for long trips anyway and the little commuter would just be used for short local trips and the daily trip to the office.

Stupid Americans need to learn that they can't get everything you want for nothing....


RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Spuke on 2/3/2009 12:31:38 PM , Rating: 2
Americans have more than one car because they're needed to be used full time. We have two because one is used for my commute (and as a hobby) and the other is used for my wife's commute (and as a hobby also). There's no way in hell I'm buying a car that only gets used for driving to work!! Us stupid Americans don't believe in buying a car for one use. Or buying anything for one use. Even collector cars have more than one use.

By FITCamaro on 2/3/2009 3:55:40 PM , Rating: 2
Word. I can't afford two cars. Nor should I feel that I have to buy two cars just to be able to go to work and take trips.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Keeir on 2/3/2009 12:49:55 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that a "communter" car has a very limited market.

We can agree those living in "rural" areas have no use for a 100 mile limited electric car.

For most living in "suburban", 100 miles is going to be a major issue. To start with, 100 miles is probably under ideal conditions, so people should think more of 80 mile limit. Taking off the 30-40 miles people typically drive every day, that leaves around 40 miles left to spend. Considering that battery only electric cars typically cost MORE than normal cars by a significant margin and that for the average suburban driver they are at best a 3-4 day a week car.

For many living in an "Urban" setting, mass transit alreay takes care of most of the daily commuting. Maybe electric "flex" car systems... because it seems like the average urban person is most likely purchasing a car for long distance travel or for non-economic reasons.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By walk2k on 2/3/2009 12:57:35 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah right.

Show me hard figures that show anywhere near 10% of people drive more than 100 miles a day.

Show me stats that say even 5% of commuters drive more than 80 miles 1-way (keep in mind it can be plugged in at work and will fully recharge in 8 hours).

How is your job working for the oil company going anyway?

By Keeir on 2/3/2009 1:08:59 PM , Rating: 3
Its not that they drive more than 100 miles a day.

Its that not many want to pay 30,000+ for a car that can never drive more than 100 miles a day (when its 70 degrees outside and they drive 40 miles per hour the whole time)

I think a system like the Volt has it right... I would consider 30,000+ to get 90% of my driving from the grid and not sacrific the ability to drive to the airport and hospital on the same day in the same car.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By theapparition on 2/3/2009 3:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
Show me hard figures that show anywhere near 10% of people drive more than 100 miles a day.

The OP didn't say 100 miles and didn't say 10%, so where are you getting your ammunition? He clearly stated that real life usage may be closer to 80 miles, and that the average commute is around 35miles.

How about this, what do you do when stuck in a traffic jam for an hour in the summer heat? 0mhp = 0mpg. Shut the radio off and turn off the AC. Hope you make it home.

(keep in mind it can be plugged in at work and will fully recharge in 8 hours).

Somehow, I doubt your employeer wants to fill up your electric "tank", and if found'd be driving that electric car to the unemployment office.

By Spuke on 2/3/2009 4:05:20 PM , Rating: 2
Show me hard figures that show anywhere near 10% of people drive more than 100 miles a day.
He didn't?

By porkpie on 2/3/2009 4:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
How is your job working for the oil company going anyway?
Wow, if you can't say something sensible, might as well attack your opponent, huh?

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By walk2k on 2/3/2009 1:06:00 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah we can get everything we want, we'll just invade your country and blow you up if you don't give it to us.

By FITCamaro on 2/3/2009 3:57:30 PM , Rating: 2
What's your point?

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By oab on 2/3/2009 10:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
From my understanding, the typical car gets ~500Km on a tank or ~300 miles.

Even if it can go 1/3rd the distance of a regular fill-up (I assume no blower, no wipers, no seat massager, etc.), the real downside is charging it up again. Until all the parking lots have little poles you just plug your car into (ala drive-in theatre speaker mounts circa 1960), I can't see these being huge sellers.

However, an actual, production model electric car based on a real car platform is a very nice thing to see.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Lord 666 on 2/3/2009 10:08:36 AM , Rating: 1
Well said about the requirements for hybrids to be viable. Or Obama might subsidize battery pack replacement for buyers of hybrids along with giving them prefered parking and a fabulously funny sounding horn.

Personally thinking that with the new Obama legislation that allows individual states to determine MPG, thinking that diesel trucks will become more popular to meet these requirements quickly as in the MB R320 and VW Tiguan opposed to hybrids being introduced more rapidly.

To convert the current Escape to plug-in is a very small engineering change... why such long delays to 2012? When people say "America does not make cars people want," the undue delay is an excellent example of what they mean by that.

BTW - This is my last post for a while, wanted to finish on a high note for my total number posts ;)

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By rudy on 2/3/2009 10:44:07 AM , Rating: 3
Trying to produce something at the scale a major auto maker does is not trivial. A couple years is a short time. Or you have to throw massive resources at it to get it done quickly. On the other hand would you really want to come out with a plugin while gas prices are this low?

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By oab on 2/3/2009 10:10:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, two years is about the "regular" time it takes for an automaker to design a model-year car (so all the 09's started design in '06, so the plants could be re-tooled in '08).

Quite clearly Ford is rushing this to market.

By FITCamaro on 2/3/2009 4:02:00 PM , Rating: 2
Likely the time is due to federal requirements.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Doormat on 2/3/2009 11:43:11 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know if all-electric vehicles will work for the general consumer in the next 25-50 years. The constraint is recharging quickly - short of superconductors plugging into your car, you aren't going to get the necessary current into the battery even if the battery could accept that current and recharge quickly (which is why battery swapping programs look like the long-term solution for EVs).

A 200 mi battery at 300W/mi (60kWh) would require 1000A DC at 480V (480kW) to recharge the battery in 7.5 minutes. The conductors to carry that much current would be ridiculously big. Even conductors in parallel would be about an inch and a half each, plus suitable insulation.

The other end of the spectrum is home recharging overnight. This requires a 40A circuit to be installed, and the typical home service built in 2009 would be 100A, so you would have that 40A shared between vehicles. For one car its OK - 40A at 240V is 9.6kW, enough to recharge a Volt in one hour (if it could accept the charge that quick). But if you wanted to recharge 60kW, thats 6+ hours per vehicle. After two cars you see where this is going...

I really do like the ER-EVs like the Volt, and I think that they offer the best of both worlds, 40 miles electric plus practically unlimited range. I've run the numbers and I would cut my personal gas consumption by 91% (from about 560 gallons to 50 gallons per year, assuming 40 mi electric and 35MPGe after that). Unfortunately gas has to be at least $3.00/gal at this point to have any sort of ROI in the battery warranty period. At $2/gal its just not workable unless you have an 80 mile commute and can recharge at work.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By corduroygt on 2/3/2009 12:27:16 PM , Rating: 2
That's why I'm hoping EEstor turns out to be more than vaporware. Capacitors with similar energy density to batteries, fast recharge (assuming you can provide the current for it), and infinite charging cycles. It really could make electric cars reality. I love electric, because I love instant torque...

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Spuke on 2/3/2009 12:37:32 PM , Rating: 2
I love electric, because I love instant torque...
That today's (and the near future's) tire technology cannot handle. Especially the tires most used on hybrid cars (low rolling resistance, non-performance).

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By corduroygt on 2/3/2009 1:16:27 PM , Rating: 2
That's the fun part, provided you have a RWD car :)
My dream car would have a 50 hp 1.0 liter generator in the front charging a 8-9 kWh capacitor pack under the seats connected to two 100KW direct drive electric motors in the rear. No gearbox, differential, and the generator in the front would provide the heat in the winter.

By Spuke on 2/3/2009 2:15:59 PM , Rating: 2
That's the fun part, provided you have a RWD car :)
With traction and stability control being a standard, the fun will be curtailed. Currently, only sporting vehicles can disable or loosen up these features. These drivetrains are only in non-sporting vehicles for the moment except for Tesla and bring a truck filled with money for that one.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Zoomer on 2/3/2009 2:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
What about a smaller engine, say 3 stroke, 600-700cc engine? Less weight to lug around. We could probably size it so it produces 125% the hp needed to cruise at 60mph.

Battery mode: full performance
Engine backup mode: reduced performance, but full power && battery empty is unlikely anyway.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Keeir on 2/3/2009 2:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
Something that gets overlooked,

Its the efficieny of the engine at the expected load that is importnant, not the size

Its hard to get 600-700cc engines to produce adequate power at an efficient point (for a 4 door sedan type car). Your example of 125% hourse power needed to cruise at 60mph would leave a car with less (or about) than 75 mph top speed on -flat- ground. In the United States, this is unacceptable as in many places 75 mph is the speed limit. A range extender in the United States needs to be able to provide 100% of the horse power to go 75 mph up a slight incline, say 3-4%. This is where the smaller engines fail. Overall they are probably slightly more efficient, but if no one wants to buy them then it doesn't really help. Hate the prius because of the style, but a prius buyer is giving almost nothing up on a traditional 4 door compact sedan.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By corduroygt on 2/3/2009 3:29:20 PM , Rating: 2
The engine size is not that important, since it'd be only a generator, and always run at constant rpm's (or not run at all). I chose a larger engine so that the revs. wear, tear, and noise would be lower. You need it to be just powerful enough to go 90-95 mph constantly with up to 3 minute bursts into higher speeds provided by 200 kW of power.

By Alexvrb on 2/3/2009 8:53:31 PM , Rating: 2
The first-gen Volt isn't too far off that mark. Constant speed of ~80 MPH, bursts to ~120 MPH, and an electric motor producing 120 kW of power. If the design does well in the years ahead, maybe they'll release a Volt SS with a beefier EREV drivetrain. :D Lighter batteries would really be killer, though. Here's hoping supercaps pan out.

By Doormat on 2/3/2009 2:16:26 PM , Rating: 2
It has absolutely nothing to do with the battery characteristics. Did you not read my post?

Its about providing current to the battery to recharge it. A standard vehicle needs somewhere between 200-350Wh/mi, depending on speed (since air resistance increases as the square of speed) and acceleration.

The bottom line is this: you'll need (roughly) 2 minutes for each mile you drive at 240V/40A to recharge (recharge at home). To pull down times to times roughly equivalent to putting more gas in your car, you need 480V/1000A (which is ridiculous) to recharge the theoretical battery in less than 10 minutes.

By walk2k on 2/3/2009 12:52:01 PM , Rating: 2
If they are still around in 2011 you mean.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By superkdogg on 2/3/2009 3:36:51 PM , Rating: 2
I generally agree with you FIT that this is the goal. The one objection is that there are hardly any gas vehicles that will go 80 for 300-400 miles without needing a fill up-mileage sucks going that fast.

I'd be willing to make sacrifices on all those points at the benefit of cost and not having to referee everything that happens in the middle east though.

I'd even get one of the 100 milers if it is at least cost neutral for me to run day-to-day, since I have another car for longer trips and commute about 2 miles to work each day.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By FITCamaro on 2/3/2009 4:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
Dude my GTO will go nearly 400 miles on a tank at 80 mph.
As did my Cobalt. It just needed less gas to do so.

RE: Pretty impressed with Ford lately
By Noya on 2/3/2009 10:41:16 PM , Rating: 1
my GTO will go nearly 400 miles on a tank at 80 mph.

Very rare. It's just because of that major overdrive 6th gear that keeps it just off idle at what, 1,500rpm?

Does your Goat have that shite 1-4 skipshift from the factory?

By corduroygt on 2/4/2009 9:12:24 AM , Rating: 2
That's actually not that impressive, since the GTO's tank is more than 16 gallons, which means 25 mpg, which I've achieved in mine, doing about 70-75 mph.

I once even got 28 mpg, never exceeding 65 mph. Why? because I didn't want to stop to fill up until I got home.

By Spuke on 2/3/2009 4:16:34 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be willing to make sacrifices on all those points at the benefit of cost and not having to referee everything that happens in the middle east though.
The thing is the cost will be higher for the car and more than likely higher for maintenance as well. If you think there will be hardly or no maintenance or that the costs will be cheaper, you're kidding yourself. At least until there's a crap load of them on the road. Also, most cars easily get 300 to 400 miles on a tank of gas unless you're driving a car that gets 16 mpg with a 10 gallon tank.

By nuarbnellaffej on 2/4/2009 3:15:50 PM , Rating: 2
ummm... I too would be skeptical to purchase an electric vehicle until the aspects you gave mention to are improved, but recharge in less than 10 minutes!? The amount of energy required for a 300-400 mile range is very substantial, I'm afraid you'll be waiting a veeeeeeeery long time for that sir.

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