Print 45 comment(s) - last by Silver2k7.. on May 10 at 11:05 AM

Current world market Ford Focus

Current North American Ford Focus

Ford Transit Connect
Ford goes its own way when it comes to efficient vehicles

It's been a tough year for the auto industry. Most major auto manufacturers have witnessed months of double-digit sales declines. Both General Motors and Chrysler took bailout money from the government to weather these harsh times while Ford said "no thanks" and decided to go it alone.

Since the bailout funds were initially handed out in December, Chrysler has filed for bankruptcy and GM appears to be nearing that point. Ford, on the other hand, appears to be moving ahead with returning to profitability and shifting its production lines to producing more fuel efficient vehicles.

Ford yesterday announced plans to invest $550 million in retooling its Michigan Assembly plant to produce the all-new Ford Focus and an accompanying battery-electric variant. The Michigan Assembly Plant currently produces Ford's behemoth body-on-frame SUVs: the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator.

In addition to the change at the Michigan Assembly Plant, Ford will also convert two other truck plant -- Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico and Louisville Assembly -- to produce the subcompact Ford Fiesta and Focus-based compact vehicles.

"We're changing from a company focused mainly on trucks and SUVs to a company with a balanced product lineup that includes even more high-quality, fuel-efficient small cars, hybrids and all-electric vehicles," said Ford's Mark Fields. "As customers move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, we'll be there with more of the products they really want."

"The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant embodies the larger transformation under way at Ford," added Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. "This is about investing in modern, efficient and flexible American manufacturing. It is about fuel economy and the electrification of vehicles."

Like its Fiesta sibling, the new Ford Focus will truly be a global vehicle. The North American market will get the same Focus that sells in other parts of the world which isn't the case today -- the current NA Focus is based on a platform dating back to 1999, whereas other world markets got a fully revamped Focus in 2004.

While many auto enthusiasts will be happy to hear that North America will finally have a vehicle on par with the rest of the world, the big news will be with the battery-electric version of the Focus. According to Ford, the vehicle will feature an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. The vehicle is being developed in conjunction with Magna International and will go into production in 2011 as a 2012 model year vehicle.

Ford also has plans to market a battery-electric version of its upcoming Transit Connect commercial vehicle, a next generation hybrid, and a next generation plug-in hybrid by 2012.

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RE: Aerodynamics?
By Brandon Hill on 5/7/2009 9:21:24 AM , Rating: 4
It's a commercial vehicle -- the boxier it is, the more cargo it can carry. That explains the raised roof, slab sides, etc.

Take a look at the Dodge Sprinter for another example.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By JasonMick on 5/7/09, Rating: -1
RE: Aerodynamics?
By therealnickdanger on 5/7/2009 10:03:19 AM , Rating: 2
Save the electric for sedans, until it is refined and perfected, IMO.

Who says they haven't? ;-)

I can't help but think that the Transit Connect is designed for the European market. A shorter range may be just fine for a delivery truck in a small town. I could see such a truck being perfect for postal service stuff. Bakeries, catering, etc.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By ArcliteHawaii on 5/8/2009 11:06:16 PM , Rating: 2
EXACTLY. Aerodynamics come into play once a car exceeds 35 MPH. Below that it's a non factor. If a truck like this almost never sees the highway, then it won't matter that it's boxy.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By Jansen on 5/7/2009 10:17:06 AM , Rating: 1
It looks similar to the Ampere, from Smith Electric Vehicles (part of the Tanfield Group).

RE: Aerodynamics?
By JasonMick on 5/7/09, Rating: -1
RE: Aerodynamics?
By Keeir on 5/7/2009 1:53:46 PM , Rating: 4
I also find it interesting that it uses iron-phosphate-lithium ion technology instead of lithium carbonate ion like the Volt.

Thats mainly because the Volt selected the battery supplier based more on believe availibility rather than straight chemistry decision. I think they both use similar amounts of lithium per kWh storage, but the Iron-Phospate is supposedly more durable (More Cycles, Less sensitivity to temperature and deep discharge).

As a side note, the Battery is 40kWh (so the 6-8 charge time is with 220/240V) and it can deliever enough power with the 50kW motor to get to 70mph (not 70 mpg). At 100 miles per 40 kWh this would be a straight Mpge (33 kWh per gallon of gasoline) around 80+ Mpge.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By knutjb on 5/7/2009 7:32:09 PM , Rating: 3
I.E. A market specific vehicle. Lets be real vans, by nature are ugly with few exceptions. So what it's a delivery van, function over form in the corporate world.

Plug-ins still have a problem, adequate power supply especially if 50% of the supply is removed when the WH kills off coal/oil generated power(separate issue). While in general studies have said the grid can support it, why has Ford been working with power companies to make sure the infrastructure actually exists before selling such vehicles? They appear to be doing their homework to ensure their success...

RE: Aerodynamics?
By Zoomer on 5/8/2009 7:19:28 AM , Rating: 2
There are commercial vehicles; the cooperate fleet/facilities manger will ensure that.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By hrah20 on 5/7/2009 7:32:53 PM , Rating: 2
wow, Only now I realize how Ugly the us version of the focus is, looks like a datsun from the 60's

here's a little comparison

RE: Aerodynamics?
By austinag on 5/7/2009 11:01:38 AM , Rating: 2
I like the idea of putting hybrid tech into trucks and commercial vehicles. It makes more sense than putting it in tiny little econo boxes. The econo box was fuel efficient in the first place, apply the tech to the problem, not your PR department.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By Starcub on 5/7/2009 12:21:16 PM , Rating: 2
Electric motors generate most of their torque under low RPM's. This makes them ideal for low speed hauling. In fact there are several municipalities that employ deisel/electric hybrid busses since the performance properties of the two tech's mate so well.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By nct on 5/7/2009 1:11:47 PM , Rating: 5
A delivery truck seems like the perfect application for a hybrid engine. The typical driving pattern of short trips with lots of stops and starts maximizes the advantages of regenerative braking and auto engine shutoff, while minimizing the disadvantage of limited range. The added bulk from the batteries will have much less impact on cargo capacity than on a passenger vehicle. Since the vehicles are also not likely to spend much time at high speed, their poor aerodynamics have little impact on fuel efficiency. Also, since they probably get poor mileage to begin with, a difference of a few miles per gallon is a big improvement. At least in an urban setting, it makes a lot of sense to me.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By Samus on 5/7/2009 5:45:38 PM , Rating: 2
These commercial vehicles are light-duty deliver vans. The Ford transit vans in the UK spend most of their life in the 50-100 kilometer per day range running inner-city delivery tasks, making a hybrid design ideal (especially for regenorative braking, ie, taxi cabs) and aerodynamics unimportant. However, there are people who take these on the highway (I've seen them doing 200kph on the autobahn) but that doesn't represent the majority of owners. As fleet vehicles, these rarely see high speed roadway action.

RE: Aerodynamics?
By ArcliteHawaii on 5/8/2009 11:09:32 PM , Rating: 1
Uh, hey Jason, you're raising good points. How come everyone is downrating you?

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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