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Ford to build plug-in in 2012

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Author Topic: Ford to build plug-in in 2012  (Read 175 times)
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« on: February 03, 2009, 09:26:15 am »

It is to make 5,000 a year; utilities are to test version of Escape


WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. said Monday it would start building a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle in 2012, using a strategy with electric cars and trucks that spreads several small bets rather than going for broke behind one model.

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Ford's announcement ahead of today's start of the Washington auto show comes as the Obama administration has made clear that it wants the U.S. auto industry focused on new fuel-saving technology such as plug-in hybrids, even as the industry struggles with a crippling global recession.

Ford says it plans to build at least 5,000 plug-in hybrids a year beginning in 2012, using batteries from a joint venture of Johnson Controls Inc. and French battery firm Saft. The company has also recruited nine electric utilities to test plug-in versions of its Escape hybrid to see what demands such vehicles will place on customers and the electric grid.

The test Escapes can travel about 30 miles on all-electric power after a full charge and can average 120 m.p.g. of gas in city driving.

The production plug-in that Ford declined to detail will be the third electric vehicle in Ford's fleet, behind a battery-powered small van due in 2010 and a Focus-sized electric vehicle in 2011.

Unlike General Motors Corp.'s all-out approach with its Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid, which GM has committed $1 billion toward developing, Ford has set more modest targets for its electric vehicles.

Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of hybrid vehicle programs, said the tests and slow rollout were necessary to judge not just consumer demand, but what technical hurdles utilities and owners face.

"We think is 5,000 is not insignificant, and it's a good number to get out there," Gioia said. The tests will aim to answer "what's the market sensitivity, the price sensitivity ... what kind of policy might be around these vehicles, that could greatly accelerate or greatly slow their introduction."

While several start-up automakers have plans to build plug-in hybrids, only GM and Toyota had previously committed to build them.

Many other automakers say they prefer all-electric vehicles or regular hybrids, citing not just batteries but customers who lack the outlets needed to recharge electric vehicles, and worries about increasing loads on electric grids.

Toyota is building a test fleet of 150 hybrid Prius cars converted to plug-ins to gather much of the same information. Bill Reinert, manager of advanced technology at Toyota's U.S. arm, said the automaker would launch a plug-in hybrid for consumers before the end of the decade.

There's no question that plug-ins are a good idea, Reinert said, adding, "It's an issue of getting from A to B."
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