PLUG OK license plate
Dream PHEV Headline by Ford/Edison Monday
Jul 7, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
CalCars-News
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Late Friday we got calls from journalists asking what we know about a Businesswire media advisory. It was an invitation to media to hear Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, and John Bryson, CEO of Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison, at a 2:30 PST press conference Monday to announce:

"a joint electric transportation initiative designed to explore ways to advance plug-in hybrid technology for the U.S. market. This will be the first time a major automaker and a large electricity utility have combined resources to study ways to make plug-in hybrid technology more accessible for all customers." Promised video includes: "Hybrid vehicles and a bank of electric vehicle charging stations/B-roll footage of a Ford hybrid and the SCE electricity system."

We no nothing more than you. The description sounds like a small study with a handful of prototypes -- but with both CEOs showing up, it could be far more. We hope Sherry Boschert is right when she was quoted by Reuters (below), that automakers are finally "realizing that the handwriting is on the wall." We hope Monday marks the culmination of years of efforts by PHEV advocates to encourage Ford to see the opportunity. It's Ford's chance to get people excited about their cars, take the lead in innovation -- and in the race to be first on PHEVs, beat GM and Toyota to the starting line.


THE HEADLINE/STORY WE'D WELCOME
Ford/Edison Offer Cash-Back Hybrids to Fleets

Ford announces it will make available in the coming months hundreds of Ford Escape [or other model] PHEVs for testing in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) experiments and evaluation of everyday driving use, by SCE, the US National Labs, Pacific Gas & Electric, Austin Energy, King County, Google, and the other consortia and companies that want to prove out PHEV performance and begin integrating transportation and power generation. The company announces a fast-track timetable for mass-produced PHEVs. And it commits to support legislation now under consideration in the House and Senate to incentivize producers and buyers of PHEVs.

NOTE: The V2G capability would require not only larger batteries and associated electronics, but also two-way controllers so the car can be fully integrated into the power system. This hardware is "existing, proven technology" -- AC Propulsion has made and sold them for years, and Hybrids-Plus is about to sell them. And a number of companies are developing software and systems to integrate plug-in cars with the grid's management and billing systems.


CONTEXT FOR MONDAY'S ANOUNCEMENT
Here's a partial recap of Ford's recent history with hybrids and
plug-in cars (details of many at
http://www.calcars.org/­news-archive.html and
http://www.calcars.org/­carmakers.html):

HYBRID DEVELOPMENT

  • After five years, Ford launched the Ford Escape Hybrid in summer 2004. The much-anticipated first hybrid SUV offered MPG in the low 30s (compared to the low 20s for the non-hybrid). Customers, especially in states like California and Virginia, where high-MPG hybrids were allowed in the HOV (carpool) lanes, expressed their disappointment. (It came close to being called a "muscle hybrid," like the Accord recently discontinued by Honda.)
  • Under Bill Ford, the company promised to increase hybrid production ten-fold by 2010, then retracted the commitment.
  • The Sierra Club's national leadership partnered with Ford to introduce the Mariner hybrid. Sierra and other groups were disappointed when only a few thousand were produced. Many are still in the process of realizing they could support far more than hybrids, and that reducing petroleum use is not the same as displacing it with renewable, domestic electricity.
  • Responding to Ford's position as the US carmaker with the lowest average fleet fuel economy, Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange launched the Jumpstart Ford campaign for higher-MPG cars throughout the Ford line. (Later broadened and joined by the Ruckus Society, it was renamed the Freedom From Oil Campaign.)
  • PLUG-IN HYBRID EFFORTS

  • CalCars, working with architect-designer Bill McDonough (former sustainability advisor to the Bill Ford and the company), and with Prof. Andy Frank, engaged with Ford in 2005-2006 for six months with proposals for PHEV projects, but never managed to get buy-in.
  • Bill Ford, when publicly asked at the May 2006 shareholders meeting, said the company was "keenly looking" at PHEVs but had nothing to announce.
  • Ford introduced two concept cars that it said showed its interest in PHEVS: the HySeries Edge and the Airstream. Both were greeted with much skepticism, since they start with hydrogen fuel cells as the range extender.
  • Continuing contacts with Ford engineers indicates that the impediments are more about business models and company priorities than technology.
  • COMPANY AND MANAGEMENT EVENTS

  • Ford abandoned its popular Th!nk all-electric car; after several corporate reorganizations, Think Global cars will soon be produced and sold with battery packs from Tesla Energy Systems, the new subsidiary of Tesla Motors.
  • Ford tried to take back a small number of remaining Ranger EV trucks, but finally gave in to the Don't Crush Campaign, which then became Plug In America.
  • Mary Ann Wright, who led the Ford Escape Hybrid development, took the job of CEO of a Johnson Controls-Saft Battery joint venture to sell lithium batteries to GM and other carmakers.
  • When Boeing's Bill Mulally took over as Ford's new CEO, business analysts described one of Ford's main problems as "it will take them five years to change their product mix." We responded with messages we hope reached Mulally that, in less than a year, the company could extend the Ford Escape Hybrid line with a PHEV option.
  • FORD ESCAPE CONVERSIONS (see http://www.calcars.org/­where-phevs-are.html)

  • When we showed our Prius PHEV to Bill Clinton last year, his reaction was that he wanted to convert the Mariner Hybrid the company had customized for him.
  • Escape hybrids have been converted to PHEV and publicly shown by Hymotion/A123 and by All Cell Technologies in Chicago, but have received relatively little attention.
  • Canadian battery company Electrovaya has a conversion under development, as does Colorado's Hybrids-Plus.
  • Hybrids-Plus plans to include with its Escape the "Inverger, an integrated Inverter and Charger to transfer power in either direction between the electrical grid and the PHEV battery."
  • We were intrigued that the South Coast Air Quality Management District's announcement of a contract with Quantum Technologies for conversions of 20 Escape Hybrids is described as occurring "with support from Ford," but we've been unable to find out any further details (the contract isn't final).

  • REUTERS PREVIEWS MONDAY
    Ford, utility join to promote plug-in ve By Kevin Krolickihicles Fri Jul 6, 2007 7:59PM EDT http://www.reuters.com/­article/­technologyNews/­idUSN0620997020070706

    DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co and power utility Southern California Edison will announce an unusual alliance on Monday aimed at clearing the way for a new generation of rechargeable electric cars, the companies said.

    Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally and Edison International Chief Executive John Bryson are scheduled to meet with reporters at Edison's headquarters in Rosemead, California, the companies said.

    The two chief executives will announce a "joint initiative" that represents a first-of-its-kind tie-up between a major automaker and a major utility in the area of "plug-in" hybrid vehicle technology, representatives of both companies said.

    Further details were not immediately available, but environmental advocates said the tie-up showed the momentum building for developing rechargeable hybrid vehicles as a way to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

    Environmental advocates, particularly in California, have been pressing automakers to roll out such plug-in vehicles that would be capable of running on electricity for short distances and recharging at a standard electric outlet.

    "I think they're all realizing that the handwriting is on the wall," said Sherry Boschert, a plug-in vehicle advocate and author.

    Southern California Edison, which supplies power to some 13 million people in the area around Los Angeles, has been a vocal advocate for the development of electric vehicles and proposed tax incentives and rebates to speed their development.

    SCE has said that its existing power-generation facilities would be capable of supplying millions of vehicles if they were recharged at night when demand is low.

    Experimental technology being tested in northern California on a small fleet run by Web search giant Google Inc. also allows parked plug-ins to transfer stored energy back to the electric grid, opening a potential back-up source of power for the system in peak hours.

    Ford became the first American car maker to introduce a hybrid vehicle when it released the Escape in 2004.

    But faced with declining U.S. market share, Ford later backed off ambitious sales targets for hybrids and was criticized by environmental advocates for having lost momentum in the race to develop alternatives to combustion engines.

    In June, an executive for Ford said it was developing new hybrid vehicles but saw deep-seated engineering problems with plug-in vehicles.

    Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., who led the automaker until last September, said last month that he regretted that Ford had not moved faster to seize the lead in addressing environmental concerns.

    Led by Toyota Motor Corp's Prius, the current generation of hybrid vehicles uses batteries to power the vehicle at low speeds and in stop-and-go traffic, delivering higher fuel economy.

    General Motors Corp. has already begun work this year to develop its own plug-in hybrid car, designed to use little or no gasoline over short distances.

    GM showed off a concept version of the Chevrolet Volt in January and has set 2010 as a target for production.

    Analysts have said pending legal and regulatory changes could speed the adoption of hybrid technology.

    The U.S. Senate last month approved sharp increases in fuel economy standards and is considering a package of tax credits for consumers who purchase plug-in vehicles and the companies that make them. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is one of the sponsors of that legislation.

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