Bill Ford “keenly looking” at plug-in hybrids

You’ve got to give credit to Felix Kramer of the California Cars Initiative (CalCars) and plug-in hybrid guru Prof. Andy Frank of the University of California at Davis for their passion and tenacity. As part of their ongoing mission to convince the major auto manufacturers to embrace the plug-in hybrid concept for future car models, the two have most recently focused their efforts at Ford Motor Co.

First they spoke with high-level managers at Ford about a possible program they wanted to undertake that would involve converting a small fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids into plug-in versions. But they needed the company to officially give its blessing, so they wrote a letter dated May 8 to CEO Bill Ford asking him to officially announce support for the program at the company’s shareholder meeting today or some time within the next week. At the Ford meeting Bill Ford was pressed to give an answer, and while he said there was nothing yet to announce, he did confirm “we are keenly looking at it.”

Taking that as a positive sign, Kramer hopes Ford will make its official announcement next Thursday at the White House, where the Big Three auto manufacturers will be having a meeting with President Bush.

It may be silent in Canada, but the plug-in hybrid movement is strong and growing in the United States, to the point where even the president is mentioning the benefits in public speeches. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before the concept breaks beyond the demonstration phase. The Plug-In Partners coalition, which includes CalCars and 20 major U.S. cities, is now pushing U.S. Congress to encourage the adoption of flex-fuel plug-in hybrids (meaning the hybrids can also work on an E85 ethanol blend) with the U.S. Postal Service fleet.

Now, if only the auto makers would start listening to their customers before shoving products down their throats.