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.

2 thoughts on “Bill Ford “keenly looking” at plug-in hybrids”

  1. I’m a big proponant of the plug-in concept, but it would be for the best if governments stopped supporting specific technologies. Simply implementing some sort of feebate program based on a vehicle’s fuel economy could accomplish the best results without trying to pick the winner. You would think any small ‘c’ conservative group would understand this.

  2. The plug-in movement is real in Canada, see here.

    It is cheaper to buy a US Prius, convert it to plug-in, and import it into Canada than it is to buy a regular Prius from a local dealer.

    Changes in the exchange rate make this possible.

    Modern petrol and Diesel engines are getting lighter and lighter,

    however they are now approaching maximum efficiency given the medium

    and the design cycle is slow and expensive. Improvements are now

    calculated in percentage points per decade.

    Li+ batteries are still on the high side of the price/weight curve for

    energy density, but you are right, this is dropping quickly, not

    quite at Moore’s law rates but close enough to qualify. Battery

    technology is improving at rates that are more in line with

    information technology than with mechanical engineering. It doesn’t

    matter if the cycle is three years or ten years if the improvement are

    orders of magnitude in scale.

    The ICE is mature. Fuel cells are like fusion reactors. They will

    always be the next big thing because big science loves science

    fiction dreams and frowns upon chemical engineering.

    If I had a billion dollars to invest I would put it in commoditization

    of the Li+ battery and its successors, as Moore’s Law seems to be in efffect. In ten years you may no longer need an ICE except as a charger for the batteries when the car is sitting idle away from a plug.

    Check it out.

Comments are closed.