By Katherine Tweed
Currently, Ford sells about 35,000 hybrids a year. In addition to the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid, Ford also has the Transit Connect Electric that recently came on the market and the electric Focus is coming later this year.
To get to more than 100,000 vehicles a year, Ford is also bringing the all new C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid to market in 2012. The five passenger C-MAX will only be available in hybrid and plug-in form. The two models are already selling well in Europe.
“What’s different about Ford is the democratization of the technology,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of Marketing, Sales and Service. “It’s not a science project for a few people.”
Although hybrids still only make up a fraction of the market, and fully electric vehicles only a drop in the bucket, commitment by the U.S. government and General Electric to use electric and alternative fuel vehicles are pushing the market forward. Consumers are also clamoring for more options as they face down gas that's $4 per gallon. “We’re seeing a huge growing appetite for fuel efficient and green vehicles,” Farley said. “This is a really big deal for us.”
All of the lithium-ion batteries for the hybrids and electric vehicles are going to be in-house, according to Thursday’s announcement, and will be nearly 30 percent smaller than nickel-metal-hydride batteries. The plug-in C-MAX will have a 400-volt battery.
Engineers would not disclose how far the plug-in hybrid could go on just the battery, but the full range for the car is 500 miles. There is also a fifth mystery car that Ford has not yet announced.
For the first time, Ford will start producing gasoline, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all electric vehicles on the same production line at its facility in Wayne, Michigan. The move could help drive down the cost of some of the vehicles. “We are not designing a unique vehicle with unique engineering,” said Sherif Marakby, chief engineer, global core HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) propulsion system engineer in Ford’s Sustainable Mobility Technology Lab.
Ford made the announcement, but there are other players that will cash in on the expanded fleet. Modular charging stations (read: you can take it with you when you move) will be sold at Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and installed by the Geek Squad, and 240V charging will take only three hours due to the battery’s smaller size. There will also be charging software powered by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to turn the car on when electricity rates are low.
The Best Buy announcement is not surprising, as there has already been anticipation that the company will start selling, and possibly installing, EV charging stations.
The hybrids will be available nationwide and the plug-in hybrid will be available at first in the same 19 cities as Ford’s other electric vehicles. Prices and release dates were not disclosed.