Ford is turning up its electric vehicle game a notch by announcing an addition of seven utility partners to its testing program. Ford currently provides Ford Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as fleet vehicles to select groups in order to gather feedback on its electric technology, and the increased numbers of test participants will help speed up the commercialization of PHEVs. Ford is also planning on bringing a full battery electric vehicle van to the commercial market in 2010, along with a small BEV sedan developed jointly with Magna International by 2011, and aforementioned PHEVs by 2012.
Currently, Ford and the Electric Power Research Institute conduct real-world tests on the fleet of Escape PHEVs, and will soon be joined by the following utility partners:
- New York Power Authority
- Consolidated Edison of New York
- American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio
- Alabama Power of Birmingham, Alabama, and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
- Progress Energy of Raleigh, North Carolina
- DTE Energy of Detroit
- National Grid of Waltham, Massachusetts
- New York State Energy and Research Development authority, a state agency
EPRI provides financial and logistical support for the study of the new PHEVs and studies the regional differences and the impact on the electric grid, as well as the vehicles. Research within the PHEV field is focused on four primary areas: battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage, and grid infrastructure. Other areas of exploration include stationary battery application and the value of energy storage. Ford and EPRI have a three-year agreement that started back in March.
The Ford Escape PHEV can operate in two modes when fully charged, either in electric drive or a blended electric/engine drive. One main advantage of the high-voltage lithium ion battery is that it is not range-limited by the amount of the charge in the battery. When the battery runs out of juice, the Escape will then operate as a standard Ford Escape Hybrid. When driven on city streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can manage up to 120 mpg -- about 4.5 times greater than a normal Ford Escape. Getting a full charge on a standard 120V household current will take from six to eight hours.
Ford has also announced it has entered a partnership with Johnson Controls-Saft to supply the lithium-ion battery systems for Ford's first PHEVs. The agreement calls for delivery in time for production by 2012 with a target of at least 5000 units annually. The battery cells will be produced at the supplier's production facility in France, but the battery system will be assembled in the U.S.