During the early days of hybrids, potential buyers worried about performance problems or the reliability of the battery pack. Those days are long gone, and hybrids have a proven track record of safety and reliability. Now, for Sherif Marakby, Ford’s director of electrification programs and engineering, it’s all about bringing down the cost.
Fortunately, with each new generation of Ford’s hybrid system, the costs are dropping. According to Automotive News, the cost of the hybrid system in next year’s new C-Max Hybrid will be 30 percent less than the previous-generation hybrid technology in the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. And by the time the following generation hybrid is ready in a couple of years, Marakby believes he will have knocked it down by another 30 percent.
How is Ford achieving those cost reductions?
- Ford developed its own in-house battery system that will be manufactured at the automaker’s Rawsonville, Mich., plant next year. Ford developed everything for the system, from the tooling to the wiring, sensors and controls. All the components are assembled by Ford in its facility. (Battery cells come from Compact Power.)
- Ford developed its own hybrid transmission, which will be manufactured at a suburban Detroit plant.
- Ford also brought system integration and software development in-house. The software can control battery and motors, as well as the total system, to achieve maximum efficiency.
- All the parts used for hybrids and other electric-drive vehicles are made common, and software and control systems are re-used as much as possible.
These efforts are already starting to bear fruit. When Ford priced the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid at the exact same amount as the gas version—$35,455, including shipping—the company expected about 15 percent of buyers to go for the hybrid version. Instead, nearly 25 percent are driving off the lot with the hybrid.
This sales performance gives Ford greater confidence in achieving its estimate that as many as 25 percent of all its sales will be a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle by 2020.