Ford CEO Alan Mulally opened the New York International Auto Show with a keynote outlining the company’s roadmap for greener cars and trucks. Mulally said there is still “so much room to improve the internal combustion engine,” but said the company plans to roll out more hybrids and electric vehicles.
Ford demonstrated its commitment to its hybrid and electric car plan by unveiling the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid—the first of five new electric-drive vehicles expected in the next four years. Unlike competitors that announce green vehicles years before release, Ford chose to introduce the MKZ Hybrid only months before it will go on sale. The hybrid, the first from Lincoln, will be available this fall.
While the MKZ Hybrid—expected to deliver 41 mpg in the city— could beat all other luxury models in terms of fuel economy numbers, it’s the most conservative of the four new electric-drive vehicles coming from Ford. The MKZ Hybrid is essentially an upscale and low-volume version of the company’s award-winning Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Comprehensive and Aggressive Plan
On the other hand, Ford is taking bold and innovative steps with its next set of electric vehicles, including the Transit Connect Electric delivery truck in late 2010, the Focus Electric in 2011, a plug-in hybrid version of the Ford Escape in 2012, and a pair of next-generation hybrids by 2013. Mulally added that the company also continues to develop hydrogen technology.
Ford will not be the first to deliver a mass-market electric sedan or plug-in hybrid. The all-electric Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt will go on sale late this year—although in limited markets. If Ford stays in schedule, the full-scale rollout of its hybrids and other electric-drive cars will be more aggressive, and include more models and a wider range of technologies, than any other carmaker.
Electric and Wired
In his keynote speech, Mullaly said the technologies behind better internal combustion engines, hybrids, and electric cars “will create the world that we really want, which is economically growing, it’s energy efficient and it’s also environmentally sustainable.” He said that collaborations will be the key to accelerate these systems.
His presentation was followed by an announcement that Ford will partner with Microsoft on an online application to help owners of Ford plug-in electric vehicles manage home electricity use while the vehicles recharge. The application, called “Microsoft Hohm” will be offered to Ford car owners for free. Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said the goal is “to make the electric vehicle viable, charging affordable and interaction with the utility grid smarter.”
The application will help vehicle and home owners decide when to power up electric vehicle batteries, in the hope that consumers will draw power from the grid at night, when energy use and costs are low, said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, speaking from a video hookup to reporters in New York. The move expands the relationship between Microsoft and Ford. Ford’s Sync voice-controlled communications and entertainment system—based on Microsoft technology—has used in more than 2 million vehicles.