Ford Pushes Its Electric-Drive Roadmap

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.

MKZ Hybrid Badge

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.


  • Max Reid

    I think Lincoln will grab a big pie out of Lexus and leaving Benz, BMW and Audi in the dust with this type of hybrids.

    Already Fusion H have overtaken Camry H in both tech and sales.
    Escape is already #1 selling CUV, and even a Flex-fuel and Hybrid version is available. Good to see the plugin-hybrid version.

    Todays news that Leaf being priced @ 33K should have set off a firestorm.

  • JBob

    Of the Big 3, Ford is the only one I have any respect left for.

    Not borrowing from taxpayers, plus producing an impressive lineup as of late, I feel they are doing a helluva lot better job than GM or Chrysler.

    As for this latest offering, its pleasing to look at. Be interesting to see where they set the price point.

  • TD

    Go Ford!

    I’m not sure about partnering with Microsoft though. I don’t want to be driving down the freeway and have to reboot my car.

  • veek

    Looking forward to seeing the Lincoln — Ford seems to be doing nicely. Our Escape hybrid has over 40,000 miles without a single problem, and it is a quiet, well-mannered car.

    Good comments and good article. Yes, I’d hate to see the spinning hourglass on the speedo screen, and wonder if we will need anti-virus software?

  • Shines

    Ha Ha funny TD – I remember the days (before Microsoft even existed) when driving in the summer heat I’d have to pull into a gas station or rest stop and turn off the engine in my car to let the radiator cool down. After 15 minutes or so I’d start it up continue on my way. Same thing as rebooting a PC…
    I agree with others here – Ford seems to get it.
    Still it will be interesting to see how the Volt and any derivatives of it will do in the marketplace.

  • simon@syd

    it would do well in Australia too, i reckon.

  • Mr.Bear

    TD: all you’ll have to do is close the windows and reopen them.

  • John K.

    I hope Ford’s “next generation of hybrids” includes Li ion batteries and a Ford Taurus hybrid.

    I agree: Ford is the only US auto manufacturer worth considering.

  • Yegor

    Another sedan. When Ford is going to realize that a Ford Fusion Hatchback would have been a slam dunk the same way as Toyota Prius overshadowed Honda Civic when it changed body style from from Sedan to Hatchback. Sedan Hybrid design blocks passenger area access from the trunk.

  • Anonymous

    totally agree yegor

  • Nelson Lu

    Yegor, the fact that the sedan separates the trunk off is the exact reason why it is a better design than a hatchback for many uses. For some people’s uses, a hatchback is better. For other people’s uses, a sedan is much better. I have no liking for a hatchback’s “cargo space,” and I suspect that many people share my feelings.

  • ConsumerReportsAuto

    See how Consumer Reports ranked hybrid vehicles in their most recent April Autos Issue, including how Ford models rated against others. You can view the best/worst lists, top picks of the year and new car previews from CR. All of the content is available for free online for anyone interested at http://www.2010AnnualAutoIssue.com.

  • John K.

    I agree w/Nelson Lu contra Yegor: a hatchback does not ensure success, just look at the new Honda Insight’s sales numbers.

    I prefer a sedan (actually a coupe) precisely because the passenger compartment is separate from the luggage compartment. That makes it quieter, with less road and mechanical noise from the rear brakes & suspension entering into the passenger compartment.

    Plus, as a shooter, a locked trunk of a coupe/sedan is considered by law to be a “locked container” for carrying firearms and ammo whereas a locked trunk of a hatchback is still considered to be part of the passenger compartment. The passengers are thus deemed to have access to them and such transportation is illegal without having a concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit which are easily obtained in 38 out of 50 states (6,000,000 American civilians have them) and every state from the Mississippi River west to the Pacific Ocean EXCEPT the one I live in — California (see: http://www.nraila.org/maps/rtc.jpg). The other option is buying hard, lockable cases for all your guns. Go to the “2nd Amendment, Politics, and Laws” forum of http://www.calguns.net to learn more about CA’s weird gun laws.

  • Anonymous

    i think yegor’s point is, ford can mix it up more in order to capture more market by introducing a hatchback hybrid. it is most likely ford realize it is not ready to compete with prius and insight market. maybe someday it will when ready.

  • gizmo

    “”Go Ford!

    I’m not sure about partnering with Microsoft though. I don’t want to be driving down the freeway and have to reboot my car.”"”

    There are lots of us who have absolutely no use for SONY, based on the old root-kit affair. Sony’s logo shows up all over lots of Ford dashboards. S

  • gizmo

    “”Go Ford!

    I’m not sure about partnering with Microsoft though. I don’t want to be driving down the freeway and have to reboot my car.”"”

    There are lots of us who have absolutely no use for SONY, based on the old root-kit affair. Sony’s logo shows up all over lots of Ford dashboards. S

  • Bob A bowie

    Yea, but there are already lots of choices when to 4 door sedans, ald very few when it comes to hatchbacks. So far as I can tell there are only 3 hatchbacks being sold in the US and all three are gas guzzlers.

  • tapra1

    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.Technology Review