Ford Sneaks Up On Electric Car Future

While all eyes are on high-profile plug-in announcements from General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and others, Ford appears to be quietly inching into a leading position in the race to get electric vehicles on the market.

Ford has recently made great advances in its hybrid technology with the 41-mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid and second-generation Escape Hybrid. But the company will take another big step forward when it rolls out its first electric vehicle—a European-built mini commercial vehicle called the Ford Transit Connect.

The vehicle, produced in collaboration with the UK’s Smith Electric Vehicles, will feature a 29 kWh battery pack. Ford expects to eventually sell “a couple thousand a month,” mainly to government fleets, according to Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of Global Product Development.

Next Up: A Small Electric Car

Ford will be quickly following the Transit EV with several pure electric vehicles aimed at the consumer market, including a Focus-sized subcompact that’s slated for sale in 2011. HybridCars.com took a quick demo-drive of the vehicle—simply called BEV for battery electric vehicle—at the Washington Auto Show earlier this month. The BEV accelerated in a brisk manner with barely a flutter of noise. Power delivery was seamless and constant. (We’ll have more detailed reports in the coming weeks.)

The Ford BEV is a joint venture between Ford and Magna International, a major global parts supplier. Magna supplies the batteries and powertrain components, as well as the engineering and vehicle design. The BEV technology has been applied to a Ford Focus mule that has been in road testing for the past six months.

To power up, the BEV has an on-board battery charger compatible with any standard outlet. Charge time is approximately 12 hours at 110 volts or 6 hours at 220 volts. Fully charged, the BEV promises a travel range of 100 miles. The powertrain consists of single electric motor managed by a one-speed transmission. Energy comes from a lithium ion battery split into two packs. One is stored below the floor of the cabin, and the other is in the trunk. Energy-saving features include vacuum-assisted regenerative brakes, a high-voltage compressor for the air conditioning system, and an electric cabin heater.

Ford says the BEV will first be introduced in North America, with the potential to migrate to the European and Asia Pacific markets down the road.

In Good Time: Ford Hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars

Ford’s plan is to deliver some version of the BEV in 2011, and then to follow in 2012 with its next-generation hybrid vehicles and a plug-in hybrid. If the company delivers, it will be only slightly behind Toyota’s plug-in Prius and GM’s Chevy Volt. That’s not far at all, considering the small initial production numbers for these vehicles. By that time, Ford will have a couple years of real-world road experience with electric vehicles.


  • sean t

    Americans fight back! : )

  • RCP

    Slapping “FORD” on UK and Canadian products – nothing American about it.

    Magna International Inc. (TSX: MG) is a Canadian company based in Aurora, Ontario.

  • Hal L Howell

    The FORD BEV sounds good, now if they will only make it look good!

  • Ben

    FINALLY! Americans have had the technology to lead the green movement, there has just been far too much money to be made in the oil business, however unrenewable it may be. Just check out “Who Killed the Electric Car”

  • Tony

    Sean, not so much a fight, more like a struggle. The vehicle shown is built at a Ford plant in Turkey and the electric drive is produced in England. I believe that these BEV’s will be assembled in North America for the Americas market…

  • Michael KCK

    Ford shows that an American car company can keep up with or in the case of the Ford Fusion hybrid surpass the competition when it comes to green cars. All with out betting the entire future of the company on one product like GM has done with the Volt.

    Word to Congress. Let GM and Chrysler fail and instead help a sucessful company like Ford.

  • Calvin

    This is nothing about electrical powertrain technologies. This is all about the energy storage technolgy. Who will pay $10,000 more for a vehicle that can cover only 100 miles (50 miles one way)? This is all about battery technology and cost! Electric motors and controls are just commodity so please don’t feel bad about using motors and other electrical componets made in other countries. We just need to make sure we can make compact, light weight, durable, and cost-effective electricity storage device (battery in this case).

  • e thomas

    Smiths Electric Vehicles have been building Electric cars for over
    85 years so this is a very wise move by ford to partner with this
    Forward thinking company that has been the UK,s best kept
    secret until now with unlimited exsperience in electric propultion
    and have just delivererd to Kirklees council the worlds first all
    Electric Refuse truck that is powered by the waste it collects
    thats what i mean when i say forward thinking !

    Many thanks Ellen.

  • Brian Jefferies

    It is about time that the domestic automakers woke up and realized that if we don’t get our act together we won’t have an industry!

    Although, I was laid off from one of the domestic guys I’m glad to see this.

  • Peter

    Calvin,

    I, for one, will pay $10,000 more for a vehicle that can cover only 100 miles.
    Yes, to free myself from emitting CO2, I would be willing to make the financial outlay. And yes, my electricity is from renewable sources.
    I’m still waiting for this car…

  • Tim DH

    I too will pay more. I have 7 acres of land of which I will be putting several solar panels and wind generators this year. After I get an electric vehicle (or 2) I should be able to most of the time sell power to the grid and drive without using gas. And I’m not even a environmentalist! Bring it on Ford!

  • Samie

    Good partnership if you ask me. Ford like some others know that if they penetrate the government side first they can test out some technologies and possibly find ways to reduce cost when consumer markets open.

    Comments about Saturn article/ & The Second String of Auto Loans:

    Not on subject but someone mentioned let GM and Chrysler go. A few things I have wondered about lately is why would anybody give Chrysler more money beyond the second half of the original loan? Chrysler is owned by a private equity firm, that is the intent to flip the business at a profit w/ no investment coming from Cerberus. At the same time GM is rumored in talking w/ Chrysler about a merger what scares me about this is the American public might actually finance a possible merger.

    Also recent deals w/ the UAW are not known but is it just GM’s intent to cut production & labor or address any long-term cost cutting solutions like reducing brands (w/ Chrysler Models???), wages to be competitive w/ competition, or consolidating dealerships. GM said in a article they might spin off Saturn what does that mean? I don’t know if they get it or are they trying something like this Geo -> Saturn -> What? Also I’m concerned that maybe the plug-in Saturn Vue is merely a PR move selling a handful or so but actually trying to use it to influence Congress and the President. I wonder if different departments within GM actually are on the same page?

    Anyways I’m concerned about the Car Commission that the President formed, what actually are you going to get out of this? No way would they say Chrysler (UAW) we won’t support you, to think the commission is somehow beyond politics is silly nothing real will come out of it in my opinion….

  • eddie

    Calvin, there are quite a few people who will pay a premium for a ZERO EMISSION vehicle. Such a vehicle will meet ALL of my needs quite nicely and exactly what I am saving money for each month (if they keep dragging out the timeline I will be able to pay CASH for one). For millions of households a BEV with limited range would meet most of their needs and since these households already have 2+ vehicles things work out quite well. I am looking forward to the day of giving the oil barons the finger!

    I am among those who are NOT willing to pay $10,000 LESS for one of these crappy BEVs being pitched by hucksters in the West Coast that are Chinese made garbage. Heck, those “cheap” vehicles cannot even get 25 miles per charge in the winter in a part of the country that actually has winter weather.

    No plug? No deal!

  • hamilton

    Good for Ford.

    @sean t, RCP, Ben Tony…
    I’ll never forget a heated argument (in Taiwan) with a German friend who insisted that Ford is a ‘native’ German company. Chinese bought more Buicks last year than Americans did – is Buick a Chinese or American brand? Is Toyota’s Scion a Japanese or an American brand? Nissan’s Infinity? Does anyone know the country of origin for all the 2500+ components in a Prius?

    The big guys are multi-national companies with global supply chains and engineering resources all over the world – vehicle electrification doesn’t change that. BYD is a great example in reverse: a global battery supplier for Motorola, Nokia… BYD is now making the leap to (global?) vehicle manufacturer. Odds on that your cell phone battery is from BYD’s parent; does that make the phone ‘made in china’?

    Can we agree to drop the flag-waving (and its inverse, “hate-the-detroit-3″), and concentrate on developing a competitive US market for hybrid and electric vehicles?

    Disclaimer: opinion my own, not necessarily that of my employer GM.

  • Bryce

    Somehow, I see the post office buying lots of these.

  • E thomas

    If only the governments could now take this recession and turn it
    into a positive thing like haveing all goverment vehicles Electric
    if you do less than 100 miles a day make generous concetions
    to buy one even some military vehicles could be Electric the
    saveings in fuel ,Maintanence ,Down time ,but most of all
    non reliance on OIL because its just a nmatter of time before
    we see 150 dollars again and could be even higher to
    install all Garging point across america could generate a huge
    amount of jobs as would other parts of the electric infastructure
    needed to turn america into a clean electric nation.

    Many thanks Ellen.

  • disbsam333

    If you understand economics, you would understand it is cheaper to produce certain things in other countries to be the most efficient. We build the chassis and body, they build the batteries and power train because they have better resources to do so. We then trade the cars overseas and to Canada and make a profit. The most important part is the fact that the manufacturing of the new car brings more jobs to our country.

  • Sherwood

    What many people are missing is that, aside from being clean and green, electric cars are an awesome technology – probably because few have had the opportunity to be exposed to EVs. First, the reduction in noise is wonderful – not only to those outside the car, but also to the driver (particularly if the driver is an audiophile or a conversationist). Second, the initial pickup and lack of engine “revving” makes these really nice to drive. (Granted, CVTs can also be used to achieve the latter in gas engines with a corresponding improvement in mpg, but for some reason almost no conventional cars use them). EVs also allow use of heaters without waiting for the engine to warm up – or even be turned on.
    The green aspect is great, too, but don’t discount the benefits of EVs that also make them worth the extra money. It is not just about zero emissions and national energy security – it is the whole package!

  • Manmeet

    I think the new ford electric car is going to rock..goodluck.

  • hsr0601

    There is an inventor from Wisconsin who invented an all-electric car in the form of a Ford Ranger that was shown at the KARE 11 fair booth at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair.

    It is capable of reaching 100 miles per hour in speed, has a range of 300 miles, charges in 10 minutes and is pollution free with only the pollution that is done to make the electricity to charge it.

    The inventor of this invention has, to my understanding, approached Ford Motor Company with his invention. The Ford Motor Company, in my estimation, should latch onto this idea, pronto.

    My understanding is there are members of Congress who are trying to shoot down this idea of an electric car.

    Where is there any common sense in this country?

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Hal L Howell, since almost all the comments are really good, thoughtful, and positive, you’re the only one that I have a comment for. Although the fully electric commercial van shown is not bad looking for a van, I doubt that the BEV car will look like the van. I hope it will be a good looking aerodynamic car. Although I have driven Fords before, I have never truely owned one (parents had a Ford Comet convertable that was just great). With Consumers Report and others indicating that Ford’s quality has gotten better, it may be time for me to own a new Ford BEV.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    hrs0601,
    Ford has already built an electric Ranger. They were build in the late ’90′s at the same time GM was building the EV1.
    There are a few hundred of them still on the road. I remember seeing the guards at Bush’s White House driving them for security duty.
    They were full performance vehicles even if they only could go about 70 miles between charges since they had old lead acid batteries.
    If Ford executes on their new BEV as they did on their Escape Hybrid (ignoring their pathetic marketing of the FEH) as well as the last Ford I purchased (a ’95 ICE Ranger), they might take a lead.

  • Joe

    Hamilton,

    Well there is a difference between Domestic cars and Foreign cars. In order for cars to be considered domestic and have the “Made in USA” sticker on it, the cars must have at least 70% of their components made in the USA as well. The last time I checked, Ford had the highest domestic parts content across their line out of the Big 3.

    While car companies have to produce excellent cars, it also is important that we support our national economy by pruchasing domestic products (the Germans and Japanese are masters at this) because this brings are tax base up, helps lower debt and basically gives every American a pay raise because
    we are keeping the majority of the money local.

    Kudos to Ford for NOT taking bailout money. Because of that, when the time is right, I will purchase a car from them.

  • Barry Kellow

    Don’t worry about foreign ownership guys.

    A new American-owned company, Smith Electric Vehicles US Corporation, has been formed, and will go public in the next week or so — possibly at The Work Truck Show in Chicago (March 3-6).

    The UK company Tanfield will hold only a minority stake and will licence its technology to the American maker. SEV-US.com is opening a factory on US soil, using US labor to build electric vans using US component suppliers. In order to bring its 7.5ton Smith Newton truck to market quickly, it will initially use the same Avia cab/chassis it uses in Europe, starting this summer.

    Another UK maker of EVs, ModecZEV.com, is thought to be tying up a deal with International Trucks (Navistar) to also produce electric vans on US soil. I don’t know if that deal will feature at the same show next week, but I guess it might. Smith certainly have a siginifant display there and are are sponsoring the the Green Vehicles zone. Meanwhile take a look at the Case Studies page on Smith’s UK website, to see the kind of vehicles they already supply and which give some clue as to what the US corporation might offer http://www.smithelectricvehicles.com

  • Anonymous

    Ford have allied themselves to Smiths Electric Vehicles of the UK and make their Vans in Turkey as already stated.

    But the intellectaul stuff will be undertaken in the US and provide Jobs, Ford are doing the right thing as they can build up expertise in the US and benefit from the knowledge of global partners.

    The previous comments that criticise international partnership are totally mis-guided, being insular is what has led the the US having cars that the rest of the world sees a gas-guzzling dinosaurs.

    The US need and deserves the world’s best technology to create cars that the rest of the world want – then the Japanese and European cars can be displaced and exports can start.

    If it means adopting foreign technology then so be it – it never held back the Japanese and Chinese.

  • Anonymous

    Is there a contact for this person?

  • Anonymous

    Is there a contact for this Wisconsin person?

  • Uncle B

    Ford needs to get some carbon fiber body work, some polymer composites going, keep the size of the thing limited, not grossed out to “American – Sized” ideals, we are no longer all, 6′ 4”, 340 lbs monsters – design for the median of us, not the fat-asses! and can put more, better, batteries in at any time! Remember, the flooding of the car market occurring soon from China with gas/electric/plug-ins, may affect sales, prices, – SEE:
    “The astounding Chinese have epoched the great GM, of U.S.A. in producing an Electric/gas/plug-in car! They are driving them in the streets of China as we speak, they will be retailed in the U.S.A. by 2011, they will cost half the price of a “Volt” and they are “On Order” for Israel! GM, take a deep breath, your naughty parts have just been cut off by a Chinese high-tech competitor, and the “Volt” is still “Vapor-ware”!” See:http://www.cleantech.com/news/3983/chinas-byd-sells-first-mass-produced-plug-cars

  • Neil

    Have you seen pictures of the Chinese made vehicles?
    They look like very cheap, crummy, tinny cars.
    By the time they put the saftey add-ons required to sell them in this country the price will go up.
    However, I predict they will still be a cheap, tinny car.

    I would rather pay more for quality (within reason of course)
    than buy the cheapest version of almost anything.

    Remember you have to rely on a good service network to help you out if you have warranty problems. And then there is the resale value to consider as well. Very cheap vehicles typically have very little resale value.

    The actual cost of ownership difference over the product life between a very cheap vehicle and one that is more expensive but better quality can be quite small.

  • Spike D. Punch

    GM has the spotlight on their plug in hybrid Volt, so Ford decided to take some of the limelight on a pure electric. Good move, and developing a battery pack for an electric vehicle is also developing one for a plug in hybrid. And unlike GM, Ford isn’t promising more than they can deliver with gorgeous styling. Remember how ecstatic we were when GM promised their Volt show car for “about $30,000,” and how disappointing the Saturn Ion look alike production car was for $40,000+? Some of us can “get by” with an electric car because of limited driving needs or another car in the garage for longer trips. Note to Ford: just produce it and let customers decide for themselves–the time is now. You can’t predict how many buyers there will be because your marketing surveys don’t poll all of us, and we all have different driving needs.

  • Jim Reinitz

    I am the Executive Director of the Auto Workers of Minnesota. Our organization bought the truck you saw at the Minnesota State Fair. We intend to bring that electric Ranger into production. We are working with the UAW to get the truck into production. As a UAW member at the plant where the Ranger is made, we have much interest in seeing this product going into production. We currently have a bill in front of the Minnesota State Legislature that would require that State and Local governments have at least a 25% Electric Fleet of vehicles. This law would heavily favor the building an electric Ranger. We then intend to go to our friends and get engineless Ford Rangers to convert into electric vehicles. The bills that are in the Minnesota House is HF 1190 and the Minnesota Senate 1100. We have a website up to tell you of our progress at http://www.Minnesotaelectricranger.org .

  • sean cosgrove

    Come on ford you can make this happen,you already have until you stripped your old electric cars of the 90′s,from owners that leased them and then you crushed them. Show me that some corporations can be beneficial to the earth instead of what will benefit your pockets. If the same ceo’s of ford are still their, that crushed their old EV’s,then fords retake on the EV’s is just going to be a dream. Most all of us would be driving EV’s today if it wasn’t for the corrupt assholes. They blocked the production of EV’s,assholes being ceo’s in the automakers world and big oil. Come on ford repair your image do whats right. If this world only worries about what will make them money then the human race won’t be here for long,we will destroy the only thing money can’t buy, life on earth.

  • Mark Dokurno

    Sean

    Ford did not make the EV it was GM and it was gm that crushed them

  • Skye Saathoff

    Hello, I would like to be able to contact someone in Charge of Design Engineering for Electric Cars. I Have a new Concept of a car that will blow ones mind when they examine my paper on this topic. Please notify me of anyone I can Contact in Design Engineering. I would appreciate it. Thank You much and God Bless Skye Saathoff (FORD MOTOR COMPANY) MAIN DESIGN OFFICE

  • robert d bukowski ii

    i have enginered a wat to charge any electric auto, while it is running or not .my design is strictly manipulated enginering.it makes the need for a gas or deisal backup to charge ,or the need to plug in car to charge.i am offering this idea to ford motor company, for a percantage of the patent.ford is the first motor company that i have courted for this project. my idea is purely genius, only because i have worked on this for 5 years and is my responsibility as an american to help my country in getting away from foreign oil. if you are interested email me within 24 hours and we will talk. thank you robert bukowski ii 12660rb@att.net

  • robert d bukowski ii

    i have enginered a wat to charge any electric auto, while it is running or not .my design is strictly manipulated enginering.it makes the need for a gas or deisal backup to charge ,or the need to plug in car to charge.i am offering this idea to ford motor company, for a percantage of the patent.ford is the first motor company that i have courted for this project. my idea is purely genius, only because i have worked on this for 5 years and is my responsibility as an american to help my country in getting away from foreign oil. if you are interested email me within 24 hours and we will talk. thank you robert bukowski ii 12660rb@att.net

  • robert d bukowski ii

    i have enginered a wat to charge any electric auto, while it is running or not .my design is strictly manipulated enginering.it makes the need for a gas or deisal backup to charge ,or the need to plug in car to charge.i am offering this idea to ford motor company, for a percantage of the patent.ford is the first motor company that i have courted for this project. my idea is purely genius, only because i have worked on this for 5 years and is my responsibility as an american to help my country in getting away from foreign oil. if you are interested email me within 24 hours and we will talk. thank you robert bukowski ii 12660rb@att.net

  • robert d bukowski ii

    i have enginered a wat to charge any electric auto, while it is running or not .my design is strictly manipulated enginering.it makes the need for a gas or deisal backup to charge ,or the need to plug in car to charge.i am offering this idea to ford motor company, for a percantage of the patent.ford is the first motor company that i have courted for this project. my idea is purely genius, only because i have worked on this for 5 years and is my responsibility as an american to help my country in getting away from foreign oil. if you are interested email me within 24 hours and we will talk. thank you robert bukowski ii 12660rb@att.net

  • robert d bukowski ii

    i have enginered a wat to charge any electric auto, while it is running or not .my design is strictly manipulated enginering.it makes the need for a gas or deisal backup to charge ,or the need to plug in car to charge.i am offering this idea to ford motor company, for a percantage of the patent.ford is the first motor company that i have courted for this project. my idea is purely genius, only because i have worked on this for 5 years and is my responsibility as an american to help my country in getting away from foreign oil. if you are interested email me within 24 hours and we will talk. thank you robert bukowski ii 12660rb@att.net

  • robert d bukowski ii

    i have enginered a wat to charge any electric auto, while it is running or not .my design is strictly manipulated enginering.it makes the need for a gas or deisal backup to charge ,or the need to plug in car to charge.i am offering this idea to ford motor company, for a percantage of the patent.ford is the first motor company that i have courted for this project. my idea is purely genius, only because i have worked on this for 5 years and is my responsibility as an american to help my country in getting away from foreign oil. if you are interested email me within 24 hours and we will talk. thank you robert bukowski ii 12660rb@att.net