Ford Pushes Vehicle Electrification, But Mostly Without Plug

By · July 17, 2013

Ford Focus Electric

Ford has sold about 900 units of the Focus Electric so far this year.

Plug-in electric vehicles got short shrift in a Ford webinar yesterday. The company used the event, dubbed “Electrified Vehicle Momentum,” to announce a raft of enhancements to its conventional hybrid vehicles. Plug-in electrics could one day benefit from Ford’s increased investment in hybrid batteries and powertrains, but for now, the plug appears to be a secondary concern for the company.

Ford announced it will invest $55 million more in developing electrified vehicles, said Raj Nair, group vice president of global product development. The additional money will help Ford boost battery testing and development, said Nair. The high-cost of batteries—and their limitations in providing range—are a factor limiting widespread adoption of pure electric vehicles. So better batteries could eventually mean more sales of not just hybrids, but also pure electric vehicles.

New conventional hybrids from Ford will have these enhancements: active grille shutter optimization; air conditioner compressor optimization; and shortening of the warm-up time for electric-only driving by 50 percent. Will these developments also benefit owners of Ford plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars? Not yet. “We are not providing enhancement updates on future plug-in vehicles at this time,” Ford told PluginCars.com.

The clear message: Though it offers plug-in electric vehicles, Ford sees hybrids as the real future—and is using the term “electrification” to mean any vehicle with an electric motor to provide some form of propulsion, even if minor. (In other words, there's a big difference between “electrification,” and “electric car.”)

“We believe that traditional hybrids will represent the majority of electrified vehicles by 2020,” Ford told PluginCars. “They deliver great fuel economy, are the most affordable without any change in customer behavior and provide no-compromise fun to drive. We expect plug-in hybrids to be the second highest percentage of sales and full battery electric vehicles to remain a niche vehicle.” Ford has held this position for the past several years.

Ford currently offers two hybrid models, the Fusion and C-Max; two plug-in electric vehicles, the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi; and one pure electric model, the Focus electric. This is likely to remain the Ford electric lineup for some time. “Ford has not announced any other plans to bring one kind of EV technology to the entire product line,” the company told PluginCars.com.

Ford said it sold more than 46,000 units of its electrified models through June. Plug-ins represent approximately 10 percent of those sales—with Ford selling 2,482 C-Max Energi units; 1,584 Fusion Energi sedans; and 900 Focus Electric models.

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