Monday, August 5, 2013

Ford Goes Balls To The Walls With Electrified Vehicles

No amount of denial will alter the future and that future in personal transportation will be totally electric.  It is just too good of a solution and allows the manufacturer to strip a lot of mass from the vehicle.    The holdup has been solving the most difficult problem facing engineering and more specifically physics and that is to seriously increase the energy density of the batteries core to this whole production paradigm.

There are convincing attempts underway that do promise to evolve into a solution and it is quite right to expect a true second generation battery inside the next five years.  Thus going after the electric market now makes total sense.

Ford clearly understands that the day after that battery becomes available the gasoline engine becomes a serious commercial liability.  Consider what I just said.  Existing stock and obligations will be a serious liability because the resale market can and will collapse.  Just why will you buy a three year old gasoline car coming off lease or warranty when an electric sans battery will be available for less and you can lease the battery. 
This is not going to b e a long gentle transition at all.  At best it will mirror the eclipse of the vacuum tube by flat screen except that the first adopter threshold will be low because they already have a gas vehicle for long haul driving that will simply be never replaced but used less and less.

Ford Goes Balls To The Walls With Electrified Vehicles

An hour or so ago I tore into Chrysler for being the luddite of the developing green technology in vehicles market. Now, let’s take a look at a much more positive success in the space, at least as far as American automakers go anyhow, in the form of Ford. Fresh off of news that it continues to slowly cut down the lead of the Prius in hybrid sales– even as it also has to address fuel economy issues with some of its offerings – is word of its “best hybrid sales quarter ever.” Did you catch that Chrysler??

For the second quarter of 2013, Ford reported today, it had record hybrid sales of 24,217 vehicles. This is said to be up 517 percent over last year and 15 percent over the first quarter of this year. Having sold so many of this particular niche of cars has seen the company’s share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market grow “to nearly 16 percent in the first half of 2013 – a 12-point gain over last year.”

Leading the pack of Ford vehicles in this regard are its C-Max and Fusion hybrids, which are said to be seeing strong growth in California and “other new hybrid markets.” Some examples cited include more than 1,000 percent growth in New York, 840 percent in Chicago, almost 730 percent in Seattle and close to 500 percent in Washington, D.C.

And, in a nod to buying foreign hybrid versus domestic, more than 60 percent of U.S. customers are coming from non-Ford brands, with Toyota and Honda vehicles the top competitive trade-ins.

Now I’m not saying Ford is the end all, be all of automakers in this space. It still has a lot of catch up to do to Toyota, and a lot of innovating to match the likes of Tesla Motors. For a company of its size though, it has shown some strong leadership in a niche market it only entered a few years ago, having now sold more than 46,000 electrified vehicles through June.

Ford spreads its green vehicle fleet across hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars, including the Fusion Hybrid, C-Max Hybrid, Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Focus Electric and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. It has some pretty impressive technical specifications going on amongst these vehicles, including the Fusion Energi’s EPA-rated total range of up to 620 miles; the Fusion Hybrid’s EPA-estimated rating of 47 mpg city, highway and combined; the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid’s EPA-rated 45 mpg city, highway and combined and the Focus Electric’s EPA-rated 110 MPGe city, 99 MPGe highway and 105 MPGe combined.

In announcing its current successes, Ford also gave a preview of what’s up next for its green technology under the hood, including a rear-wheel-drive hybrid system for pickups and SUVs that should be available by the end of the decade. There’s also a continued push to bring in-house more of the development of its most advanced vehicles. This latter item means more green jobs, and to that end the company is “hiring more than 200 new electrification engineers and expanding its research facilities to speed development of hybrid and electrified vehicles.”

So, please excuse me a bit if this story sounds like PR spin for Ford. When I compare though the mundane, petri dish approach of Chrysler to the more balls to the wallsattitude of its Big Three competitor when it comes to electrified vehicles (i.e. on track to triple its electrified vehicle production by the end of this year, compared with 2011), I can’t help but smile a little bit as I type the final period.

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