February 3, 2009

Ford Announces Suppliers For New Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles

Ford Motor Co. announced on Tuesday that the battery system for its first plug-in hybrid vehicle, due out in 2012, would be supplied by a partnership between Johnson Controls Inc and France-based Saft.

Ford also said that seven utilities, including American Electric Power Co, Consolidated Edison Inc and Michigan's DTE Energy Co, would join its research initiative to test rechargeable plug-ins and measure their impact on the electrical grid.  Although the company has not yet identified a vehicle to market, it is testing a fleet of Escape hybrid vehicles with its research partners.

The company made both announcements a day ahead of the Washington Auto Show, since the most senior transportation, energy and environmental officials from the new Obama administration are scheduled to attend the event on Tuesday.

"We are at the point where we need to work with the battery supply base, the utility industry and the government in order to find ways to make electrified vehicles an affordable proposition for consumers," said Sue Cischke, Ford's group vice president for environment and safety.

"Plug-in hybrids hold great promise but do still face significant obstacles to commercialization," she added.

The development adds further support to the charge among major automakers to develop mass-market batteries and deliver a commercially viable plug-in vehicle.

President Obama has expressed strong support for moving forward with new hybrid technology and alternative fuels as a way to cut back gasoline consumption, reduce tailpipe emissions and help revive Ford and the other U.S. automakers and their suppliers from a spiraling financial crisis.

Major auto manufacturers are currently lobbying Capitol Hill to include battery funding programs and plug-in tax credits in a new economic stimulus package now making its way through Congress.

Such Plug-in vehicles would run on electricity alone for short distances and recharge via a household electrical outlet.
Johnson Controls Saft will develop a lithium-ion battery for Ford's plug-in vehicle under a five-year supply agreement that includes a target of 5,000 units annually.

Johnson Control Saft also recently inked a deal to supply batteries for BMW AG's 7 series hybrid car. Last month, General Motors Corp announced that South Korea's LG Chem Ltd would supply batteries for its Chevrolet Volt plug-in, due for release in 2010.

Chrysler LLC, which along with GM received government financial aid in December, has demonstrated three electric car prototypes and says it intends to have one commercially available by next year.  However, analysts say Chrysler trails its competitors in this area.

Toyota Motor Corp, a global sales giant with its leading Prius hybrid, also plans to market a test fleet of rechargeable hybrids to government agencies and corporations by the end of 2010.  The company is preparing to build a factory to make the next-generation lithium ion batteries for plug-ins and electric-only cars.


On The Net:

Ford Motor Co.

Johnson Controls Inc.