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Monday, May 25, 2009

Ford's aggressive EV strategy

Ford has thrown it’s hat into the Electric Vehicle ring by announcing plans to bring a new family of electrified vehicles to market over the next four years. The strategy calls for the introduction of new hybrids, a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) based on two new global product platforms. The plan calls for the introduction in 2011 of a pure Battery Electric Vehicle as a passenger car in North America.

Ford’s new electrification strategy will deliver a suite of electrified vehicles to market by 2012, including:

# A full battery electric van-type commercial vehicle in 2010. In the UK, Ford is collaborating with Tanfield to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets.
# A new battery electric small car in 2011 to be developed jointly with Magna International. The electric powertrain will be applied in a new-generation C-sized global vehicle platform. The BEV will first be introduced in North America, with the potential to migrate to the European and Asia Pacific markets down the road. Ford plans to introduce Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) based on new C (Focus-size) and CD (Fusion-size) global product platforms. By 2012, Bill Ford said, the company will have four high-mileage BEVs.
# Next-generation hybrid vehicles, including a plug-in version by 2012. We presume Ford refer to a Series hybrid as the next generation compared to the 2010 Fusion which is a parallel hybrid.

The electrification strategy builds on Ford’s vision for bringing affordable technology to millions. It takes advantage of rapid advancements in electrified vehicle technology – particularly Lithium-ion batteries – while leveraging the scale of global vehicle platforms to bring the cost of new technology down. As Ford and partner Magna International have had BEV test vehicles, 2009 Ford Focus mules, on the road for more than six months, racking up thousands of miles of testing and evaluation. Under the skin of the Ford Focus test vehicles is a new all-electric powertrain. Electrification of two key global Ford product platforms – one for Focus-size small cars and the other for Fusion-size CD cars – means the electric vehicle powertrain uses the existing structure of the vehicle platform. That means Ford can truly make the most of global economies of scale to produce new electrified vehicle technology affordable.

The Battery Electric test vehicles are powered by a 100 kW three-phase alternating current (AC) permanent-magnet, chassis-mounted electric traction motor which drives through a single speed gearbox with a 5.4:1 final drive ratio with standard planetary differential centre. There is a boot mounted 23 kilowatt hours lithium-ion battery pack that is good for a range of 80 miles (130kms) on a single charge. The Ford Focus EV can be charged from either a standard 220-volt in 6 hours or 110-volt in 12 hours. Ford and Magna are targeting a range of up to 100 miles when the vehicle is introduced to the retail market.

Hybrid component development.

One of the main reasons it has taken Ford and other automotive manufacturers quite some time to introduce electric vehicles is that most auxiliary systems that are normally powered off a gasoline engine, for example the air conditioning compressor and hydraulic power steering pump, are not compatible with an electric vehicle powertrain. The Focus BEV test vehicles incorporates key components developed for Ford’s 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. For the electric climate control system Ford developed a high-voltage air-conditioning compressor that draws electrical energy directly from the main battery and has it’s own inverter in the compressor.

There is an electric water pump to circulate coolant for the traction motor, inverter, battery and heater. Electric column mounted power steering, again developed for the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid has also been made with a move the battery electric vehicles manufacture in mind.

Lithium-ion technology key to EVs

Lithium-ion is the latest in electric vehicle battery technology. While the chemistry is similar to the batteries used in consumer goods like laptops and mobile phones, the demands to power a vehicle are different enough to require significantly more intensive technology development. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more power efficient that the nickel metal hydride batteries used in both Ford and Toyota hybrid electric vehicles.

For decades, the automobile battery was an essentially static technology, but it’s no longer being taken for granted. Battery technology is now in a starring role in the development of a new generation of electrified vehicles.

But today’s batteries are a far cry from the humble lead-acid battery used for a century in the automobile. The 12-volt lead-acid battery used in traditional automotive applications is rapidly giving way to sophisticated, higher energy and power batteries as the automobile industry shifts further toward electrification.

The advent of hybrid electric vehicles spawned a new generation of batteries, making nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries the energy storage technology of choice. The nickel used in these batteries is lighter than lead, helping the battery deliver twice the power output for the weight as lead-acid batteries, but the cost of Ni-MH batteries is high – four times that of lead acid. Automakers already believe they have tapped most of the potential of Ni-MH technology and are moving rapidly toward Lithium-ion technology.

Lithium-ion batteries are commonplace in the world of consumer electronics. They’re lighter and more energy dense than other types of batteries, making them ideal for laptop computers, mobile phones and other portable devices.

The variant of lithium-ion battery used in laptops and other mobile devices is completely unacceptable for use in cars because automobile batteries have a much harder job than a laptop or phone battery. Cars have to work in huge temperature extremes, stand up to more shocks and vibrations and a much higher energy throughput than consumer electronics goods. And an automobile is expected to have a 10-year lifespan, something most laptop or cell phone owners don’t expect of those devices.

Intensive development work by Ford and other manufacturers is underway to develop automotive lithium-ion technology for the auto industry, and Ford feel confident as they point to the robustness of its hybrid technology with the Ford Escape Hybrid. In New York, some Escape Hybrid taxis have clocked more than 300,000 miles of reliable service.

Ford is already putting into effect a major element of its vehicle electrification strategy with its strategic alliance with auto supplier Magna International to produce new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that don’t use a drop of fuel.

The vehicle-development partnership between Ford and Magna, a global auto supplier headquartered in Canada, was announced at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, as Ford unveiled its global vehicle electrification strategy.

Magna will provide the BEV electric traction motor, transmission, motor controller, energy storage system, battery charger and related systems. Magna will also share in the engineering responsibility to integrate the electric propulsion system and other new systems into the vehicle platform architecture.

Affordable Electric Vehicles

Ford’s vehicle electrification strategy calls for the formation of key supplier alliances and other collaborations from diverse sectors to advance technology development, gain greater understanding of connectivity of vehicles to the electric grid, promote the necessary infrastructure and bring down the costs of the technology to make it more accessible for consumers. Ford envision foreseeable potential customer demand for electrified vehicles that will enables true volume production cost efficiencies.

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