Alt Fuels

Ford: Publicly Against Green Cars, While Publicly Developing New Green Cars

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Ford Motor Company is one of the bigger names in green cars.  Not the biggest, but they’re not Johnny-come-latelys.  Their Ford Escape hybrid was one as the pillars that the green car market was built upon.

Like all auto makers, Ford is no newbie to the government arena.  They’ve got some of the best lobbyists money can buy. Lately, they’ve been at the center of Trump controversies–which we won’t go into here.

But what’s most peculiar is how they seem to be playing the ends against the middle.  With the political winds blowing the way of fossil fuels, Ford seems to be ditching green cars while it’s cool. Dig this quote from a December 2016 video interview with Mark Fields, Ford CEO:

…Those policies include less-strict emissions rules, as well as currency-manipulation rules, “tax reform,” and clarified safety regulations for self-driving cars.

Fields said there is no market for electrified cars, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Its highest-volume and most profitable vehicle is the Ford F-Series line of full-size and even larger Super Duty pickup trucks….

It’s business, I understand. Just because you helped build a market today doesn’t mean you’ll participate in it tomorrow. So with the Trump administration, they line up with the other automakers for lower emissions standards.  Green cars are in no means ready to be the next Ford Fiesta.  But it is interesting to hear how far a CEO will go to frame the opportunity.

But on the other end, the end that makes and sells green cars, Ford comes up with this. This is from an April 10, 2017 event to roll out a new Ford hybrid police pursuit vehicle:

“Electrifying our next generation of vehicles is core to our unwavering commitment to sustainability,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, The Americas. “By being a leader in electrified vehicles, we remain committed to delivering cars, trucks and SUVs that are better not only for our customers, but for the environment and society as well.”

This guy was speaking at an event rolling out a number of new green car initiatives, including the sweet hybrid police cruiser you see above.  According to Green Car Reports, Ford is still intent on spending $4.5 billion (with a “B”) on new green car initiatives by 2020.  This doesn’t sound anything like what Fields said in December. Here’s more on what was rolled out at the event and other green car tech advances, courtesy of Ford Global Media:

  • The all-new Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan – making its debut in Los Angeles and New York – is the industry’s first pursuit-rated hybrid police car. In addition, Ford is delivering:
  • Another new hybrid police vehicle for North America
  • All-new fully electric small SUV, coming by 2020, engineered to deliver an EPA-estimated range of at least 300 miles, to be sold in North America, Europe and Asia. Actual range will vary. Final EPA numbers not yet available.
  • Hybrid-powered self-driving vehicle designed for commercial mobility services, starting in North America in 2021
  • Hybrid version of best-selling F-150 pickup, available by 2020, and sold in North America and the Middle East. F-150 Hybrid will offer powerful towing and payload capacity, and will operate as a mobile generator tough enough to power a job site
  • Hybrid version of iconic Mustang that will deliver V8 power and even more low-end torque. Mustang Hybrid debuts in 2020 in North America, to start
  • Transit Custom plug-in hybrid available in 2019 in Europe, engineered to help reduce operating costs in even the most congested streets

Growing global demand

As growing urban populations are overwhelming transportation systems and compromising air quality, first-time car buyers – including 50 percent of U.S. millennials – say they are interested in purchasing an electric car, according to a poll conducted by the Consumer Federation of America.

Ford is at the forefront of driving electric vehicle technology and improving costs on batteries and motors for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles. As the company focuses on vehicles that deliver improved performance – such as the F-150 Hybrid with powerful towing and payload capacity plus the ability to operate as an on-board generator – Ford expects sales of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles to dramatically increase during the next decade.

In fact, Ford predicts the auto industry will offer customers more hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles than gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.

Ford Motor Company Police Response Hybrid Sedan, image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company Police Response Hybrid Sedan, image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Ford partners with cities

Ford sells the most police vehicles in the United States, with 63 percent market share. The company has been partnering with cities on custom law enforcement vehicles since the days of the Model T.

The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan will help cities decrease emissions and offers the potential for significant fuel savings, both while driving and while idling. While driving, Ford’s patented hybrid technology is projected to provide EPA-estimated combined gas mileage of 38 miles per gallon – more than twice that of today’s Police Interceptor with 3.7-liter V6 with EPA-estimated 18 mpg combined. Actual mileage will vary. Final EPA-estimated ratings are not yet available.

While idling, the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan’s lithium-ion battery helps power the high electrical loads of a police vehicle, reducing engine run time and saving an estimated 0.27 gallons of fuel per hour. Police Responder Hybrid Sedan customers could see nearly $3,900 a year in potential fuel savings per vehicle relative to the Police Interceptor, if a police vehicle is driven 20,000 miles per year, runs two shifts per day, 365 days per year, idles 4.9 hours per 8-hour shift, and is fueled at an average gas price of $2.50/gallon. The Ford Police Responder online fuel calculator enables customers to determine how much they may potentially save.

The new vehicle will be the first hybrid sedan with full pursuit capabilities. That means the car is certified by police agencies to be tough enough to handle police pursuits for longer periods at different speeds and over obstacles such as curbs and flooded intersections.

The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan uses an efficient Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter engine with an electric motor fed by an advanced lithium-ion battery. The hybrid is calibrated for law enforcement’s unique duty cycle and will run in battery-only mode up to 60 mph. The car automatically switches to maximum performance – with the engine and battery working at peak acceleration levels – when needed.

“Our mission to create safe and healthy communities in Los Angeles is achieved through sustainable approaches in community policing, and that includes embracing new technologies,” said Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department Chief. “Patrol vehicles are a police officer’s office, and we expect them to not only be economically and environmentally efficient, but also an effective tool for fighting crime in major metropolitan areas.”

The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan can be ordered this spring and will be delivered to police departments nationwide next summer.

This year, Ford also is testing a fleet of 20 Transit Connect hybrid taxi and van prototypes in demanding traffic conditions in New York and several other major U.S. cities.

Moving the needle in China and Europe

Ford also is aggressively expanding its electric vehicle lineup in China. The company just announced that, by 2025, 70 percent of the vehicles it sells there will be electrified.

In addition, Ford is introducing the Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid and an all-new fully electric small SUV with projected EPA-estimated range of at least 300 miles to customers in China.

In January, Ford announced a multimillion-pound project designed to help improve air quality in London. Ford is providing 20 Transit Custom plug-in hybrid vehicles to a range of fleets to explore how these commercial vans can contribute to cleaner air targets, while boosting operator productivity in urban conditions. The project is supported financially by the U.K. government-funded Advanced Propulsion Center.

New electric vehicle services

Ford is working on a suite of services to make electric vehicles even easier to own.

“Innovative services can be as important to customers as the electric vehicles themselves,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford group vice president, purchasing, and the company’s electrification champion. “We are investing in solutions to help private customers as well as commercial fleet owners seamlessly incorporate these new vehicles and technologies into their lives.”

Ford has a memorandum of understanding with several automakers in Europe to create an ultrafast charging network projected to be significantly faster than the most powerful charging system deployed today. An initial target of about 400 sites in Europe is planned. By 2020, consumers should have access to thousands of high-powered charging points.

Ford also is piloting wireless technology on company electric cars in the United States and Europe to make recharging as easy as pulling into a parking spot, so drivers never forget to recharge. Wireless recharging extends electric-only range for short-distance commuters, even during quick stops. FordPass® also can help consumers find charging stations.

Ford Motor Company Police Response Hybrid Sedan, image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company Police Response Hybrid Sedan, image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

On the whole, we expect business to be just that.  However, it is interesting to see how a business will blatantly straddle both sides of the line in order to play politics and profits at the same time.  Hopefully Ford’s gambit on loosening MPG standards and getting closer to the Trump administration is simply political positioning.  The long march of history is not with the fossil fuel crowd. The rest of the world is moving in a direction the Trump-ites are not.  Oil prices aren’t going to go down, long term. OPEC needs higher prices–to the point where they’re investing heavily in solar in order to cut back on domestic oil usage.  Russia has reset it’s oil-price driven national budget, and can last without a severe deficit until just 2019. Both are betting on production cuts to restore a solid floor to oil prices.  Europe wants to stop depending on Russian oil and gas, one of the reasons you see diesel hybrid and electric catching on faster.  I’d hate to see the name “Ford” get lost when history deposits the Trump name on the trash heap of failed presidencies.

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