Ford Motor Company is clearly on a roll. Despite a hiccup that sank its stock price on January 28th, the company had its most profitable year in more than a decade in 2010, and the Ford Explorer was named Truck of the Year at the recent NAIAS. The company has rebounded without the aid of government assistance, and its focus on
Attending an international auto show is akin to putting a kid in a candy store. There is something for everyone. However, the story at the Detroit Auto Show this year is all about the electric car and resurgence of the Big Three automakers in the aftermath of the global recession. In 2010, we saw the announcement of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt.
Ford’s goal of electrifying its fleet appears to be running on all cylinders. The company is creating battery electric versions of both of its award winners –2009 Car (Focus) and Truck (Transit Connect Van).
Because energy storage will make or break the arrival of electric vehicles, Ford has joined GM in bringing the battery pack assembly and management under its tent.
Ford is investing nearly $1 billion in manufacturing facilities in Michigan that will include hybrid, battery-electric and plug-in vehicles as well as the lithium ion battery packs. Ford manager of global electrified fleets Greg Frenette explained that “there’s a strong tie-in marrying battery control…. to the rest of propulsion, and we’re in the best position to manage that.”
CleanTechies sits down with John Viera, director of sustainable business strategies for Ford Motor Company, for three questions.
CleanTechies: What are your day to day duties and the big picture of your job?
John Viera: Basically, my responsibilities are two-fold. My organization is responsible for our sustainability strategies and also responsible for environmental policy for the company. So, when you think about those two pockets – the sustainability strategy, you can think about it in a couple of different buckets. Everything we do from a sustainability strategy standpoint has to have economic goodness to it. I say that because when we talk about doing things that are environmentally friendly and whatnot, we say that it does need to have a good business case. We’re not the philanthropic arm of Ford. There is a philanthropic arm. It’s called the Ford Fund. And what we do is we set up strategies that make business sense.
Ford Motor Company has developed an intelligent charging system that previews how its production vehicles will interact with the grid. The unnamed system enables all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners to restrict charging to when electricity prices fall below a certain threshold, or even “when the grid is using only renewable energy such as wind or solar power,” according to Ford.
Being able to drive “emissions free” could be a huge selling point for the upscale and eco-minded early adopters who will be buying EVs and plug-in hybrids during the next few years. There’s a natural synergy for customers to put solar on their homes and buy hybrids/EVs, who can then drive free of fossil fuel guilt.
By all accounts the cash for clunkers incentive program has exceeded all expectations in both volume of sales, as well as answering skeptics by getting fuel inefficient vehicles off the road.
The new vehicles being purchased average nearly 10 mpg higher, saving nearly 4 million barrels of oil per year and eliminating the production of tons of greenhouse gases.
More importantly, the program and its surrounding attention seems to have driven consumers towards hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles even more than a 50 cent spike in the price of gasoline. According to Brian Benstock, the VP and GM of Paragon Honda and Acura, the program is also introducing new customers to imports. Benstock said the program has reversed the ratio of domestic/import trade-ins at his dealership. Previously about 70 percent of his customers were trading one import (mostly Hondas) for another. Now it’s the opposite: 70 percent of people walking in the door are swapping American made autos for Hondas.
The cash for clunkers program is already proving too good to be true. The $1 billion in funds allocated for the program is almost gone after less than a week, and now congress is scrambling to get an additional $2 billion to extend the program.
With sales up at Ford and at dealerships, the program can be viewed as an unabashed success for the auto industry. And the environment is also winning, as the vehicles being purchased are estimated to be 69 percent more fuel efficient than the vehicles being dumped, according to the website CashForClunkersInformation.org.
The Smiths have a Ford, and the Johnsons have a Nissan… but how long will it take the Jones to have a Tesla in your neighborhood?
Tesla Motors, along with Ford and Nissan, were recently awarded loans from the US Energy Department, totaling about $8 billion, to help automakers transition to making more fuel-efficient vehicles. Tesla Motors, which produces high performance, consumer-oriented battery electric vehicles, received $465 million to finance the manufacturing plant for their Model S, as well building a powertrain plant. The Model S, an electric sedan, expected to start production in 2011, will cost roughly $49,900, after a $7,500 tax credit.