Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Ford Motor Co. and Microsoft Corp. are teaming up again, this time to help future electric-vehicle owners with their recharging needs.

The aim is to make electric-vehicle ownership more affordable, as well as help utility companies cope with increased power demands as the fledging EV segment becomes more established.

“Rechargeable vehicles represent a new frontier,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally says at the New York International Auto Show during the debut of the Lincoln MKZ hybrid model.

Ford and Microsoft are partnering to implement an EV use of Microsoft’s Hohm energy-management application, starting next year with the upcoming electric-version of the Focus.

Hohm is an Internet-based service intended to help owners determine when and how to most efficiently and affordably recharge their vehicles, depending on their daily schedules and lifestyles. That, in turn, helps utility companies better manage their service deliveries.

“As more electric vehicles become available, the demand on the energy grid will be tremendous,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says via a video broadcast at the auto show press conference. “Information technology will support the electric ecosystem.”

EVs are destined to become the biggest user of household electricity, says Troy Bollerberry, a Microsoft executive. “If everyone came home and recharged at the same time, there would be a tremendous demand on the electrical-grid system.”

Ford’s responsibility extends beyond just producing vehicles, says Derrick Kuzak, the auto maker’s group vice president-global product development. “We need to make life with electric vehicles as easy as it would be to pull into a gas station for a fill-up.”

Ford will be the first auto maker to make use of the Hohm system. Ford and Microsoft initially teamed up to offer the Sync hands-free communications system offered in Ford vehicles.

Meanwhile, Kuzak claims the first-ever Lincoln hybrid will offer best-in-class fuel efficiency with 41/36 mpg (5.7-6.5 L/100) city/highway.

The MKZ hybrid’s internal combustion engine is a 2.5L I-4.

The vehicle goes on sale this fall. Pricing has yet to be announced, but Kuzak says it is “designed to be more affordable” than hybrid competitors, which include the Lexus HS 250 Hybrid and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid models.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com