Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

Ford Motor Co. announces at the Geneva auto show today plans to migrate its North American vehicle-electrification strategy to Europe.

The auto maker says five full- and hybrid-electric vehicles will be launched in the C, C-D and light-commercial segments in Europe by 2013.

The first vehicle to arrive will be the Transit Connect EV utility van in 2011, followed by the Ford Focus EV in 2012. Three other vehicles, two next-generation HEVs and a plug-in, will arrive in 2013.

Ford’s European electrification strategy closely follows that of North America but will lag by six-12 months, says Nancy Gioia, director-global electrification.

Gioia does not say what models will offer the next-generation HEV or PHEV technologies, noting details will be announced closer to launch.

Much of Ford’s EV powertrain development is being done in North America with supplier partners such as Magna International Inc. and Azure Dynamics Inc. Elements of the technology will be used in European electrified vehicles and final assembly likely will take place at one of Ford’s European plants, Gioia says.

While electrified vehicles, such as HEVs, account for about 2.4% of total U.S. light-vehicle sales, Europe’s percentage is even less, she says, noting the high penetration of diesel engines, which offer superior fuel economy.

Therefore, Ford expects most of its upcoming EVs to be targeted toward fleet use, especially given the higher cost of the advanced technology and its limited range. “The No.1 competitor to electrification is diesel and gas engines,” Gioia says. “We need to have large improvements in (electric) vehicle technology to justify the extra cost.”

However, Ford of Europe CEO John Fleming says there is increasing interest among Europeans in electrified vehicles. “And we are responding by stepping up our efforts to bring these models to the marketplace, alongside our latest-generation, fuel-efficient, petrol- and diesel-powered models.”

Ford plans to participate in two European trial programs to test the technologies in real-world driving conditions.

In the U.K., a consortium made up of Ford, energy-utility Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Strathclyde University is preparing later this year to test a fleet of prototype Focus EVs.

The vehicles will be used by SSE, as well as fleet and private customers in Hillingdon and Middlesex, U.K., beginning in mid-2010, Ford says.

In Germany, Ford will participate in the “colognE-mobil” project to research the impact of EVs on urban air quality, traffic safety and electric infrastructure.

The project, scheduled to begin in late-2011, is partly funded by the German government and coordinated by the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Ford says.

Partners include utility company RheinEnergie AG, the city of Cologne and the University of Duisburg-Essen.

“These initiatives are a revolution for both the utility and automotive industries,” Fleming says. “Collaborating across sectors is essential to ensure customer-focused products that provide the right value along with the readiness of the infrastructure.”

While Ford is forging ahead with a variety of electrified vehicles, Gioia is quick to point out traditional internal-combustion engine technology is not going away anytime soon. “We see diesel and (gasoline) engines still on the road in 2050.”

bpope@wardsauto.com