Magna International Inc. says its program to supply key powertrain components for the upcoming Ford Focus electric vehicle due in 2011 marks only the beginning of the Canadian conglomerate's move into the nascent EV market.

Magna sees this as a growth opportunity,” J.E. “Ted” Robertson, chief technical officer, says at a conference on EV development and infrastructure, hosted by the Center for Automotive Research.

“This is personally driven by (Magna founder and CEO) Frank Stronach,” he says of Magna's EV powertrain business. “He has a passion around this (technology).”

Robertson says Magna is close to landing more programs from other auto makers, saying interest in its EV technology is coming from every part of the world.

“We designed the system so that it can be adapted to other vehicles,” Robertson says, adding Ford holds no exclusivity rights on the Magna technology.

Robertson's comments echo those of Barb Samardzich, global powertrain engineering chief for Ford, who said the auto maker was encouraging Magna to cultivate other customers, possibly including General Motors Co.'s Adam Opel GmbH operations, should Magna close a deal to acquire a controlling stake in the German company.

Ford is anticipating sales of 5,000-10,000 Focus EVs, so for the technology to “really take off and become affordable, there is going to have to be some consolidation and economies of scale,” Samardzich said recently.

Magna began looking into EV technology two and a half years ago, Robertson says, after Stronach became concerned about the geopolitics surrounding oil and clean air.

It's been tough developing EV systems, Robertson says, because many of the components Magna thought it could pluck off the shelf or obtain from others weren't suitable.