May 11, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Thank you all for your patience in these past months when we told you we were in conversations with an auto-maker but couldn't say more. We're not all the way there, but we're getting closer. We'll have a new blog entry for this later tonight at http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/power/.
CalCars/Frank Welcome Ford's "Keen" Interest in Plug-In Hybrids, Disclose Proposal for First Step
Palo Alto, CA, May 11, 2006: The California Cars Initiative and University of California at Davis Professor Andy Frank today welcomed Ford Motor Co (NYSE: F) CEO Bill Ford, Jr.'s acknowledgment that the company is exploring plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology.
The non-profit group and the engineering professor/inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid disclosed that they have been in private discussions with top business and technical executives of the company since meeting in Dearborn last November. After Mr. Ford responded to questions about PHEVs and Prof. Frank at the company's annual meeting by saying, "We have nothing to announce today, but yes, we are keenly looking at it," CalCars and Prof. Frank released their recent letter to Bill Ford.
The group plans to rapidly build a small prototype/demonstration fleet of plug-in hybrids using Ford's Escape Hybrid as a platform. First customers for the conversions of several dozen SUVs would be cities, utilities, CEOs, entrepreneurs and celebrities. The vehicles would demonstrate a range of energy storage and propulsion components, flex-fuel (E85) capability and other design solutions.
Asking for no money or other resources from the company, the group has asked Ford to release a statement giving permission to begin independent work:
"A consortium that includes UC Davis engineering Prof. Andy Frank and the non-profit California Cars Initiative is starting a project to demonstrate the potential of the Ford Escape Hybrid to operate as a plug-in hybrid. There's a growing national interest in this technology, especially among fleet buyers, to further reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gases. While Ford focuses on expanding the adoption of hybrid technology throughout our line, we applaud their choice of the Escape as a development platform, and we will support this independent, innovative effort. We delegate Ford advisor and designer/architect William McDonough to participate in this project."
See the full text of the three-page letter to Bill Ford, "A partnership for Ford to take the lead in innovation on plug-in hybrids": http://www.calcars.org/ford-calcars-frank-8may06.pdf
Today, Prof. Frank said, "I'm delighted PHEVs and our proposal are now getting Mr. Ford's personal attention. The next step is to let us turn the Ford Escape Hybrid into the world's cleanest extended range production vehicle -- by putting together differently the pieces we already have." Felix Kramer, Founder of CalCars.org, said, "Ford built the first hybrid SUV. We hope next Thursday at the White House meeting of the automotive Big Three, Ford can announce it's taking the lead on the next generation of advanced vehicles."
PLUG-IN HYBRIDS (PHEVs) finally make hybrid cars live up to their name by using both gasoline and electricity as fuel. They're like today's hybrids but with larger batteries and the ability to re-charge off-peak conveniently from a 120-volt plug, so local travel is electric, and they retain the extended range of any hybrid. And compared to gasoline, electricity is cheaper (under $1/gallon equivalent), cleaner (lower greenhouse gases even on the national power grid) and comes from domestic sources (3% of US electricity comes from oil).
PROF. ANDY FRANK is the recognized world leader in plug-in hybrid technologies, having built nine such vehicles since 1972, including ground-up PHEV prototypes of Ford Taurus, Sable and Explorer. As Director of the University of California at Davis Future Automotive Technology and Engineering Center for Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Dr. Frank and his engineering students have repeatedly won high honors in the annual U.S. Department of Energy's Future Car and Future Truck Challenges. His graduates work in automotive companies worldwide. See http://www.team-fate.net.
THE CALIFORNIA CARS INITIATIVE is a group of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers harnessing buyer demand to bring plug-in hybrids to market by major car-makers. The non-profit focuses both on public policy and technology development. Formed in 2002, CalCars.org began to get notice in 2004 with the world's first plug-in hybrid conversion of a Toyota Prius. Since then, awareness and support for PHEVs has grown among diverse constituencies, leading to President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative. CalCars will bring a 100+MPG PHEV for the first time to Washington May 17-18 for demonstrations/drives by Senators, Representatives and other officials. See http://www.calcars.org.