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Ford Considering PHEVs, Says Hybrid Director Nancy Gioia
Jan 17, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Nancy Gioia became Ford's Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs in November 2005. Her views have evolved since she said in June­calcars-news/­460.html that PHEVs were unlikely, seeing "more hype than understanding about their value" and zeroing in on the weight of the batteries.

Now Ford's view mirrors Toyota's perspective (and to some extent, GM's). As the indications of support grow, each car-maker says "we want to build them, but we can't because the batteries aren't ready." (So far, only Toyota and GM have said they'll be first.)

PHEV supporters have our work cut out for us, to pave the way for "good enough" PHEVs through production incentives and ways to address the unproven lifetime of batteries. Notably, Gioia cals for federal tax breaks to PHEV buyers -- that should be possible if Congress acts this year. (Her comment about "limited appeal" of hybrids is perhaps reflective of Ford's experience with the Escape, where the car cost significantly more than a regular Escape while providing only MPG in the low 30s. The differentiation would be far greater for a PHEV version.)

Ford mulling plug-in hybrid vehicle-exec Tue Jan 16, 2007 6:52pm ET143­stocks/­QuoteCompanyNewsArticle.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2007-01-16T235221Z_01_N16244071_RTRIDST_0_FORD-HYBRID.XML&rpc=66

DEARBORN, Mich., Jan 16 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. is considering the development of plug-in hybrid vehicles in an effort to provide alternate energy sources, the director of the automaker's hybrid program said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress in Dearborn, Michigan, Nancy Gioia said the automaker is considering adding plug-ins products, but the biggest challenge in development is battery technology.

"The biggest barrier is the battery," Gioia said. Plug-in hybrids use a battery as the main source of energy and can be recharged at electrical outlets.

Battery technology is key to the next generation of hybrid vehicles as automakers seek ways to lower the cost of batteries and increase their power and storage capacity.

Gioia's comments came a week after General Motors Corp. revived its once-failed idea of a mass-market electric car, unveiling a new "concept" car called the Volt designed to use little or no gasoline.

Gioia declined to provide a timeline on plug-in hybrids, but said they will be more expensive than other vehicles. Gioia also said people will likely not buy plug-ins without big federal tax breaks.

Ford currently makes versions of its Escape and Mariner sport utility vehicles that run on a combination of an electric motor and a gasoline engine.

Gioia said Ford has scaled back its previous hybrid strategy due to limited appeal for such vehicles.

She said demand for hybrids will be hurt as U.S. gasoline prices have begun to fall. "In the U.S., hybrid demand tracks fuel prices," she said.

The Chevrolet Volt is designed to run for 40 miles on pure electric power, but GM executives also said the main delay in production is the development of batteries.

GM's program relies on lithium-ion battery technology that Gioia called "cost, weight and package prohibitive."

U.S. automakers are seeking to distance themselves from close association with gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles as they try to gain ground in alternative energy technology -- an area in which they have lagged.

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. was the first to hit the market with a hybrid vehicle that runs on a combination of gas and electricity and dominates the hybrid market.

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