Migration to Alternative Fuels and Powertrains

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Ford Escape

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Ford Escape

PHEVs are powered by a gas-powered engine and a high-capacity electric battery that can be charged from an electric outlet. Ford will introduce its first PHEV, the C-MAX Energi, in the U.S. in 2012 and in Europe in 2013.


Near Term

Begin migration to advanced technology


Mid Term

Full implementation of known technology


Long term

Continue deploying advanced powertrains and alternative fuels and energy sources

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

PHEVs are similar to HEVs in that they are equipped with both an electric battery and a gas-powered engine. Unlike today’s hybrids, however, PHEVs are equipped with a high-capacity battery that can be charged from a private household or public electric outlet. In addition, while regular HEVs maintain a roughly constant battery charge, plug-in hybrids discharge the battery while driving to provide additional fuel savings. PHEVs have the potential to reduce tailpipe emissions to near zero when running on battery power. However, the vehicle’s overall lifecycle emissions depend on the electrical power source and the performance characteristics of the vehicle. PHEVs could be significantly less expensive for consumers to operate because they allow drivers to travel on grid-based electricity stored in batteries instead of more costly gasoline.

The success of PHEVs in the real world depends on cooperation between automakers, utilities, the government and drivers. Therefore, Ford is working with a range of partners – including technology partners, the utility industry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – to help make a smooth transition to electrified vehicles. In 2007, Ford began a collaborative project with Southern California Edison to advance the commercialization of PHEVs. In 2008, Ford expanded this program with the DOE and other partners to identify a sustainable pathway toward accelerated, successful mass production of these vehicles. The project now includes 11 additional partners: the Electric Power Research Institute, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the New York Power Authority, American Electric Power, ConEdison of New York, DTE Energy, National Grid, Progress Energy, Southern Company-Alabama Power, Pepco Holdings and Hydro Quebec.

Ford was awarded $10 million by the DOE to support this program, which includes a three-year demonstration project with a vehicle fleet deployed by the DOE and the energy partners to collect real-world battery performance data and evaluate PHEV and grid performance in different geographical locations. The project aims to help the companies understand critical implementation issues, including the vehicle-utility interface, the impact of plug-ins on utility operations and emissions, and the value to users, utility companies and vehicle manufacturers.

In 2010, Ford completed the deployment of 20 vehicles with the DOE and its utility partners and continued to collect in-field vehicle performance data. To date, the fleet has logged more than 300,000 miles. The collected data is being analyzed by engineers in Ford’s Sustainable Mobility Technology group in conjunction with the DOE, Idaho National Laboratories and Argonne National Laboratories. The results of these analyses continue to drive future PHEV product offerings from Ford as well as aid utility companies in their expectations for when plug-in vehicles hit the market.

For more information on some of the key learnings generated by this collaboration thus far, please see Electrification: A Closer Look.

The demonstration vehicles used in this project (Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrids) have two distinct operational modes: charge depletion and charge sustaining. In charge-depletion mode, which is used when the high-voltage battery is above a predetermined state of charge, the vehicle draws the majority of the power required for operation from the battery. During normal driving, this usually translates into full-electric operation when the vehicle is traveling less than roughly 40 mph. When the power demand of the driver exceeds the power output capacity of the high-voltage battery, the gasoline engine automatically starts up to provide the difference. However, even when the engine is used to supplement power while in charge-depletion mode, the battery still provides the vast majority of the power required to propel the vehicle, giving the driver a sense that the engine is merely idling, even at highway speeds.

In charge-sustaining mode, which is used when the high-voltage battery is below a predetermined state of charge, the vehicle relies mainly on the engine to meet the driver’s power demand. The high-voltage battery is charged during braking events and discharged during acceleration events to improve the overall fuel economy of the vehicle – similar to the operation of today’s conventional hybrids.

Initial field data show significant improvements in fuel economy when these vehicles are operated in charge-depleting mode. The data also show that in city environments, a fully charged Escape Plug-in Hybrid is capable of an all-electric range in excess of 25 miles, when driven below 40 mph and if aggressive acceleration events are avoided.

We recently announced plans to introduce the Ford C-MAX Energi, our first production PHEV, which will be a variant of the Ford C-MAX multi-activity vehicle. The C-MAX Energi will be designed to deliver a more than 500-mile driving range with battery and engine power. It will launch in the U.S. in 2012 and in Europe in 2013.

The C-MAX Energi will include a wide range of technology to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency, driving range and charging efficiency. Like the Focus Electric, the C-MAX Energi will have an enhanced version of MyFord Touch™ – Ford’s new driver interface technology – that will give drivers information to help maximize driving range, plan the most eco-friendly route and manage the battery recharge process. Drivers will also be able to manage their C-MAX Energi remotely using the Ford-developed MyFord Mobile app. The C-MAX Energi will also work with Value Charging by Microsoft®, a home energy management product that will help customers determine when and how to most efficiently and affordably recharge BEVs and PHEVs. For more information on these technologies, please see Living the Electric Lifestyle.