Sustainability 2011/12

Climate Change and the Environment

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Ford Escape

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Ford Escape

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are powered by an internal combustion engine and a high-voltage electric battery that can be charged from an electric outlet. The engine and the battery work together to provide the benefits of grid-connected power and hybrid powertrain efficiency. Ford will introduce its first commercially available PHEV, the C-MAX Energi, in the U.S. in 2012.


Begin migration to advanced technology


Full implementation of known technology


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. 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 usage characteristics of the vehicle. PHEVs can 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 long-term success of PHEVs in the real world depends on cooperation between automakers, utilities, the government and drivers. Therefore, Ford is working with a number of partners – including technology partners, the utility industry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – to help support a smooth transition to electrified vehicles. In 2007, Ford began a collaborative project with Southern California Edison to advance the commercialization of PHEVs. Ford expanded this program in 2008 to the DOE and other utility 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 21 vehicles with the DOE and its utility partners, and Ford’s engineering teams continued to collect in-field vehicle performance data. To date, the fleet has successfully logged more than 650,000 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 PHEV research vehicles used in this project have two distinct operational modes: charge depleting and charge sustaining. In charge-depleting 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. This usually translates into full-electric operation when the vehicle is traveling less than roughly 40 mph, depending on driver behavior such as acceleration and heating and air conditioning usage. 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-depleting mode, the battery still provides the vast majority of the power required to propel the vehicle.

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 through regenerative braking and discharged during acceleration events to improve the overall fuel economy of the vehicle – similar to the operation of today’s conventional hybrids.

Overall, plug-in hybrid vehicles offer several benefits, including:

  • Reduced dependency on petroleum and increased energy independence
  • Reduced environmental impact through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increased use of electricity from renewable energy sources (e.g., wind and solar) for vehicle recharging
  • Potential consumer cost savings on energy/fuel costs
  • The extra benefit of being able to charge your batteries at home or other parking location. This means that PHEVs might better suit those customers who do the majority of their driving in city and other urban environments where electric battery power is the preferred powertrain alternative

In 2012 in the U.S., we will 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 is expected to deliver a better fuel-economy equivalent in electric mode than the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, plus a 500-mile overall driving range – more than the Chevrolet Volt.

In January 2012 we announced plans to introduce the Ford Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid version of our all-new Fusion, which will be available in the U.S. It is expected to deliver 100-plus MPGe. The Fusion Energi is planned to be available in showrooms in North America in early 2013.

Like Ford’s HEVs, the C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi will include the SmartGauge® with EcoGuide instrument cluster, which coaches drivers to maximize fuel efficiency, and an enhanced version of the MyFord Touch® driver interface that can be configured to show different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels and average and instantaneous miles per gallon.