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Ford reveals plug-in plans

Watts up: Ford will power up the Transit Connect hybrid van in Europe and North America.

Transit Connect hybrid revealed as Ford unveils plug-in plans

10 Feb 2009

A WEEK after revealing detailed plans to produce a raft of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles (EVs) by 2012, Ford has unveiled a US-spec Transit Connect van that will be available soon with petrol-electric power in the UK and North America.

Revealed ahead of its public premiere at the 2009 Chicago motor show from February 11, the standard Transit Connect will, like the Transit van upon which it is based, become available in hybrid guise in the US next year.

As part of its EV plan revealed at the Detroit motor show in January, Ford is collaborating with Smith Electric Vehicles to sell the electric Transit Connect in the US from 2010, while Ford is also working with Tanfield to offer electric versions of the both the Ford Transit and Transit Connect to fleets in both the UK and Europe.

Last week, Ford expanded on its Detroit EV announcement by confirming it has signed deals with seven US electric utility providers to do real-world testing with Ford’s Escape PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle).

27 center imageLeft: Ford Transit Connect hybrid and Escape Hybrid.

Power companies from New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts and Michigan will join in testing and research underway by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) since 2007.

Ford last week also announced a new partnership with Johnson Controls-Saft, which it says will supply a complete battery system for the company’s first production PHEVs in 2012.

The latter is a significant step in Ford’s plan to release a family of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles by 2012, because Johnson Controls-Saft, which won a five-year contract to supply lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery packs for the plug-in Escape Hybrid, is home to a number of former senior Ford hybrid insiders.

In an arrangement that Ford says will help reduce development costs while increasing performance and quality, Mary Ann Wright, who was Ford's director of sustainable mobility technologies and hybrid vehicle programs until late 2005 and has led Johnson Controls’ hybrid operations since early 2007, has been joined by at least three senior hybrid engineers from Ford.

The Ford-Johnson deal calls for 5000 battery packs a year, to be built at a new plant at Nersac in France and assembled at Johnson Controls’ Milwaukee battery technology centre before being delivered to Ford as complete modules for installation.

Johnson Controls has previously won supply contracts from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and at least two Chinese car-makers. General Motors last month awarded the contract to supply the Volt’s Li-ion battery pack to Detroit’s Compact Power Inc, a division of South Korea’s LG Chem that is headed by Prabhakar Patil, who was chief engineer of Ford's hybrid technologies for the Ford Escape Hybrid until 2003.

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