January 29, 2008 Plug-in electric hybrid cars represent a simple and effective bridge between today's primarily petrol-driven hybrids and tomorrow's fully electric vehicles. Over short distances, they deliver the efficiency, economy and low emissions of an electric car – but you've still got a petrol engine to rely on for longer trips. With Toyota testing a plug-in Prius that's rumored to go to production in 2009, Ford has announced a Plug-in Electric Hybrid (PHEV) version of its Escape SUV. Currently in testing, the Escape PHEV runs primarily on electric in its commuting duties, achieving around 30 miles of high-efficiency electric drive after an overnight charge of its high capacity Lithium-Ion battery pack. For longer trips it reverts seamlessly back to normal hybrid operation.
Ford Motor Company is aggressively advancing plug-in hybrid technology through two different applications on research demonstration vehicles as a way to help improve the functionality and durability of lithium-ion battery packs and the future commercialization of plug-in hybrid technology.
The first Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid demonstration vehicle was delivered to Southern California Edison for testing in early December. Under a unique two-year partnership with the utility company, a 20-unit fleet will be tested in California, first in the utility’s electric vehicle fleet, and later with selected residential customers.
The Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV), capable of delivering up to 120 miles per gallon, would mean far fewer trips to the gas station.
“To deliver the superior fuel economy of our PHEVs to the customer – at a value that is not cost prohibitive, we are working with our partners, Southern California Edison, to identify new business models,” said Sherif Marakby, chief engineer for Ford’s Global Core Hybrid Engineering. “Such models could address battery ownership issues and customer, utility and automaker value as it relates to the electrification of vehicles.”
The parallel hybrid electric vehicle uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg – roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart.
A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. At urban speeds, the high capacity plug-in hybrid battery allows for extended battery-only driving distance. At higher power demands and vehicle speeds, the vehicle automatically switches to blended electric/engine mode, providing propulsion using both the engine and the high-capacity battery, further reducing fuel consumption.
The vehicle is not range-limited by the amount of charge available in the high-voltage lithium-ion battery, because once the charge in the battery has been depleted, the vehicle continues to operate as a fuel-efficient, standard Ford Escape Hybrid. The transition is automatic and unnoticeable to the driver.
Ford and SCE jointly will conduct testing of the vehicles, some of which may be evaluated in typical customer settings to model overall home and grid values. The testing will provide valuable data related to the durability, reliability and safety of new battery technology. The cost of those advanced batteries today means the technology is currently not economically feasible for widespread consumer applications.