Ford Partners With Edison, Will Test Plug-ins

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Dearborn-based car manufacturer Ford is set to announce its partnership with West Coast electric company Edison International. The partnership will be geared towards clearing the way for new generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The partnership between the two companies will mark the first one that a working relationship between an automaker and a company such as Edison will be made in an effort to promote the production of environment friendly vehicles. The two companies are expected to jointly announce their working relationship toady.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are considered one of the most promising alternative fuel technologies today. A plug-in hybrid vehicle or a PHEV is essentially a hybrid vehicle like the Toyota Prius but with a plug-in capability meaning its battery pack can be recharged by plugging the car into a socket.

The batteries used by PHEVs should be more powerful than the ones currently used by hybrid vehicles. This is because PHEVs should be designed that they can be powered over long distances by electric power alone. This will result to reduced fuel consumption thus reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

The partnership between Ford and Edison is speculated to focus on studying how plug-in hybrids of the future will perform in the real world. The joint venture will also study how the presence of many plug-in hybrids will affect the grid. With millions of households connected to the grid, the demand is already staggering. With the introduction of millions more of plug-in hybrids in the future, the demand will multiply thus a solution needs to be uncovered.

Ford will be aiming to cut down the cost of production of plug-in hybrid vehicles. To date, aside from issues surrounding the battery pack that will be best suited for automotive application, another issue which makes mass production of PHEVs impossible is the cost. With advanced materials needed for the powertrain of PHEVs, the cost will make these vehicles impractical to produce and market today. But with the studies to be conducted by Edison and Ford, production cost may be reduced.

The partnership will also aim to develop a technology that will not only provide PHEVs with the power they need but will also allow them to supply power to the grid. This means that PHEVs of the future will not only sap energy from the grid, they can also provide electricity back to the grid.

"They understand the grid, we understand the vehicles and together we can figure out how to optimize the system," said Susan M. Cischke, Ford's senior vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

According to the terms of the partnership Ford will furnish Edison with a batch of Ford Escape Hybrids which the later will study. After that, Ford will be providing plug-in variants of the Ford Escape Hybrid for testing by Edison.

"We're taking this beyond laboratory-scale work to a systematic evaluation of its impact on the grid", said John Bryson, Chief Executive Officer of Edison International.

If the partnership between the two companies succeeds, we can expect tat Ford will be coming out with advanced PHEVs equipped with Ford components such as and other auto parts from the Dearborn automaker.

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