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Press Room

Exclusive interview with Ted Miller, Ford Motor Company - Part I & II

PART I

Ted Miller is Ford's Senior Manager of Energy Storage Strategy and Research. His team is responsible for energy storage strategy, research, development, and implementation for hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles. In the run-up to the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, 6-10 February, in Orlando, Florida, where he will be speaking, cars21.com has talked to him about Ford's evaluation of EV uptake in 2011 and market outlook for 2012.  

Ford-Ted-Miller

cars21.com: How do you evaluate EV uptake so far? Has 2011 been successful for e-mobility? Did it match Ford's expectations?

Ted Miller: It is somewhat difficult to judge the real market for these products so far, as offerings to date have been limited. For 2011 overall, though, industry hybrid sales were flat to slightly down and not growing as fast as the market. We expected initial sales of EVs to be smaller across all automakers. This is a new technology, and it takes time to take hold. However, we remain confident about electrified vehicles for the future and our plans remain on track.

This is why Ford is offering customers the power to choose the vehicle that best fits their lifestyle. This includes the most advanced and efficient gas-powered vehicles with our EcoBoost turbo charged, direct-injection engines. The new Fusion 2.0-liter EcoBoost, for example, is projected to offer 37 mpg highway.

Ford also will offer a leading lineup of six electrified vehicles by the end of 2012. They include the Transit Connect Electric, C-MAX Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid and Focus Electric. We expect that 10-25% of Ford's global sales will be from electrified vehicles by 2020. This includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electrics, with most sales coming from hybrid-electric vehicles.

In addition, Ford is tripling production capacity for electrified vehicles through 2013. The increase will grow our electrified vehicle capacity to more than 100,000 by 2013. Environmental and purchase incentives will certainly continue to be valuable in increasing EV uptake.

cars21.com: What would you say was a surprising development in the EV market in 2011?

Ted: It has been somewhat surprising to see so many niche players attempting to enter the market. Automotive is a long term business with the need for specific expertise and staying power in order to provide reliable products and customer service and support. Nearly all electrified vehicle offerings are one-off specialty models that are expensive to design and build.

Ford, on the other hand, several years ago adopted a strategy to electrify vehicle platforms instead of specialty vehicles – with a goal of giving customers the power to choose the right technology for their lifestyle. This decision is helping us develop EVs more efficiently while also adding new jobs – including 50 new electrified vehicle engineers in 2011 alone – and driving insourcing from suppliers outside the U.S.

With this plan, we can more efficiently add electrified vehicles such as the new Focus Electric, C-MAX Hybird and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid to the same line instead of dedicating separate plants to their production. When C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi go into production, Michigan Assembly Plant will be the first plant in the world responsible for installing 5 different powertrains – 2 gas engines, a hybrid motor, a plug-in hybrid motor, and a battery-electric motor – on the same line.

We also will build transmissions for our hybrid vehicles at our Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan where we will add 130 jobs we're bringing back from a supplier in Japan. Plus, battery pack assembly for our C-MAX hybrid models will bring about 75 jobs to our Rawsonville Plant in Michigan, insourced from a supplier in Mexico.

cars21.com: Production of the plug-in Ford Focus Electric began in December 2011. The plug-in C-Max Energi, which will rival the Chevrolet Volt, is scheduled to go on sale in 2012 as well. What are your expectations for the first half of 2012 in terms of sales? Do you think you can beat the first mover advantage of the Leaf and the Volt?

Ted: We believe we are leading all manufacturers in delivering leading fuel economy across our lineup and a number of advanced powetrain technologies. We call this the Power of Choice because we realize there's not a one-size-fits-all solution yet.

The Focus Electric is a pure battery electric vehicle and will run only on battery charge, making it the ideal choice for urban commuters who drive short distances and live in more densely populated cities that support charging infrastructure. The C-MAX Energi runs on both a battery charge and gasoline, making it great for both short-range driving and longer trips. Access to charging infrastructure is not as high of a priority, as the vehicle can run on both battery charge and gasoline. Because of these differences, we anticipate unique sales results for each of these vehicles.

That being said, electrified vehicle technologies offered in the Focus Electric and C-MAX Energi are quite new to market and, based on adoption of hybrids, we know that it can take time for these technologies to be adopted by consumers. We expect to earn our fair share of each of these markets because we are offering leading efficiency.

For example, the Focus Electric will be the first all-electric car with 100 MPGe and seating for five. The all-new Fusion is expected to deliver the best fuel economy and smart technology in gasoline engine-powered, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, again epitomizing Ford's commitment to the Power of Choice.

The C-MAX Hybrid is targeted to deliver better fuel economy than the Toyota Prius V. And, the C-MAX Energi is expected to deliver better MPGe in electric mode than the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid and to achieve more than 500 miles of driving range using the battery and engine.

We know speed to market is an important factor, but it's even more important to be there with the right product. We are confident in our offerings and feel that consumers will respond well to the technology and added value offered by our leading lineup of electrified vehicles.

cars21.com: Ford's current EV models use lithium-ion, but do you already look beyond lithium-ion? What comes next in your opinion?

Ted: Lithium-ion batteries are certainly well-suited to EV requirements in terms of high energy content. We expect further advances in the technology as it is applied to automotive applications. Any technology that exceeds lithium-ion will need to offer either lower cost or much higher energy density, or both. The majority of researchers are still looking to lithium-ion to deliver next-generation capabilities.

cars21.com: What kind of thermal management and battery management system does Ford use in electric vehicles?

Ted: Ford employs an advanced active liquid thermal management system on our Focus Electric, to pre-condition the vehicle's lithium-ion battery. Thermal management of lithium-ion battery systems is critical to the success of all-electric vehicles because extreme temperatures can affect performance, reliability, safety and durability. The active liquid cooling and heating system also enables the Focus Electric to automatically precondition the battery pack temperature during daily recharging.

On a basic level, when the vehicle is plugged in to the power grid, the vehicle system will be able to warm up the battery on cold days and cool it down on hot days. During the drive, the thermal management system regulates the temperature to maximize vehicle performance and range. Additionally, a comprehensive battery management system monitors and maintains the pack to ensure peak performance and safety.

More in depth, an active liquid system heats or chills a coolant before pumping it through the battery cooling system. This loop regulates temperature throughout the system against external conditions. On hot days, chilled water absorbs heat from the batteries, dispersing it through a radiator before pumping it through the chiller again. On cold days, heated water warms the batteries, gradually bringing the system's temperature to a level that allows it to efficiently accept charge energy and provide enough discharge power for expected vehicle performance.

PART II

Ted Miller is Ford's Senior Manager of Energy Storage Strategy and Research. His team is responsible for energy storage strategy, research, development, and implementation for hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles. In the run-up to the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, 6-10 February, in Orlando, Florida, where he will be speaking, cars21.com has talked to him about Ford's evalution of national EV markets and Ted's expectations for the AABC this week.

cars21.com: Which country would you for the moment consider to be the most effective in promoting electric mobility? Where do you see right now the greatest potential for the Ford Focus Electric and the plug-in C-Max Energi?

Ted: We are first launching the Focus Electric in the United States, prioritizing the largest markets in California, New York and New Jersey in the first half of this year. We then will quickly roll the Focus Electric out to another 16 markets as we also begin rolling out the C-MAX Energi by the end of this year.

We will then begin introducing our electrified vehicles in Europe in 2013. We expect demand to vary by country, market conditions, government incentives and customer lifestyles. For example, we expect hybrids to remain the dominant electrified vehicle choice in the U.S. for a while given Americans commute longer and live in more open areas such as suburbs.

And, of course, price will continue to be a major factor since all-electric vehicles will continue to have a higher price premium than hybrids.

cars21.com: If you would be asked to formulate a global action plan for a rapid introduction of electric vehicles, what would be your top 3 points on the agenda?

Ted: 1) Technology: Offer all three forms of electric vehicles (BEV, PHEV, HEV) - allowing customers to choose the technology that works best for them based on their lifestyles, budgets, etc… This is how Ford is approaching electrified vehicles differently than most other automakers.

2) Costs: Drive down costs to allow for widespread adoption. The largest challenge is battery costs, and continuing to make progress towards meeting the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) goal of $100/kWh (~€76.5/kWh) for production ready batteries will be a key enabler for affordability. Additionally, energy policy and manufacturing incentives for battery and electrified components can help gain the required scale (lower costs) more rapidly.

3) Standards and Infrastructure: Implement standards that allow for global harmonization of features such as fast charging and smart grid communications. In the case of fast charging, a customer could achieve a full charge in under 15 minutes, and in the case of smart grid communications, the electric utilities can offer customers financial incentives in exchange for flexibility on charging…. Resulting in an even lower cost of driving on electricity. Ford is leading and participating in delivering these standards around the globe.

cars21.com: What will you be talking about at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Orlando in February? What will be your main message?

Ted: The need for high reliability in automotive batteries, as it applies to performance, life and abuse tolerance.

cars21.com: Who of the other speakers are you particularly looking forward to hear and what are your general expectations?

Ted: The Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC) is consistently one of the best, and best-attended, battery-related events. Dr. Anderman and his team at AAB have been able to recruit the top speakers and session chairs. Therefore, I always look forward to hearing from all the other speakers.

In particular, my automotive industry colleagues from the U.S., Europe and Asia can be counted on to deliver important information on their field experience with batteries, our present and emerging needs as an industry, and points of concern they are researching both independently and collaboratively with their battery supplier partners. Key to all of us is the perspective of the automotive cell suppliers.

Their viewpoints on technical and business challenges, overcoming the present obstacles, and technology road-mapping are invaluable to us all.

Finally, it is enlightening to hear from our colleagues in the heavy duty market, as well as those working on battery pack components and integration.

cars21.com: Many thanks, Ted! And we wish you a fruitful conference!

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