Ford Director of Electrification Heads Corporate Effort
Ford's new director of Global Electrification (yes, that is her title), Nancy Gioia, has a unique role. It's her job to lead strategy and planning for the next generation of Ford's global electric vehicle portfolio, touching all aspects of electrified transportation-including product planning, supplier partnerships, standards, and collaboration with the energy industry and government agencies.
Gioia told a group of journalists and analysts at the demonstration event in San Francisco that Ford expects to be selling 10 to 20 percent of its vehicles with electric-only power plants by 2020.
All those hundreds of thousands of new power-hungry cars and trucks will be sucking more and more electricity out of the U.S. power grid on a sharply escalating basis. How will the grid -- already a fragile resource -- be able to withstand this increasing demand?
"In 1914, it was all about the battery. Here in 2009, with 2 percent to 3 percent of cars on the road being hybrids, it's still about the battery," Gioia said. "It's going to take a lot of education -- for the stakeholders and general public -- over the next few years to understand what this new demand is going to mean in our daily lives.
"A great deal of collaboration will be needed, among government agencies, utility companies, commercial businesses and consumers. This is because we will need to rebuild our power resource infrastructure to make it more efficient and also to enable plug-in stations everywhere -- at our homes, businesses, public places and so on. The vehicles will be ready, but our infrastructure will take longer to accommodate them."
Gioia said as cars come online to fuel up, inevitable bumps in power draw will happen at certain times of the day, such as mornings and late afternoons. Eventually users will be educated about the need to plug their cars in as often as possible during off-peak hours, such as overnight, to lessen the strain on the power grid.
National and international standards will need to be researched and agreed upon.
"I was in China recently, and there are five electric utilities serving that whole huge nation," Gioia said. "All of them have different kinds of plugs, for example. It's a real mess, and it will remain so until good standards are in place."
As electric power becomes more prominent, lighter vehicles will be required. Fuel savings will grow in the midterm future-between 2012 and 2020-as weight reductions become a focus of Ford's plan. Targeted vehicle weight reductions will range from 250 to 750 pounds, depending on the segment, without compromising safety, Gioia said.
Ford is also conducting research and testing in other alternative fuel areas, such as clean diesel fuel and biofuels. But the work is slow-moving and costly.
Hydrogen power is something that continues to be examined. Ford said it is currently conducting research on hydrogen fuel cell technology, which holds promise as a longer-term solution. The company's global fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles has accumulated more than 1 million miles in real-world testing.
While hydrogen holds promise, challenges related to the technology's high cost and the lack of fueling station infrastructure remain, the company said.