Nancy Gioia is Ford's Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs. I had a chance to speak with her recently about Ford's view on the Chevy Volt E-REV design. Ford has announced it will bring a 100 mile range battery electric vehicle sedan on the market in 2011, and plans to bring a plug-in hybrid to market in 2012. They have not, however, announced an E-REV. Nancy tells me why.

What is your opinion about about the E-REV design?Well we said by 2012 we'd have our plug in hybrid. If you're familiar with our plug-in Escape project and our first partner Southern Cal., now EPRI has joined, and we are delighted that we have a whole other slew of utilities that have joined. And we have vehicle that we are now delivering around the country for testing. Our plug-in hybrid is a blended hybrid, so its a parallel series hybrid and and its based off our current power-split system that we have in our Escape. We make several modifications to that system but instead of having to depend upon the battery to go at highway speeds, or to do wide-open throttles, what we've looked at because of the battery costs and the size of the battery, and the weight of the battery, and the fact that battery technology is going to continue to evolve, we believe that the blended hybrid is a better solution.

So overnight you can fully charge your battery. It will be an energy lithium cell. You can run that down in up to 30 equivalent electric miles and then you go to regular hybrid mode. Just like our Escape hybrid today, or our Fusion/Milan, you are still then getting that 70% fuel efficiency city, overall combined 35-40% fuel efficiency.
So its never running on pure electricity, even as your running down the charge you are still firing the combustion engine?
Only in a wide-open throttle or high highway speed. So normal regular acceleration, up to a speed we are still determining, like today our Fusion/Milan goes up to 47 mph in pure electric, and that's not feathering it to death, you can accelerate. We're looking at that same thing in our blended plug-in hybrid. But if you need the highway speeds, actually you can run the engine very efficiently. In combination with the motor and give you great performance on the highway but not oversize that battery.

We did a lot of study with our HySeries Edge. This had a fuel cell instead of an engine but was a series hybrid. So it was similar to the Volt concept. What we found is the difficulty with the battery technology and the energy density that you can't predict what the customer is going to need in the next five minutes. So if you're in Colorado and you're going up a steep grade for a very long time, and then you suddenly need to wide-open throttle around something, your state of charge of battery may be at a level even with the engine running full that to recharge that battery and maintain the highway speed and responsiveness you have a power fade issue. We also found if you wide-open-off, wide-open-off, that the 4th or 5th time into a wide open throttle, again because that engine can't run fast enough and the chemistry of the battery can't charge fast enough you may end up with limited power.
So the Volt has that problem?
Right. So from our point of view because you can never predict what the customer needs next, that doesn't lead to a confident driving experience. The solution to that is a bigger battery, bigger engine, and then you get more weight etc. So what we thought was a better solution was our blended plug-in hybrid. You recharge, you have equivalent energy. When you turn the engine on and you have a need for speed or rapid acceleration we now can run that engine at its peak efficiency. Right on that torque curve, peak efficiency and supplement it with the motor. And always keep the battery in the happy zone. So the most expensive and the heaviest part, and the largest package consumer, the battery, can be the smallest it can be. And as the energy dentistry increases all we're doing is giving greater electric range to our consumers. So affordability and attainability is the cornerstone of our sustainability strategy.