The scene at Barber Motorsports Park and Museum in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday, wasn’t the sort of engine-revving, tire-smoking racing event one normally sees here. But it was arguably more “electrifying.”
The media turned out in force at the venue to test-drive the Ford Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which Alabama Power and its parent, Southern Company, are road testing in association with Ford. Representatives from the Electric Power Research Institute and the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition also participated in the event, which was followed on Tuesday by a “Green Fleet” event for Alabama Power and Southern Company employees.
Electric companies get plugged in with Ford
Alabama Power is one of Ford’s several utility and research associates conducting real-world road testing with the Escape PHEV.
“We have a great need to understand, not only how it will impact customers, but how it will impact us,” said Robin Hurst, Alabama Power senior vice president for power delivery.
The other associates include:
Ford is working with in the utility industry in a shared effort to understand all of the issues related to PHEV technology and its interconnectivity with the electric grid.
“As we move toward greater electrification of vehicles, we can achieve much more by working together toward a common goal,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “The work we are investing in today on both the vehicles and the connectivity to the nation’s electric grid will pay off with real-world vehicles for customers in the very near future.”
The research into PHEVs focuses on four primary areas: battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage and grid infrastructure. The utility companies also will explore the potential for stationary battery application and the value of energy storage.
The relationships will help Ford accelerate its electrification strategy, including bringing a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) van to market in 2010 for commercial use, a small BEV sedan developed jointly with Magna International by 2011 and a PHEV by 2012.
Charging up tomorrow’s technology today
A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. It is not range-limited by the amount of charge available in the high-voltage lithium-ion battery. Once the charge in the battery has been depleted, the vehicle continues to operate as a standard Ford Escape Hybrid.