Ford Getting Focused


Ford’s Nancy Gioia, director of global electrification, addressed back-to-back gatherings of local EV advocates, environmentalists, Ford dealers, media, and others in San Francisco today. She came to introduce folks to an all-electric Focus and a plug-in hybrid Escape SUV (though we didn’t get to drive them) and to talk about Ford’s plans for future electric vehicles.


It was gratifying to hear her call EVs and the synergies between plug-in vehicles and the electric grid “a revolution.” Ford now has 11 utilities around the United States partnering with them in the company’s extended testing of plug-in hybrid Escapes and preparing utilities to anticipate what consumers will want and need as EVs hit the market.

She mentioned the benefits of EVs in fighting climate change, and so I asked her if Ford is willing to walk the talk by resigning from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (as forward-thinking companies like Apple and PG&E have done) because of the Chamber’s obstruction of efforts to fight climate change. Gioia and another Ford representative hemmed and hawed a bit, finally saying Ford wouldn’t commit today to resign from the Chamber. They said that the Chamber is beneficial to Ford in a variety of ways, and as long as the Chamber remains beneficial to them, then Ford will stay in the Chamber.

See Plug In America’s joint call with MoveOn for Toyota to resign from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. What do you think — should we expand this campaign to the other major automakers, like Ford

Then we went to see the cars. Not much info to go on — just that the Focus EV may go on sale in late 2011, well behind the anticipated launch of the Nissan EV and the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid in late 2010 or early 2011. No idea what the price might be. The Focus will have around a 24 kWh battery pack, Gioia suggested.


The Focus EV is basically a conversion — they took the gasser body, removed the engine, etc., and put in EV components. The battery takes up around half the trunk space. If this makes Ford able to offer an EV at very low cost, great! But I have to say it was a little sad.

Eight years after I first leased a Ford Th!nkCity (an original and very unique EV), Ford has yet to design its own aerodynamic, purpose-built EV. And with half the trunk space gone, the Focus EV price better be much lower than the Leaf and the Volt, or they’re in trouble.

The plug-in hybrid Escape looked great but seemed to draw very little interest. Perhaps because its launch date isn’t until late 2012, which in real-world terms is still too far away to get excited, I suppose.

All in all, I’m glad Ford is making the effort, but something inside me worries that they’re going to have to try a little bit harder.

Posted by Sherry Boschert, Plug In America board member and author, Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America

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