• Jan 17, 2007
Last week Ford unveiled the Airstream concept at the Detroit Auto Show, which marked its first public attempt at a plug-in hybrid. Like the Chevy Volt, it's primarily battery-powered with an auxiliary power unit to charge the battery on the go. The Airstream, howver, differs from the Volt in that it's equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell instead of an internal combustion engine.

This week at the Automotive News World Congress, Ford's hybrid vehicle manager Nancy Gioia delivered an address where she indicated that Ford is seriously considering a production plug-in hybrid vehicle. The battery, of course, is the main hold up. Because of the added complexity of a PHEV, a strong, affordable, reliable battery is critical to getting enough battery range to make such a vehicle worthwhile. Gioia indicated that additional tax credits may be necessary for buyers to find such a vehicle economically viable.

Ford was no doubt spurred to make this statement concerning the future viability of a plug-in hybrid based on the warm reception of the Chevy Volt Concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Ford was the first domestic automaker on the scene with a hybrid when it introduced the Ford Escape Hybrid a few years ago. Eager to maintain its image as the greenest automaker based in the U.S., announcing the potential for a plug-in hybrid puts it somewhat back on par with General Motors, though the General has actually produced the Volt Concept, which is much more production feasible with its E-Flex chassis than Ford's Airstream Concept.

[Source: Automotive News - Subscription required]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ford earned some bad marks on Autoline Detroit's analysis. Compared to the Chevy Volt, this was a total dud. Ford has a hard road up ahead. The 2008 Focus looks pretty good, though.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I hope Ford has the smarts to produce a full plug-in, all electric series drive, hybrid as soon as possible. The first company to market with this technology (that has been available for the past decade - see PNGV program of the '90s)will dominate this vast new market opportunity.

      The key to success in this effort is "Keep it Simple." The APU in this new vehicle really needs to be a small, reliable and simple DIESEL. BioDiesel can be distributed at any fueling station so fuel supply would not be a problem. With the small diesel being tuned for optimum performance running at constant RPM thereby minimizing pollution. A small, aerodynamic car of this kind would easily get better than 100 MPG.

      Battery only range of about 30 miles is sufficient and then the constant RPM BioDiesel could kick in for unlimited range and recharging on the fly. Overnight recharging from a 120V household outlet (or optinal 240V) could be accomplished in just a few hours. The unit could also be recharged at work in "priority parking stalls."

      Use of HOV lanes, federal, state and local tax credits and other economic incentives could also spur purchases of these machines that just might be what we need to save our planet.

      This units will cost more - but I have no doubt that people will be happy to pay a bit more to feel good about their minimum impact on the environment while saving operatinal cost.

      Another key to success is GREAT STYLING like the Volt.

      Which company will be first to market????
      • 8 Years Ago
      What a Green vehicle this could be if the plug -in/Hydorogen fuel cell combination becomes feasible and is truely cost effective over a period of time that would be equivilant to the gas/diesel powered vehicles being produced today.
      Time will tell us how efficient,reliable and durable the current hybrid vehicles will be. Time will also tell us the same about any future vehicles using any of the variety of power sources being discussed, tested or researched whether they utilize a single or combination of the sources of fuel/power.

      The sooner the better.
      It is past time to ween our means of transportation from petroleum based fuel.
      I do not believe I will see a major change in my lifetime but I do take my hat off to those scientists/engineers who are pursuing the efforts to search for other viable, feasible power sources.
      There would nothing any more enjoyable than to travel this great, beautiful country in which we live, driving a vehicle that does not require a fill-up at a gas station.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I wonder if it would make sense for PHEVs to have two batteries... or a battery and a capacitor. One for the deep cycle, deep charge, high energy required for the plugging in and draining as much as possible to go as far on pure electric, then another battery or capacitor more in tune with the quick charge recharge cycle in hybrid mode.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Great write up. Exactly as much recognition as the AirStream deserves. Pretty much the same deal as the Volt but with the on-board power source a little more of a ways off than the Ecotec on the Volt. And also not nearly as good looking as the Volt. At least both these major automakers seem to see the potential of PHEVs. A perfect gradual stepping stone to 100% EVs. As the battery technology gradually gets better over the upcoming years, the smaller the onboard generator (or fuel cell, if we ever get there) can be, until one day, the batteries get us plenty far enough without any on-baord recharging.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Looks like a 1950's toaster.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I agree with #5. Could you imagine the joy of driving and not filling up at a gas station. Here is a video about this Ford:

      http://www.cartv.com/content/research/channels/index.cfm/channel/cartv_video/action/showvideo/vid/e_0353/vscat/NULL/vcat/Event/

      • 8 Years Ago
      Exactly the type of vehicle Ford needs, not so much as a vehicle that actually makes money for them, but as a marketing tool. Not in this DiscoVan shape though I would hope.