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Part of Beijing's big push to cut its heavy air pollution.

BEIJING (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. said it will launch a plug-in hybrid car in China in 2018 and a fully electric sport-utility vehicle in the next five years, as it works toward electrifying most of its lineup in the world's biggest auto market by 2025. This comes at a time when Beijing is urging automakers to sell more electric vehicles, laying out strict fuel economy targets and subsidizing certain new energy vehicle models, in a bid to cut air pollution and promote technological innovation.

Plug-in vehicles are all the rage right now – witness the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Ford Transit Connect Electric all coming to market between now and the end of the year. Unfortunately, electric and hybrid vehicles carry a significant price premium over conventional models (most of the time) so automakers like Ford are looking for more cost-effective improvements that can be applied to millions of conventionally powered vehicles.

Jay Leno's Green Car Challenge Ford Focus EV - Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford Fusion hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford Transit Connect Electric – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford Transit Connect Electric – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford Focus EV - Click above for high-res image gallery

Ford Escape PHEV - Click above for high-res image gallery

GM thinks that it has learned the lesson not to fall behind on technology and won't make that same mistake again. It's for this reason that the Volt is such a big deal for the automaker. Depending on how the next few years play out, though, we will either look back on Ford and realize just how smart the company was or just how deeply its head was stuck in the sand. It seems that Ford believes it has a solid position in hybrid technology and doesn't see an immediate need to be a leader in the dev

On Monday July 9, the CEOs from Ford and Edison International are scheduled to make an announcement about a plug-in hybrid project. Although no further details are available right now, it seems likely that Ford will supply some plug-in hybrid vehicles for Southern California Edison to test in their service area. We'll keep you posted as information becomes available.

Click on the image for a gallery of high-res photos of the HySeries Drive Edge

Ford's director of hybrid programs, Nancy Gioia delivered a speech at the Automotive News World Congress, in Dearborn and revealed that Ford is considering building a plug-in hybrid vehicle. So far, Ford's hybrid efforts have been limited to the Escape/Mariner/Tribute, although a Fusion hybrid is under development and should be available some time in 2008.

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