With Ford nearly ready to launch a handful of electrified vehicles in the U.S., the automaker is looking to build street credibility for its existing hybrid models. That's why, at a recent media event, Ford compared the performance durability of its hybrid vehicles to segment leader Toyota.
Chuck Gray, chief global engineer of Ford's hybrid and electric vehicle group, says that, of the 43 million battery cells the automaker has tested or put in its production vehicles, only five (!) have failed. That means the odds of experiencing a failure in one of Ford's hybrid battery cells are 8.5 million to one, or about the same as someone being struck by lightning twice. Furthermore, Gray notes that of the 190,000 hybrid vehicles built by Ford, zero motor failures have been reported thus far.
The automaker draws upon data obtained from real-world tests to evaluate the performance and durability of its hybrid vehicles. Ford says its fleet of "high-mileage, extreme-usage" hybrid taxis have logged more than 80 million miles in California alone over the past 10 years – a number that's more than quadruple the miles logged by all of the Toyota Prius taxis in The Golden State. Of course, worldwide sales of Toyota's hybrid vehicles make Ford's gas-electric production numbers seem minuscule, but anyone who is worried about the reliability of a Ford electric should feel a bit relieved here.
[Source: Ford | Image: Copyright Sam Abuelsamid / AOL]
Ford Fusion Hybrid customers are the most satisfied hybrid owners and are experiencing remarkable quality performance
Fusion Hybrid achieves 41 mpg city – 10 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid – which is helping attract 75 percent of customers from competitors, the highest conquest rate of any Ford vehicle
Ford's battery cell reliability, the subject of much customer interest, has been tested around the clock in high-mileage, extreme-usage hybrid taxis around the country – including more than 80 million miles of operation in California, quadruple the Toyota Prius' service
Ford introducing five new electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and Europe by 2013
DEARBORN, Mich., July 21, 2011 – The Ford Fusion Hybrid is America's most fuel-efficient sedan and may be the highest-quality hybrid based on hundreds of millions of worry-free miles its owners have traveled.
Ford's hybrid taxi fleet has logged more than 80 million miles in California alone during the past decade – more than quadruple the number of miles logged by Toyota's Prius lineup. Yet, among the nearly 43 million battery cells Ford has tested or seen put to work in customer vehicles, only five issues have been documented.
This impressive quality record has surprised taxi operators who expected to experience more issues as they led the adoption of Ford's patented hybrid technology. The Fusion Hybrid, which a leading consumer magazine rated America's most reliable sedan of any hybrid or conventional model, also has taken hold with customers who give it a 91 percent "overall vehicle quality" score compared to 80 and 71 percent for the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima hybrids, respectively.
The Fusion Hybrid's success is affirmed by the 2010 U.S. Global Quality Research System (GQRS) report that tracks initial quality and was conducted for Ford Motor Company by RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
"Ford's battery technology is so strong, the odds of experiencing an issue with one of our hybrid battery cells is around 8.5 million to 1 – about the same odds as a person being struck by lightning twice," said Chuck Gray, chief engineer, Global Core Engineering, Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. "Ford understands that for new technology, reliability can be a concern for customers, so we work extra hard to deliver a trouble-free product."
Customers are noticing the strong performance, too. The Fusion Hybrid is delivering a 75 percent conquest rate, bringing more new buyers to the brand than any other Ford vehicle.
The durability and longevity of batteries – which Ford has been developing and testing since the 1980s – is essential as the company expands its electrification plan, building on its leadership with five new electrified vehicles arriving in North America by 2012 and Europe by 2013.
"Our customers have put hundreds of millions of miles on our hybrids with virtually no powertrain issues, which is a testament to the quality of our batteries," Gray said. "We have checked the battery life simulations with test data and with real-world customer vehicle data, and now we're applying that knowledge to make the customer experience in our future products even better."
Fusion Hybrid amps up customers
The Fusion Hybrid hit the streets in 2009 with a leading 41 mpg city rating, 10 mpg more than the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Since then, the car has wowed customers from coast to coast – leading to a hybrid-best customer satisfaction rate of 88 percent compared to 80 percent for Prius from 2009 to 2011, according to GQRS.
According to Ford internal customer data, Fusion Hybrid has changed the game in other ways. It has:
Helped increase Ford's favorable opinion among hybrid intenders by 20 percent between 2009 and 2011
Achieved nearly double the percentage of sales in California compared to the gas-powered Fusion (15 versus 8 percent) and attracted more than double the number of customers with postgraduate college degrees than the conventional Fusion (39 versus 17 percent)
The role of the hybrid battery
Ford currently designs its hybrid electric vehicles with a high-voltage nickel-metal-hydride battery. The current product represents a second-generation battery design that is 23 percent lighter than the first generation.
To achieve higher fuel efficiency, Ford's Powersplit technology system uses two motors and a simple planetary gearset to create an electrically controlled, continuously variable transmission that allows the use of the most efficient operating points of the engine and motors. To date, Ford's Powersplit technology has received more than 200 patents.
"The electric motors are another great story," Gray said. "With nearly 190,000 produced, we have zero motor failures."
At Yellow Cab in San Francisco, General Manager Jim Gillespie can't say enough good things about the Ford Escape Hybrids as well as the Fusion Hybrids that make up more than half of his fleet. In a year, he said, his drivers will put about 80,000 to 90,000 miles on a vehicle.
"They're incredibly durable," he says. "We have these taxis on the street for about 21 hours; we take them off from about 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.
"We have them in stop-and-go traffic, heavy traffic, going up and down these hills. There was a fear at first that they wouldn't be able to take it. But they've been great. The guys drive about 10- to 12-hour shifts – at about one third of their previous gas consumption."
A highly efficient future
Ford's decades of battery research has laid the groundwork for taking the next step in battery durability – moving from the larger, heavier nickel-metal-hydride batteries to even lighter, more powerful lithium-ion batteries.
"The lithium-ion battery not only saves us weight and precious space, it's more efficient," said Gray. "We need that increased capability so it can drive the vehicle much longer."
Electrification is an important piece of Ford's overall product sustainability strategy. Ford's aggressive strategy includes five new electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013.
Ford launched the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010 and in addition to Focus Electric later this year, will introduce C-MAX Hybrid, a second-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid in 2012.
Ford has invested billions in researching and developing new, fuel-efficient engines, transmissions and electrified vehicles, even during the depths of the economic downturn, when competitors dialed back product spending. Today, Ford Motor Company has 12 vehicles with best-in-class fuel economy and four models returning at least 40 mpg – a claim no other automaker can match.
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.