Ford Motor Company is considering the production of a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Although they've made no commitments yet, they have expressed a "keen" interest in the idea, and would most likely focus on their Escape hybrid to create a plug-in, or PHEV. When questioned at the company's recent stockholder meeting, CEO Bill Ford said that plug-in hybrids are being actively explored. "We have nothing to announce today, but yes, we are keenly looking at it," he said. A Ford rep. also told Green Car Congress at the recent LOHAS convention in Santa Monica, CA that "the message [about plug-in hybrids] is coming through loud and clear." One of the leading plug-in advocacy groups, CalCars, has beseeched Ford to reduce its dependence on the sale of gas guzzlers and offer plug-in vehicles, most recently in an open letter to the automaker. Ford, it seems, has been taking these suggestions seriously and has allowed CalCars to meet with "top business and technical executives" since last November to discuss a fleet of plug-in Escapes that CalCars has offered to build. The non-profit has asked for no money or resources, only the automaker's blessing to go ahead with the retrofits. Ford has also delegated green architect/designer William McDonough, who has been extensively coaching Ford on sustainability, to work with CalCars on the Escape project. CalCars representatives and U.C. Davis Professor Andrew Frank, who has been working on plug-ins since the '70s, found themselves in Washington D.C. last week to educate lawmakers about the benefits of cars that can be plugged in. The LA Times quoted Judy Biggert, Republican of Illinois and chair of the House science subcommittee on energy, as responding: "To think that you could pull into your garage at the end of the day and 'fill 'er up' just by plugging your car into a regular 110-volt socket in the garage is very appealing." Lamar Smith, Republican Rep. from Texas, responded by saying that he would propose grants of $250 million for battery research and the development of a demonstration fleet. Austin has already shown itself to be an early adopter of plug-in technology.
Although several plug-in conversion kits (Hymotion and E-Drive) are now available, no automaker has yet stepped forward with plans to offer a plug-in option and it remains to be seen whether Ford will take a leadership role in this emerging field. Some see this as an opportunity for the company to regain lost ground in the U.S. market. :: Autoblog and LA Times (Image credit: Hymotion and The Auto Channel)