Car buyers and renters around the globe have wondered about this for years: Why are the cars Ford makes for Europe better than the ones in the U.S.?

For one thing, the company had two design teams, said John Viera, director of sustainable business strategies for Ford, who visited Greentech Media's offices this morning. Ford, however, has decided to streamline its design teams. Therefore, those European Fords will start to appear in the U.S. later this year (see Ford Outlines Fuel Economy, Electric Car Plans to Feds).

Not all European Fords will come to these shores. Diesel is a big part of the fleet in Europe – Ford even sells a Focus that can get 65 miles a gallon. Diesel cars cost more, however, and diesel costs more than gas in the U.S. than it does in Europe. Thus, the payoff takes a long time in the states. Emissions standards are stricter in the U.S. 

"We don't see the migration to diesel in the U.S. like we've seen it in Europe," he said.

We will publish more on the interview with Viera in the future, but here are some tidbits now:

  • The automaker's carbon dioxide emissions are down 45 percent since 2000. Granted, Ford has also shut down plants. But the emissions are also down 24 percent per unit, he said. A substantial portion of the reduction comes from minor tweaks: installing more efficient lights, changing some manufacturing procedures.
  • One of the more interesting ways to curb electricity in the manufacturing plants is a fuel cell that runs on captured VOCs from the painting operations.
  • Ninety-eight percent of Ford's carbon dioxide footprint comes from cars, not operations. "So our huge focus is on improving the efficiency of our cars," he said.
  • Electric cars will initially be sold to fleet owners, in part because fleet owners can and will make the economic calculations that can justify the higher prices.
  • Watch out for EcoBoost, a direct injection/turbocharging technologies for gas engines. It improves gas mileage by 20 percent. A V6 EcoBoost engine can provide the performance of a V8 while an EcoBoost four-cylinder does what a regular V6 can do. Ford refers to the process of downsizing the drivetrain.
  • Like Aptera and Bright Automotive, Ford is putting a huge emphasis on aerodynamics and lighter materials to improve mileage. The less a car weighs, the less energy it needs to move down the road (see The Aptera Hits the Streets and Electric Car Test Drive Round Up). "I'm talking taking out 500 to 700 pounds," he said. "As you take out weight, you can even downsize [the engine] further."
  • The company continues to work on hydrogen in case anything dramatic happens. But, "you're not going to see volumes of hydrogen vehicles until after 2020 or 2025," he said.