Correction: see below.
Ford is getting back into the electric car market in a utilitarian fashion.
The automaker today will show off the Ford TransitConnect, an all-electric fleet car, at the Chicago Auto Show. The TransitConnect, coming out late this year, will drive 80 miles on a charge and hit a top speed of 75 miles an hour. Those aren't stats that Tesla Motors or Fisker Automotive would brag about, but Ford is chasing a different market. These cars will be sold to companies to be used as delivery vehicles or vans, mostly in urban environments.
In 2011, Ford will follow up with an all-electric version of the Focus, and the company plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid passenger car in 2012 that will compete against the Chevy Volt. Azure Dynamics developed the drive train, while Johnson Controls-Saft supplies the batteries.
Although Ford was one of the manufacturers that tried electric cars in the 90s before backing away from the market, the story could be different this time. The fundamental technology has improved, for one thing. The old electric cars didn't have lithium ion batteries. Additionally, Ford has come back from its near-death experience with a new-found love of economy cars and efficient manufacturing and design processes.
The shift toward energy efficiency will mean trucks and big SUVs will drop from 59 percent of the company's business to 39 percent by 2011, while cars will grow from 32 percent to 38 percent, Sue Cischke, Ford's Chief Sustainability Officer, told us back in December. On the other hand, cross-overs, which are sort of like mini-SUVs, will climb from 9 percent to 23 percent. By 2020, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electrics could make up 25 percent of all cars sold. (The majority, however, will be regular hybrids.)
Ford will also feature its EcoBoost engine, which boosts gas mileage by 10 to 20 percent, in many more cars as time goes on.
Correction: we had the wrong picture in the article earlier. Also, the vehicle will be used as a delivery van. Ford also has a natural gas taxi.