Ford and Azure Dynamics today announced that the two companies would create a plug-in hybrid heavy duty truck. Using the Ford F-550 as a jumping off point, the two companies will integrate plug-in hybrid technology into first the F-550 in 2013, and then allow the technology to trickle down into the F-450 and F-350 Super Duty trucks.
Ford and Azure Dynamics have teamed up before in the past. In 2009, the two companies paired up to develop the Ford Transit Connect Electric, and managed to get it on the marketplace in just over a year. Before that, Azure and Ford have cooperated to create the Balance Hybrid Electric System for Ford’s E-450 commercial cutaway chassis. Ford/Azure E-450 hybrids use Ford’s 5.4-liter gas V-8 along with Azure hybrid technology, and are chiefly used as school buses, cargo and step vans. The PHEV F-550 will likely build off that package, but expand the technology's use into other commercial applications.
Ford’s agreement with Azure allows Azure’s plug-in hybrid technology to initially be integrated into the Ford F-550, which is only available sans bed, as a cab and chassis. While Ford and Azure were mum on what engine their new plug-in hybrid would use, a release mentions, “the agreement also allows Azure to perform hybrid powertrain conversion on other Super Duty platforms, including the F-350 and F-450 models, and spans all engine, frame length and regular production options and configurations.”
Essentially, Azure has free reign to pick and choose whatever engine it’d like for the new PHEV Super Duty truck. On the F-550, that leaves the company with the option of going with either Ford’s 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V-8 or, its 6.8-liter gas V-10. When Azure moves down to the F-450 line, Ford and Azure’s agreement leaves them with the option of integrating its plug-in technology into just the 6.7-liter turbo diesel V-8. With the F-350 line, Azure has more options again; they can choose from the same 6.7-liter turbo diesel V-8 or from Ford’s 6.2-liter gas V-8.
Given the commonality between the F-550, F-450 and F-350, we’re willing to bet that Azure will use the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel for its plug-in hybrid truck. Not only would it be cheaper for them to just develop its plug-in hybrid technology for one engine, but the nature of the diesel engine makes it better suited than a comparable gasoline engine for plug-in hybrid duty, where it essentially acts as a generator. However, with the extra power boost offered with an electric motor, a smaller, less expensive engine could easily stand in for the monster diesel and offer ample motivation, including the 6.2-liter V-8 currently offered in the Super Duty line, or potentially something smaller, like Ford's 5.0-liter V-8.
Ford and Azure didn’t go into any more detail on their new program, but that won’t stop us from speculating a bit. Besides the usage of the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel, we think that it could be a possibility that Ford and Azure includes a 240v power inverter in their new Super Duty plug-in hybrids. Inclusion of a 240v power inverter would not only allow contractors to run power tools off of their trucks, making them infinitely more useful, but it would also allow them to forgo the purchase and rental of generators at the job site. Owners of a Super Duty PHEV could use their new trucks to power electrical equipment. How cool would that be?
What would you want to see included on a Super Duty PHEV? What would a Super Duty PHEV need to have in order to draw customers away from more traditional options?