Ford's electric vehicle project jump-started by Magna

Tom Ludwick
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Last year, Ford started talking to Canadian automotive supplier Magna International Inc. about the possibility of collaborating on an electric vehicle project. Little did Ford know that Magna had already purchased a new Ford Focus and was in the process of creating an EV of their own.

In September, Magna shocked Ford executives by driving the Focus EV to Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Four months later, Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. announced that the companies would team up to create a production vehicle based on the Focus EV concept.

Since then Ford's electric vehicle program has been charging forward. When gas prices hit $4 a gallon, the automaker started preparing scenarios that may result if the price were to go even higher. Shortly thereafter, project M was born: the plan to work with Magna to bring an all-electric vehicle to the market by 2011.

Ford possesses the technology. While GM has been in the spotlight with its Volt plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) concept, Ford has been running its own PHEVs around its Dearborn test track. Last summer the plug-in hybrid team was jolted to life when they were told that they would start work on a production model that would go on sale in 2012.

The team is currently testing a plug-in version of the Escape Hybrid. It can travel up to 40 mph with its electric motor before the gas engine is needed to give it a boost. The test vehicles are reportedly averaging 70 mpg on the freeway and 120 mpg in the city.

However, PHEVs have the cost and complexity disadvantages of having two powertrains. That is why Ford is perusing an all-electric vehicle. It will be based on the 2010 global Focus platform and will offer a range of 100 miles.

Project M will benefit Ford raising its corporate average fuel economy and thus balancing out its higher emissions vehicles. The project will benefit Magana by placing it on the cutting edge of electric vehicle technology. Ted Robertson, the company's technology chief has noted that his company will be able to produce most of the components for Ford's electric powertrain in-house. In fact, Magna could even build the entire vehicle themselves, if Ford allowed it.

Source: The Detroit News

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