GE to buy 2,000 Ford plug-in hybrid vehicles

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Tue Nov 20, 2012 – General Electric Co. will buy 2,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles made by Ford Motor Co. for its corporate fleet, the companies said on Tuesday.

As part of the deal for the Ford C-Max Energi vehicles, the automaker said it would jointly market GE’s alternative fuel infrastructure technology, including charging stations and natural gas fueling stations, to its commercial buyers.

The agreement is Ford’s largest plug-in electrified vehicle fleet sale to date.

GE, the largest U.S. conglomerate, has set a target to convert half of its global fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. The purchase from Ford brings the number of such vehicles in GE’s fleet to more than 5,000, compared with its goal of 25,000.

In May, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said people might be disappointed in the adoption rate of electric vehicles, but his company would continue investing in battery technology to reflect its confidence in them.

Electric vehicles carry an expensive battery and typically cost more than a conventional vehicle of similar size. Sales of such vehicles thus far have been modest and below some initial expectations.

GE and Ford also said they would work with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to study GE employee driving and charging habits, with the goal of improving all-electric driving and charging performance.

Study findings will be shared with commercial customers to provide insights and help facilitate deployment of electric vehicles in their own fleets.

The C-Max Energi, which sells for nearly $30,000 after a federal tax credit, went on sale last month. It can drive about 21 miles in all-electric mode before a gas engine kicks in and gets the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon as rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ford, Dow to explore carbon fiber use in high-volume vehicles

DETROIT, Thu Apr 12, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. and Dow Chemical Co. will work to develop cost-effective ways of using carbon fiber in high-volume cars and trucks as the No.2 U.S. automaker moves to cut vehicle weight to improve overall fuel economy.

The joint venture with Dow Automotive Systems mean Ford could start using components made from advanced carbon fiber composites in its vehicle lineup before the end of this decade. Dow Automotive is a unit of Dow Chemical.

Weight reduction is one way for automakers to boost the efficiency of their fleets in anticipation of rising oil prices and stricter fuel economy standards for upcoming model years.

By 2020, Ford aims to cut between 250 pounds and 750 pounds from its new cars and trucks, partly by using lighter materials. Shedding that weight will reduce the strain on the vehicle’s engine, allowing it to wring out more miles per gallon.

Lighter materials can also help Ford improve the range of its electric and hybrid vehicles on a single charge.

“Reducing weight will benefit the efficiency of every Ford vehicle,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technical officer. “However, it’s particularly critical to improving the range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.”

The Obama administration said automakers would have to boost the average fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by the 2025 model year.