LAS VEGAS -- As the showpiece of his third consecutive keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Friday, Ford Motor Company Chairman and CEO Alan Mulally carried out an extended informercial for an all-electric Ford that foreshadows for the American driver what he called a "holistic vehicle ownership experience" that will be part of an "electrified lifestyle."
In unveiling the all-electric Ford Focus, Mulally acknowledged that America's need for energy independence and concerns about global warming are "where the world is heading." Despite doubts from many Congressional leaders who insist that climate change is overblown or an outright "hoax," Mulally gladly endorsed the environmental goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. to below 450 parts per million. He challenged other carmakers to keep pace with Ford or be left behind in a cloud of 20th-century fossil-fuel exhaust.
Mulally said that Ford is committed to producing cars --whether fueled by gasoline or powered by electricity -- that are "not only green, but high-quality, safe and smart."
As explained by Derrick Kuzak, group vice president for global product development at Ford, the company expects to have five different electric cars on the market by 2012. In the longer term, he said, Ford plans for its fleet to be 10-15 percent electric -- including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles -- by 2015, compared to one percent today. He added that Ford's EcoBoost technology in conventional gasoline-driven cars is designed to save up to 30 percent in mileage and cut carbon emissions as much as 15 percent.
As Mulally and crew detailed more and more features of their electric Focus, it became clear that -- at least in early iterations of "electrified" motoring -- the cars will be fairly high-maintenance, if only out of the necessity to keep track of power drain on batteries whose range is still 50-100 miles.
Among the methods to carry out this surveillance is something called MyFordTouch, a driver-car interface that appears on the Focus' elaborate dashboard. Among the items arrayed before the driver, described by Ford's Director of Electrification, Sherif Markby, are Ford's Sync entertainment and telecommunications system, a constantly updated Vehicle Health readout, in-car WiFi, a push-button starter and MyFordTouch. The latter device's biggest job is to keep up to the moment on the power level and driving range of the car's 23 kilowatt-hour lithium battery.
Markby added that the battery's job of saving power gets help from other features of the Focus, which include aerodynamics, lightweight wheels and low-rolling resistance tires, LED tail lamps, smart vehicle controls and regenerative braking that reclaims as much as 94 percent of energy normally lost during braking.
Markby said that Ford's big difference is that, using a specially-designed 6.6 kilowatt charger in a 240-volt outlet, the Focus recharges in just about three hours, twice the speed of current competitors.
Of course, the question was, when an electric Focus owner isn't using the home charger that comes with the electric car (and is, Ford claims, really easy to install), where does he go to get juice? The bad news, according to Mike Tinskey, Ford's Manager of Global Electrification, there aren't many places to go. Right now, in the United States, there are only 1,800 publicly available charging stations, most of these in California.
The good news. said Tinskey, lies in Ford's -- and other carmakers' -- commitment to building an infrastructure for electric vehicles. Within the next 18 months, he said, some 12,000 charging stations will be popping up in cities throughout the U.S., all of them pin-pointed on the mapping system being built into Ford's electric cars as well as on parallel software on the MyFordMobile smartphone application.
MyFordMobile, as explained by Ed Pleet, manager of product development for connected services, is essentially the MyFordTouch dashboard display transferred into a driver's phone, allowing the driver to track the car's power level, manage the re-charging process and map out -- through a Ford alliance with MapQuest -- every road trip in advance. It also allows remote start-up. It has a car alarm, a car locator and diagnostics on the car's condition. It even tells the driver how many gallons of gas he hasn't used because his car is electric and how many pounds of carbon the car has not spewed into the atmosphere.
By the end of the keynote presentation, Ford CEO Mulally, wearing his trademark red sweater-vest, had made his point: "We are plugging in the Ford Motor Company."