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It’s Electric

June 27th, 2009

Ford LogoAs reported by autobloggreen, Ford intends to once again become profitable in part through vehicle electrification.  This, of course, isn’t exactly earth-shattering news: the major (and many not-so-major) automakers have been making a lot of announcements regarding powertrain electrification (i.e., hybrids, PHEVs, and EVs) in the past year or two.  And, given that they’re a business, we can sort of assume that they intend to be profitable (though, not many automakers have done such a good job of that lately).  Still, this caught my eye since it is the first time I’ve noticed “electrification” and “profitability” being mentioned together.  Hopefully, it’s not merely lip-service being paid to the DOE as a result of Ford’s recent award of nearly $6B in loans through the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program.

I for one think vehicle electrification is inevitable, and that it’s a good thing.  The hard part is energy storage: batteries have come a long way, but in most scenarios, they’re still too expensive to make electrified vehicles economically competitive with traditional internal combustion alternatives.  (Disclaimer / Advertisement:  I recently wrote an academic paper evaluating costs for automotive Li-ion batteries.)  I’m hopeful that this won’t always be the case.  Others are more skeptical.  (One such skeptic, at least with regards to Li-ion batteries, once criticized a presentation I did at Rocky Mountain Institute.  He did, at least, confess to being an “unrepentant critic of Li-ion batteries,” as well as a former executive and current shareholder in several major lead-acid battery companies…)

In any case, it will be interesting to see how well the electrified vehicles that we’re currently being promised fare as they start appearing on showroom floors.

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