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Ford's Commitment to Energy and Climate Change Heats Up

September 2007, by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

On March 14, Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally presented congressional testimony detailing Ford’s position on energy security and climate change. During his presentation to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Mulally also highlighted some of Ford’s future plans to address these issues.

Mulally stressed Ford’s commitment to the deployment of advanced, innovative technologies to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles. According to Bob Holycross, manager, Vehicle Energy Planning and Compliance Department, Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering, Ford’s plan is already beginning to show results.

“There is no one silver bullet solution” to producing fuel efficient vehicles, said Bob Holycross, Ford manager of vehicle energy planning.
Ford Strengthens Dedication to the Environment
Ford has always been a leader in the discussion of global climate change. The manufacturer was the first company in its industry to publish a report on the business impact of climate change. And since 1999, Ford has reported on sustainability — the triple bottom line that addresses environmental, financial, and societal impacts. And when gas prices spiked after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Ford Chairman, Bill Ford, called for a “national dialogue” to seek solutions that address U.S. energy security. Today, Ford is more committed than ever to helping secure America’s energy future and climate change.

“Ford has long acknowledged the importance of climate change and recognizes its potential impact on the environment, the economy, workers, and society,” Holycross said.

He added that the cost of mitigating man-made carbon emissions varies significantly depending on the source, but that Ford will do its part to achieve the most economically efficient solutions possible.
Lowering CO2 Emissions Key to Climate Change
The transportation sector produces about one-third of the nation’s CO2 emissions, about one-fifth of which comes from cars and trucks. Ford realizes that reducing CO2 from cars and trucks will be an important element of any energy security and climate change policy.

Ford also recognizes that an effective policy must consider an integrated approach — a partnership of all stakeholders that includes the automotive and fuel industries, government, and consumers.

“We need more efficient vehicles, but we also need lower carbon fuels and consumer incentives to adopt these technologies,” Holycross said. “Within the transportation sector, the government must reconcile decisions affecting fuels, vehicles, and travel demand to achieve the twin goals of reducing carbon emissions and securing our energy future.”

Ford supports federal incentives that encourage the production, distribution, and use of low-carbon, affordable renewable fuels and FFVs capable of running on renewable E-85 ethanol. And Ford’s analysis shows that the most cost-effective solutions to lowering the CO2 emissions from vehicles must be a combination of biofuels and vehicle technology advancements.

In addition, future developments in technologies, ever-changing markets, consumer demand, and political uncertainties require flexible solutions, according to Holycross.

“The business strategies that Ford implements, and the public policies that we encourage, must have the flexibility to meet a range of potential scenarios,” he said. “All scenarios will call for reduced CO2 emissions, but within that broad expectation is a host of possibilities.”

Ford Challenges Engineers to Improve Fuel Economy

Ford continually challenges its engineers to improve fuel economy through weight reductions, improved aerodynamics, optimization of accessory loads, and more efficient transmissions.

“No one can predict if the powertrain of the future will be hydrogen, biofuels, battery electric, advanced diesel and gasoline, or some combination of these technologies,” Holycross said. “There is no silver bullet solution, and that’s why we are involved in so many development paths — sometimes with unique partners.”

One example of Ford’s out-of-the box solutions is its recently announced partnership with Southern California Edison. The collaboration includes accelerating the development of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles.

“This technology has the potential for breakthrough fuel economy improvements while diversifying our transportation energy supply,” Holycross said.
Ford Produces Alternative-Fuel Vehicles, Including Hybrids
Ford’s willingness to participate in finding solutions to environmental issues remains steadfast. The manufacturer has invested significant money and resources into the research and development of innovative vehicle technologies.

“We are developing a range of advanced technologies that improve fuel efficiency and diversify vehicle fuels away from petroleum, including hybridelectric, flexible-fuel vehicles, clean diesel, hydrogen internal combustion engines, hydrogen fuel cells, and advanced gasoline engines,” Holycross said.

In fact, Ford produced the first American-made full hybrid-electric vehicle on the road — the Ford Escape Hybrid. The company has also expanded its hybrid lineup to include the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute hybrids, and will continue to grow its offerings with the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrid-electric vehicles.

In addition to hybrids, Ford believes that greater use of renewable low-carbon fuels such as ethanol (E-85) will help address climate change, while also reducing reliance on foreign oil.

Ford has been building flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) for more than a decade, and has placed more than 2 million FFVs on America’s roads.

“FFVs are a great alternative for our customers because they provide an option to choose between E-85 and gasoline as desired,” Holycross said. “The problem right now is that everyone who wants an E-85 can’t get it. Only about 1,100 of the nation’s 170,000 retail fuel stations offer E-85, and most are in Midwest states.”
Ford Commits to Doubling FFV Production by 2010
Last summer, Ford — with GM and DaimlerChrysler — voluntarily committed to doubling the production of FFVs by 2010. In November, Ford expanded that commitment to include half of its vehicles produced each year by 2012, provided sufficient amounts of ethanol and enough retail facilities are available to support consumers operating their vehicles on E-85.

To further support consumer access to ethanol, Ford has helped open 50 new E-85 stations in the nation’s first ethanol corridor, allowing FFVs owners to drive from Chicago to Kansas City and back — a distance of 1,700 miles — fueling exclusively with E-85.

Ford also recently introduced the Ford Escape Hybrid Electric E-85 demonstration project that combines two petroleum-saving technologies — hybrid-electric power and E-85 flexible-fuel capability.

“Though there are many technical and cost challenges to address, we believe that if just 5 percent of the U.S. fleet was powered by E-85 HEVs, oil imports could be reduced by about 140 million barrels or 6 billion gallons of gasoline each year,” Holycross said.

Clearly excited about the role of renewable fuels, Ford believes renewable American-grown fuels have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions and the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. While today’s ethanol made from corn can reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 25 percent, tomorrow’s cellulosic ethanol can increase this percentage to about 85 percent, the company says.

“Ford will continue to do our part in producing FFVs and improving vehicle fuel efficiency,” Holycross said. “We support increasing passenger car CAFE standards to maximum feasible levels and reforming the CAFE structure, similar to the light truck reform, which set standards based on size or footprint.”

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