MILWAUKEE– A test fleet of Ford Escape plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) is on the road today. Powered by lithium-ion batteries from Johnson Controls-Saft, the demonstration fleet will examine the future of PHEVs as part of a complete vehicle, home, and grid energy system. The fleet is the result of an ongoing collaboration among Ford, Johnson Controls-Saft, Southern California Edison (SCE), and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

"This fleet demonstrates a major step forward toward validating plug-in hybrid vehicle technology," said Mary Ann Wright, who leads the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture and is vice president and general manager of Johnson Controls' hybrid battery business. "PHEVs, which have the ability to drive an extended range on electric-only power, can significantly reduce emissions and improve fuel economy."

The 20-vehicle fleet will be tested first in California by SCE and later by other utilities in the New York/New Jersey area, to help determine regional differences in vehicle usage and performance, as well as how PHEVs will affect the electric grid system and associated infrastructure requirements. The first unit was delivered to California in December; additional units will be on the road in June.

The outcome of the fleet will help to continue to address barriers to commercialization, including cost, technology validation, and strategies for charging the vehicles.

"PHEVs have great promise, but we are still working to fully address all of the technical and business challenges that stand in the way of commercialization," said Nancy Gioia, director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies at Ford. "Ultimately such vehicles must provide real value to consumers, utilities, automakers, and suppliers."

The research and analysis of the demonstration fleet will include data from four primary areas: battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage, and grid infrastructure. The analysis will also explore possible stationary and secondary usages for advanced batteries. The combined expertise of the partners in this project — Ford, Johnson Controls-Saft, SCE and EPRI — is designed to advance a greater understanding of a vehicle, home and grid energy system.

Johnson Controls-Saft is a joint venture that has brought together Johnson Controls with Saft, an advanced energy storage solutions provider with extensive Li-ion battery expertise.