WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Ford Motor Co. on Feb. 3 revealed new details about its electric vehicle strategy, including the announcement of a new plug-in hybrid battery supplier and the addition of seven utility partners to a test program to speed the commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Ford said it has entered into a partnership with battery producer Johnson Controls-Saft to develop an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power Ford's first commercial plug-in hybrid (PHEV). At the same time, Ford said seven regional electric utility partners are joining Ford and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to conduct real-world tests on an expanding fleet of Ford Escape PHEVs.

"As we move toward greater electrification of vehicles, we can achieve much more by working together toward a common goal," said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering. "The work we are investing in today on both the vehicles and the connectivity to the nation's electric grid will pay off with real-world vehicles for customers in the very near future."

The partnerships will help Ford accelerate its electrification strategy, including bringing a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) van to market in 2010 for commercial use, a small BEV sedan developed jointly with Magna International by 2011 and a PHEV by 2012.

Ford is providing Escape PHEVs for real-world road testing to its new research and utility partners around the country, including:

-- New York Power Authority

-- Consolidated Edison of New York

-- American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio

-- Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala.; and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company

-- Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C.

-- DTE Energy of Detroit

-- National Grid of Waltham, Mass.

-- New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, a state agency.

Ford formed its first utility partnership with Southern California Edison in 2007.

EPRI, which is providing financial and logistical support for extensive new studies, formed the collaboration of utilities for the program. This allows EPRI and Ford, which first entered into a three-year agreement in March, to study regional differences and the impact on the electric grid as well as the vehicles.

"The data mined from these field tests will provide crucial information that will help us continue to make advances in battery technology, vehicle systems and customer usage," said Arshad Mansoor, EPRI vice president of power delivery and utilization. "This technical information will lead to PHEV standards that will ultimately help automakers and utilities develop an efficient, convenient infrastructure and a seamless interface between the road and the power grid."

The research into PHEVs focuses on four primary areas: battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage, and grid infrastructure. The companies also will explore the potential for stationary battery application and the value of energy storage.

"We are at the point where we need to work with the battery supply base, the utility industry and the government in order to find ways to make electrified vehicles an affordable proposition for consumers," Cischke said. "Plug-in hybrids hold great promise, but do still face significant obstacles to commercialization."

Ford was the first automotive manufacturer to partner with the utility industry in a shared effort to understand all of the issues related to PHEV technology and its interconnectivity with the electric grid.

"Bringing the seven additional utilities on board raises the program to a new level," said Mansoor. "We would expect the sharing and transfer of data among our newly expanded program will result in more robust data."

Drivers of the demonstration Ford Escape PHEV will make far fewer trips to the gas station. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg -- roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart.

A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. It is not range-limited by the amount of charge available in the high-voltage lithium-ion battery. Once the charge in the battery has been depleted, the vehicle continues to operate as a fuel-efficient, standard Ford Escape Hybrid.

Ford also announced that Johnson Controls-Saft will supply the complete battery system for Ford's first production plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) beginning in 2012.

"The battery is the critical piece of electrifying vehicles," said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of sustainable mobility technologies and hybrid vehicle programs. "Johnson Controls-Saft is one of the leaders focused on creating lithium-ion batteries for an affordable new generation of vehicles."

The lithium-ion battery system that Johnson Controls-Saft is designing and manufacturing for Ford includes cells, mechanical, electrical, electronic and thermal components. Initially, the cells will be produced at the supplier's production facility in France, but the system will be assembled in the United States. The five-year supply agreement includes delivery for committed production in 2012, with a target of at least 5,000 units per year.

"As U.S. vehicle manufacturers commercialize their hybrid programs, the industry will be best served with a qualified and robust domestic supply base," said Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls Power Solutions. "Developing and manufacturing these components here also represents a significant opportunity to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources."

As part of its electric vehicle strategy, Ford recently launched the all-new Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid, doubling volume of Ford's hybrid lineup, which already includes the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid. The new midsize hybrid cars offer fuel economy of 41 mpg city driving. The new SmartGauge with EcoGuide in the Fusion and Milan coaches hybrid drivers to maximize fuel efficiency.