Ford's Mulally gets warm reception at CESFri, 07 Jan 2011
Ford CEO Alan Mulally introduced the Focus electric at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show on Friday in a presentation that was short on details about the car and long on cures for range anxiety.
That's partly because Ford is saving details about the car for next week' Detroit auto show, and partly because range anxiety figures to be a major reason for all but the most committed customers to avoid electric vehicles like the Ford Focus electric.
Mulally managed to avoid using the term, but said Ford is confronting range anxiety head-on.
“We could've acted like a car company, introduced an outstanding new electric vehicle, and called it a day,” he said. “But we're more than a car company, we're a technology company,” he said--a line that drew warm applause from a CES audience.
Today's presentation was Mulally's third year in a row as a CES keynote speaker. In his first appearance, Ford's Sync communications and voice-control system made Ford a hot brand among the techno-geek crowd. Last year, Ford added in-car Internet connectivity. This year's headliner for Ford was the MyFord Mobile app.
MyFord Mobile will allow Focus Electric drivers to use their smartphones to remotely monitor and control vehicle charge levels; plan single- or multiple-stop journeys, with an eye on locations for the nearest charging stations; and pre-heat or pre-cool the car, for optimum battery performance.
Many of the new features and displays inside the car coach EV drivers to get the greatest possible range, and virtually reward them for good performance. For instance, the more fuel-efficient the driving style, the more blue butterflies appear in an in-dash display.
“The automobile is the all-time mobile device, and we want to be the automobile ‘app' of choice,” Mulally said in a Jan. 6 interview in Las Vegas before the speech.
“There's a convergence between consumer electronics and the car. There's a whole ecosystem that goes with the electric vehicle. It's more than just the car. It's part of a system-wide solution,” he said.
“Can you imagine all the applications being developed now, that will go with the electric vehicle?” Mulally said.
At CES, Mulally was preaching to an eager choir. There are suppliers here for every aspect of EV ownership, including recharging stations and apps for managing recharging.
As previously announced, Mulally said Ford will introduce five new models by 2012 that are either EVs or updated hybrids:
-- Ford Transit Connect Electric; a battery powered delivery van that was already introduced in 2010, in extremely limited quantities;
-- Ford Focus Electric, later this year. Ford is doling out the details on the Ford Focus Electric next week at the Detroit auto show.
-- Two hybrids in 2012 to be named later, updated with longer-range, better performing lithium-ion batteries.
-- A plug-in hybrid in 2012. Speaking of the Ford Escape, Ford already has a test fleet of 21 Ford Escape plug-in hybrids.
By Jim Henry