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Ford targets alternative-fuel technology

Keywords: Tags  Ford Motor, alternative fuels, natural gas, electric battery, hydrogen, clean energy, lightweighting, William Clay Ford Alan Mulally

CHICAGO — Ford Motor Co. sees promise in new battery technologies and the use of liquid and compressed natural gases as fuel, even though there are obstacles to the widespread adoption of such alternatives.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker introduced six new electric vehicles (EVs)—including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and a pure battery electric vehicle—last year, president and chief executive officer Alan Mulally said during Ford’s annual meeting.

Shareholders asked how Ford was going to partner with energy producers to advance compressed and liquefied natural gas technology and whether the company was out in front promoting hydrogen fuel cell technology.

"We’ve invested a significant amount of money in the electrification of our fleet," executive chairman William Clay Ford Jr. said. "We understand very acutely that one of the barriers to adoption is the lack of an infrastructure so (customers) can feel comfortable knowing that they can charge their vehicle(s) almost regardless of where they are. This is something we’re spending a lot of time on. We’re working with energy providers to try and make this (widespread use of alternative fuels) happen."

Fleets have been the first to adopt alternate-fuel vehicles, in part because commercial vehicles can accommodate larger gas tanks than light vehicles, Ford said. Natural gas is less dense than gasoline and requires more space.

The widespread adoption of alternative fuels will require "an integrated solution" involving policymakers as well as business, Mulally said. However, Ford will "continue to improve the internal combustion engine, direct fuel injection, turbo charge and EcoBoost, (resulting in a) tremendous improvement in fuel mileage and reduction of carbon dioxide."

Mulally also said battery technology is likely to advance as "new chemistries" are discovered, making them a "more efficient and affordable" option.

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