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Ford’s Green Strategy

Written by Brad Brewer

www.fleet.ford.com

 

"A wide range of green options"

Ford’s Green Strategy
By: Brad Brewer

 

At the 2014 Ford Fleet Show, John Vera, Ford’s Global Director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters, presented Ford’s green strategy. Vera is a straight shooter kind of a guy who speaks the truth about green technology and how Ford is introducing green technologies into its larger fleet customers. “Fleet Greening” is where larger fleets can save big while not compromising efficiency or effectiveness.

Vera made it very clear that Ford understands its customers are simply not going to pay 10 or 20 percent more up front for a greener vehicle. The customer’s expectations are clear and those expectations are “give us greener options for the same money as fossil fuels, but don’t limit our choices when it comes to product.”

Ford has listened. “At Ford we have pursued a path called ‘The power of choice.’ Instead of limiting customers to specific types of fuel, we let them have their choice of fuels and a broad range of models.”

 

Find the Right Use

Fleet customers, especially in law enforcement, know their drivers and they know where they can use green technologies and where they cannot. Even so, there are some out there who have decided to roll hybrids out as front-line patrol vehicles. Some say feedback is mixed while others report success with their projects. Keeping in mind that government fleet “greening” is largely political and often times “optics before evidence” is mantra some fleet managers are faced with.

The sticky issue for law enforcement is upfitting, adding extra police related electronic equipment and doing it safely with the newer technologies in the vehicle.

There was a clear message from Ford at the 2014 Fleet Preview and that message was that you don’t have to buy plug-in electric cars to be green; there are lots of other ways to green your fleet and the 2013/14 vehicles from Ford fully support that.

 

EcoBoost

Years ago, going green meant hybrid electric cars, and they were much more expensive than their gas counterparts. Today with EcoBoost technology, going green can simply mean ordering the same gas powered vehicle but with the newer technology and fuel conservation of EcoBoost.

Highlighting this is the transition many agencies have made from the legacy CVPI V8 engine to the current 3.7L V6 naturally aspirated engine or the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost. More power, more torque with lower green house gases, and much improved fuel savings. Some of the big U.S. fleets are reporting huge savings in fuel with this simple transition to newer EcoBoost gas-powered technology.

E85 is a capability of many non-turbo engines. For those wishing to do more, there is biodiesel fuel, which combines the traditional diesel fuel with plant-based fuel. Ford has several vehicles that run on these more environmentally friendly plant-based fuels.

 

CNG-LPG

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) burns cleaner than gasoline while pricing stays in line with current natural gas pricing as opposed to gasoline pricing. While there are conversion costs, today this is approximately a 50 percent savings over gasoline. CNG vehicles have a much larger range so the fleets with vehicles putting on high mileage would see the greatest savings. While these options might not be the best for a front-line patrol vehicle, they might be for administrative vehicles, command staff, garage or shop vehicles.

Probably the biggest fleet to take advantage of the CNG program at Ford is the taxi industry. Over the past couple years, the taxi industry has been making the transition from older gas-powered Ford Crown Victoria’s to the newer Ford Transit Connect CNG/LPG models. In Orange County, Calif. Yellow Cab has cleaned up their fleet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering their overall cost of fuel.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is similar to CNG because it’s cleaner burning than gasoline and cheaper. LPG is a little more expensive than CNG but in some areas of the U.S. it’s much more readily available than CNG. The other benefit is that the upfront conversion costs are less than CNG, therefore the payback is quicker than CNG. Again, perhaps not an option for front lines, but support staff vehicles might be worthwhile.

 

Hybrid & Battery Electric Vehicles

Electrified vehicles are probably what most people identify with green initiatives. In a fleet with lots of sedans, it makes good sense. The problem occurs when people get the terminology confused and misunderstand what each of the electronic vehicles actually can do.

Hybrid electric vehicles have a big battery and a small gas engine. The battery is charged by regenerative braking and by the engine alternator. The more you run on the battery, the less reliance on gasoline. Ford’s vehicle selection in this hybrid electric portfolio includes the Fusion, C-Max, and the Lincoln MKZ sedan.

The obvious choice for law enforcement is to introduce some of these vehicles into command staff as take-home vehicles. Not only does it make good sense economically, but politically there are huge “optical” benefits with command staff showing leadership with hybrid electric vehicle deployments.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are also a consideration for law enforcement but in select areas like school liaison, community services, or information technology services that make short trips within the city and don’t mind the shorter-range limitations. At a cost of around $1 a charge, the vehicle can run for 20-25 miles without using the gas-powered engine. After that, the vehicle operates like a hybrid. The Fusion and C-Max both offer plug-in models.

Battery electric vehicles are probably the most efficient pure electric vehicles as there is no gas-powered engine to fall back on. Each charge gives about an 80-mile range and costs around $3. When the charge gets low, you just plug it in. This is a great option for law enforcement officers who know they won’t drive more than 80 miles a day. Unfortunately, the realities of emergency vehicle use may make a limited range vehicle unattractive given the fact that often times these vehicles must be used for alternative response to emergency situations.

 

Fusion Energi

For law enforcement the “go to” hybrid of choice is the Ford Fusion Energi. The Fusion Energi is very different from the Fusion Hybrid. The Energi is one of two plug-in hybrids from Ford. The Energi promises a 621-mile total range (gas and battery combined), with an mpg-e rating of 108/92/100 Hwy/City/Combined (in full electric mode). 
Sitting squarely in the midsize sedan segment, the Fusion Energi offers up good looks, plenty of space, and outstanding fuel efficiency numbers; something much of its competition has yet to do. 

The engine in the Energi is a 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I4 gasoline good for a combined 195 horses, coupled with an Electronic Continuously Variable (e-CVT) transmission. On a full charge (less than three hours to fully charge), the lithium-ion battery pack in the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi could potentially take you up to 21 miles in battery mode alone; however, much depends on driving style and other influencers along the way. 

Thanks to the e-CVT, in full EV mode the power delivery is smooth, silky and silent.  The 2.0L will kick on if you push the throttle to the floor hard enough (like for passing on the highway). However, once you are under 85 mph, the gas engine will shut off and you are back in battery mode, provided you have the charge. 
The price of the Fusion Energi is where reality sinks in. The Energi has an MSRP around $39,000, which is on par with its competition, the Chevrolet Volt. State and federal incentives may affect the final price depending on your location.

 

Ford Transit (not TransitConnect)

Also available for law enforcement is the all-new Ford Transit, not the Transit Connect, but the larger Transit, which will replace the E-Series vans. The 2014 Ford Transit is a full-size van with unmatched fuel economy combined with excellent payload capacity of 8,600 to 10,360 pounds.

The key to the new Transit is Ford has given the customer more choices than any other competitor when it comes to customizing the vehicle for the user’s particular needs. The Transit has up to 487 cubic feet of storage and can remarkably accommodate a 6-foot, 8-inch person standing straight up. For law enforcement, the Transit is a great option for prisoner transport vehicles.

The Transit comes in regular 130-inch wheelbase with an optional larger 148-inch wheelbase. Chassis cab and cutaway models are offered in three frame lengths: 138, 156 and 178 inches. The Transit offers a line of three available proven engines: 3.7L Ti-VCT V6, 3.5L EcoBoost V6, and 3.2L I5 PowerStroke Turbo Diesel. The 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 is E85 flex-fuel capable. The Transit also comes with a CNG/LPG gas-engine prep kit package, for those fleets that already have those facilities available.

 

Software Tools

Ford Fleet Operations has some very interesting software tools that are designed to assist big fleets with an appropriate purchase plan. The software tools will automatically recommend a vehicle selection based on your particular fleet requirements matched against fuel prices in your region, environmental considerations, and the lowest cost of ownership.

Ford offers a broad range of green options. Fleets don’t have to be locked into a plug-in Hybrid with limited range, or one particular type of fuel. The future is diversity and the options available have never been greater than now. Even if hybrids aren’t an option for your fleet today, the message is clear—try replacing the older vehicles in your fleet with newer EcoBoost technology. The savings in fuel and reduced environmental impact will surprise you.

 

Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at sgt1411@gmail.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2013

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