Ford explores plug-in electric potential

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Ford Motor Company recently announced a three-year agreement to develop and evaluate technical approaches for integrating plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) into the nation's electric grid system, a key requirement to facilitate widespread adoption of the vehicles.

EPRI will form a collaborative of utilities in the New York-New Jersey area that will test Ford Escape PHEVs. Subsequent trials will be conducted with customers of the participating utilities. Ford, which is also working with Southern California Edison (SCE), is the first automotive manufacturer to partner with the utility industry to facilitate advancing PHEVs. The new EPRI-Ford program will build on the ongoing Ford-SCE partnership and help determine regional differences in how the operation of PHEVs will impact the electric grid system.

"EPRI brings our collaborative efforts related to the potential of plug-in electric vehicle technology to a new level," says Nancy Gioia, director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies at Ford. "PHEVs have great promise, but still face significant obstacles to commercialization, including battery costs and charging strategies. Ultimately such vehicles must provide real value to consumers."

The eight-speed transmission

This section has previously reported on the topic of automakers that are moving beyond the basic four-speed automatic transmission. gain as reported, Lexus seems to be at the forefront with its eight-speed transmission. As the New York Times recently explained, gaining even a small edge over rivals in the luxury-sedan league is a challenge. "To thump its class competitors, Lexus whipped up an eight-speed automatic transmission for the 2007 LS 460 models (the same automatic is also fitted to Lexus's 2008 GS 460 and 2009 IS-F models). A wider spread of ratios between first and eighth gears yields quicker acceleration, quieter cruising and slightly better gas mileage."