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Ford leads in hybrid durability

Ford's hybrids are racking up the miles virtually problem-free, both at the hands of consumers and fleet drivers.

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Ford is out to prove the reliability of its hybrid drivetrains in vehicles like the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid, noting that the Ford hybrid taxi fleet in California has collectively logged more than 80 million miles, four times that of the Toyota Prius fleet. As further testament to the durability of Ford hybrids, Ford claims that out of 43 million battery cells either tested by Ford or put to use in consumer vehicles, only five have had problems. "Ford's battery technology is so strong, the odds of experiencing an issue with one of our hybrid battery cells is around 8.5 million to one - about the same odds of a person being struck by lightning twice," according to chief engineer of Ford hybrid and electric vehicles Chuck Gray.

Ford currently uses nickel-metal-hydride batteries in its hybrid drivetrains, now in their second generation, making them 23% lighter than the first iteration. The next step is moving to lithium-ion batteries, like one would find in a cell phone or laptop computer. "The lithium-ion battery not only saves us weight and precious space, it's more efficient," according to Gray.

Ford's electric motors that power the hybrid vehicles have fared even better, having been 100% trouble-free, according to Gray. "With nearly 190,000 produced, we have zero motor failures." General manager of Yellow Cab taxi company in San Francisco has Ford hybrids in his fleet, and was surprised at how they're holding up. "They're incredibly durable. We have these taxis on the street for about 21 hours a day; we take them off from about 3am to 6am." "The guys drive about 10 to 12 hour shifts - at about one-third of their previous gas consumption."

Ford will be using this development data to introduce five new 'electrified' vehicles in the United States by next year. Joining the Transit Connect Electric commercial van which arrived last year, Ford will be rolling out the Focus Electric this year, and the C-MAX hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid next year with the new lithium-ion battery packs.

For now, the Fusion Hybrid has been achieving customer satisfaction numbers like a 91% overall vehicle quality score, as well as outselling its gas-powered counterpart in California at nearly two to one, since it went on sale late in 2009.

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