Fuel Efficiency Highlighted at Power of Choice Tour

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

By Kathy Chaffin
CHARLOTTE — Ford Motor Company’s national “Power of Choice” tour made a stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum here November 17, highlighting its new fuel-efficient lineup – including a selection of electric vehicles – and offering attendees a chance to test drive some models.
The Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition of the Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG) partnered with Ford in bringing the event to Charlotte. Jason Wager, community and regional planner with CCOG and coordinator of the coalition, spoke at the presentation attended by about 45 people. Among those represented were officials from the cities of Charlotte and Gastonia, Piedmont Natural Gas and several surrounding Ford dealerships.
Wager said what has happened in fuel efficiency technology over the past few years is nothing less than a revolution. “This has completely changing how we do business as a society.”
It could never have happened, he said, if Ford and other vehicle manufacturers had not stepped up and begun developing the technology necessary to lessen the United States’ dependence on foreign petroleum and offer customers more fuel-efficient choices.
Barbara Rodgers, Ford’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Strategy Lead, reviewed driver habits from Charlotte and the United States before introducing the fuel-efficient choices coming up in the United States in 2012 and Europe in 2013. The manufacturer’s research team found that fuel efficiency is the most important factor people from all areas consider in buying a vehicle.
Seventy-six percent of Charlotte area and national drivers surveyed said an electric vehicle would fit their families’ needs. However, Rodgers said almost half of the Charlotte area drivers and more than half nationally were comfortable with having a car with limited driving range.
Sixty-one percent of drivers surveyed nationally who expressed an interest in electric vehicles said gas prices would have to be at $5 to $6 a gallon before they would purchase one.
Rodgers said Ford built its Power of Choice offerings on three main pillars: “consumer choice; technology and innovation; and reduced cost and environmental impact.”
The manufacturer currently offers 12 vehicles with best-in-class fuel economy, 13 of which get 30-plus miles per gallon. “This includes the Edge and the Mustang,” she said.
In addition, Ford offers four vehicles which get 40 or more miles per gallon. They include the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Ford Fiesta SE with SFE Package and the Ford Focus SE with SFE Package.
Rodgers said small cars make up 25 percent of the vehicle sales being made today on a national level, with the percentage higher in more metropolitan states such as California, where 30 percent of vehicle sales are small cars.
Ford’s top selling vehicles in the showrooms today are the Focus and the Fiesta. “In October, Fiesta sales were up 7 percent ….” she said. “Focus sales about doubled a year ago in California, and we’re up almost 50 percent in New York City.”
The manufacturer’s offerings include such technologies as the EcoBoost(TM) Engine(36), which combines gasoline-direct injection with turbo charging to boost fuel economy by up to 20 percent with up to a 15 percent reduction in CO2 emissions.
Other fuel-efficient offerings were developed using flexible fuel technology, more commonly known as flex fuel. These vehicles are fueled by E85 fuel, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Rodgers said more ethanol is produced and used in the United States than the amount of oil imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined. “Between 2006 and 2010 model years,” she said, “Ford delivered on its pledge to double the number of flexible fuel vehicles produced in the United States.”
The manufacturer’s electrification plan includes hybrids, which feature a gasoline engine and a battery to power the vehicle and all-electric vehicles which are powered by a high-voltage powered battery and can be charged with a 110-volt outlet or Ford’s 240-volt residential charging unit.
By 2020, Rodgers said Ford’s goal is for hybrid and electric vehicles to make up 10-to-25 percent of its vehicle fleet.
Natalie Tindol of Tindol Ford in Gastonia said customers used to come into dealerships knowing that kind of vehicle they wanted. “Now they want choices,” she said, “and they want to look at a lot of different vehicles to see what fits their lifestyle the most.”While most people don’t want to compromise their lifestyles, Tindol said they do try to select vehicles which get higher gas mileage – which is better for their pocketbooks and the environment.  “Like the Fiesta right there,” she said, “that is one of our hottest vehicles, and the Fusion Hybrid and the Escape Hybrid we’re selling now.”
 “The truck customers are going crazy over the EcoBoost(TM) engine,” Tindol said, which boosts their gas mileage by about 20 percent. “It’s not 40 miles per gallon like small cars would get, but for a truck pulling and hauling, it’s excellent.”