Freedom From Oil Campaign

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Rainforest Action Network Campaign Director Sarah Connolly and Global Exchange Campaign Director Mike Hudema recently commended Ford Motor Company's announcement that it would team with Southern California Edison to build as many as 20 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle prototypes by 2009.

Earlier, Southern California Edison Co. and Ford Motor Co. announced a partnership that included a multimillion-dollar test of plug-in hybrids. Plug-ins are said to be the next-generation development of the current crop of gasoline-electric hybrids.

In addition to saving gas, Ford and Edison said, increased use of plug-in vehicles would lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce American dependence on imported oil. The partnership will explore how plug-in hybrids would operate on a day-to-day basis and how they would fit into the state's electricity grid.

"We applaud Ford's bold commitment to build the first ever road-ready, consumer-class plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Consumers have been waiting a long time for an automaker to offer the next generation of ultra-fuel-efficient, gasoline-optional cars. Plug-in hybrids could very well be the key to breaking America's destructive oil addiction by giving consumers a viable alternative to the gas-guzzling cars and trucks currently clogging our roads and polluting our atmosphere," noted Connolly.

She added, "Plug-in vehicles, which use proven technology that is capable of achieving over 100 miles per gallon, make the U.S. Senate's goal of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 seem painfully conservative. We are encouraged by what appears to be a sincere effort by Ford and Southern California Edison to chip away at the auto industry's longstanding relationship with Big Oil. By being the first automaker to put a plug-in hybrid on the road, Ford is leaving its competitors in the dust."

The Dearborn automaker wants to investigate ways to bring down the cost of the vehicles, including by using an innovative technology that allows plug-in vehicles to return unused power to the grid during periods of peak demand. 'They understand the grid, we understand the vehicles and together we can figure out how to optimize the system,' said Susan M. Cischke, Ford's senior vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

The partnership is entitled to grab hold of the to open more opportunities environment- and profit-wise. Under the partnership, Ford will supply a batch of its Escape SUV hybrids for Edison to use. At a later date, it will provide plug-in versions of the vehicle to the utility for testing.

'We're taking this beyond laboratory-scale work to a systematic evaluation of its impact' on the grid, said John Bryson, chief executive of Edison's parent company, Edison International. Edison serves almost five million residential and business customers in the Los Angeles Basin and parts of the coast and Central Valley.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said earlier this year that he wanted his company to embrace 'green' technologies. Ford was the first U.S. automaker to add a hybrid to its lineup when it introduced the hybrid version of the Escape.

"Powering America's cars by electricity rather than oil will help America kick its oil addiction once and for all. Yet, despite the hope raised by today's announcement, plenty of work remains. Utilities must earnestly begin the shift away from dirty coal and toward renewable energy sources. A green grid powered by wind and sun can cleanly recharge car batteries and help tackle our twin crises of oil addiction and global warming," Hudema concluded.

The Freedom from Oil campaign is working to end America's dependence on foreign oil and end global warming issues by convincing the auto industry to radically improve fuel efficiency and eradicate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

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