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A Green Piece Column

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Is Ford now the green car leader? The Green Piece

Tuesday 29 June 2010. The Green Piece Column
Think green cars, and much like The Vapors 30 years ago, you’re probably “turning Japanese”. From Toyota’s groundbreaking Prius, to Honda’s wealth of hybrids, Mitsubishi’s innovative i-MiEV and Nissan’s plans to be the first to mass produce an electric car with the LEAF, it seems that the rest of the world is simply playing catch up.
However, now one of the most renowned names in motoring appears to be making up for lost time in the form of American car making giant, Ford.
Putting the ECO into driving
Ford first made its mark in the green car sector with a number of flex-fuel vehicles that offered customers the chance to drive cars with bio-ethanol blends ranging from 15-85 per cent. From there, in 2007, it introduced the ECOnetic range of vehicles with the aim of providing drivers who value low emission vehicles with an easy reference point.
The ECOnetic range takes traditional internal combustion engine Ford vehicles and packs them with a host of environmentally friendly features – from low-resistance tyres to aerodynamics kits, and from auto stop-start to smart regenerative braking. The Ford Focus ECOnetic is one of the most notable success stories in the range, offering efficiency up to 74.2mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 99g/km. Similarly, Ford has introduced ECOnetic versions of the Fiesta (76.3mpg, 98g/km); the Mondeo (53.3mpg, 139g/km); the Ford Transit (39.2mpg, 189g/km); and the Ford Fiesta Van (76.4mpg, 98g/km).
Ford goes electric
Though initially pouring its expertise into creating some of the cleanest cars with traditional combustion engines, Ford has recently embraced electrification revealing plans for an array of new battery powered vehicles.

In Europe, Ford will introduce five full electric or hybrid vehicles by 2013 (see article) including a Ford Transit Connect electric vehicle, a Ford Focus Electric and two additional next generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid car. It has also stepped up its support for electric car infrastructure by forming a consortium with Strathclyde University and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) in the UK to introduce a fleet of Ford Focus electric vehicle prototypes; while in Germany it has participated in the Cologne-Mobil project to research the impact of electric cars. Its efforts were even been backed by the previous UK Government with £360million to be provided in loan guarantees to support the development of electrified Ford vehicles in the UK (see article).
In the US, Ford is already selling hybrid versions of the Fusion and the Escape and also has plans to introduce a Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (see article). It has further announced an investment of $135million into the development of next generation hybrid electric vehicles (see article) and has declared the launch of five new full electric or hybrid vehicles in the compact, midsize and light commercial segments in the North American market by 2012. This line-up includes: a Transit Connect electric light commercial vehicle in North America later this year; a Focus electric in 2011; the Lincoln MKZ hybrid, available this autumn; as well as a next-generation hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle based on Ford’s global C-car platform in 2012.
In fact, Ford is now hoping that 10-25 per cent of its vehicle line-up will be powered in some way by electricity by 2020 (see article); and it has recently awarded a major contract to Toshiba (see article) to supply its electric drive motors.
One step beyond…
You might think that while Ford’s efforts are to be applauded it is only in keeping with the moves being made by the bulk of the auto industry. However, where Ford appears to have gone the extra mile is by not only focusing on making the fuel used to power its vehicles as green as possible – but by also making the vehicles themselves green too.

Just last week it was revealed that the 2011 Ford Explorer would use soy foam in its seat cushions and seat backs (see article) with Ford now featuring bio foam in more of its vehicles than any other manufacturer. Indeed Ford has made a commitment to using recycled and eco-friendly materials (see article) including recycled resins for underbody systems; recycled yarn for seat fabrics; wheat straw reinforced plastic for third row storage bins; and repurposed nylon carpeting.
It has also vowed to increase its use of recycled paper (see article) and has joined a water conservation project to reduce global water use (see article).
Our verdict
It’s not often we devote a Green Piece Column to a single auto manufacturer, but Ford’s recent efforts to go green are worthy of high praise.
The company has enjoyed massive hybrid sales gains in the US, is well positioned to be among the early pace setters in the electric car sector and its extra efforts to use green materials and to embrace other environmental campaigns are commendable. It may still be trailing its Japanese rivals on name value in the green car sector, but Ford’s staunch commitment to this new era suggests that one of the oldest names in the auto industry is going to be at the front of the pack for a long time to come.
Faye Sunderland

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Car Manufacturers fall in love for a greener future. The Green Piece

Tuesday 15 June. The Green Piece Column.
The highly competitive world of car manufacturing isn’t exactly the environment in which you’d expect relationships to be formed. However, since car making has gone green it seems manufacturers are lining up to be each other’s BFF.
Last week, Swedish manufacturer Saab declared its intention to find a ‘partner’ to help develop a new premium small car (see article) expected to be a throwback to the original Saab 92 launched in 1949. Ford too has indicated that it would be open to considering green car partnerships (see article). However, while Saab and Ford may have only just posted their lonely hearts ads, there are a host of manufacturers that have already declared their love for one another with green cars being the aphrodisiac that’s igniting these new romances.
Here we take a look at the industry’s hottest couples… LINK

Saab seeks partner to build new small car

Saab’s new owners are planning to produce a new small, green car, according to news agency Headlineauto.
The Swedish firm’s new boss, Victor Muller told the agency in an interview that he was looking for a new partner to help develop a new premium small car for the brand.
Muller wants to put the new model, known as the Saab 92, into production in 2013 but to make the project viable the company needs a partner to share engines, platforms, technologies and even electric vehicle and hybrid expertise. The new model could help to widen the brand’s appeal and make it more competitive in a market increasingly focused on reducing emissions.
A number of potential partners have been looked at, but the Saab chief said that one had “identified us”.
Speaking to the Fleet Street Motoring Group at a lunch in London, Muller did not reveal the identity of the partner but said it was important that “they can deliver what we need rather than Saab having to use what it’s given. Every decision is now taken on the basis of how best it serves us.”
In terms of design the car will not be a throwback to the original 92 launched in 1949. “It will never be retro, that just demonstrates a lack of imagination, but it will embody all that was good in the original – an upmarket, premium small car,” he said.
Muller has already come up with his own design vision for the new 92 but he insists that he is not a car designer.
“I’m a lawyer turned crazy who likes to design my own cars and have some sort of influence.”
Saab was sold by General Motors (GM) to sports carmaker Spyker back in February, 2010. Since then, the firm’s new management led by Spyker’s CEO, Mr Muller has been planning a future for the Swedish brand, known for its large, premium vehicles.

Ford: open to considering green partnerships

Ford is open to considering a green tie-up after Renault-Nissan and Daimler announced a partnership to develop greener cars last week, it has been revealed.
In an exclusive interview with Reuters news agency, Executive Chairman, Bill Ford Jnr, said the carmaker was cautiously open to the idea of making a similar deal.
He told the news agency at the sidelines of Fortune Brainstorm Green conference: “We are always open to it but I think we will be careful before we jump,” adding “You always go into the joint venture with the premise that you will save money and save manpower, and our experience often has been that it does neither.”
The agency speculate on Ford’s reason for caution; believing that the recent sale of Volvo to China’s Geely for $1.8 billion may have something to do with it. The carmaker made a huge loss on the sale having paid nearly $6.5 billion for the Volvo back in 1999.
Ford is still engaged heavily in developing electric vehicles but according to Reuters, its Executive Chairman is not yet convinced that battery-powered vehicles will be the dominant response to tougher fuel efficiency and emission standards.
“It’s too early to declare the winners and losers,” he told reporters. “Certainly, we are betting heavily on electrics.”
Adding: “I am really energized by the fact that we are really at the dawn on a new age in the auto industry.”
Read the full article on Reuters.com
The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler announced last week they would exchange company stakes and collaborate to share development costs and technologies in producing new alternative fuel cars and fuel efficient fossil-fuelled cars (see story).

Renault-Nissan bids to take over another automake

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is already making significant in-roads into the electric vehicle market – and now it may be about to become an even greater force in the market.
The company has submitted a letter of intent to acquire South Korean automaker Ssangyong Motor Company with a Renault spokesman informing Dow Jones newswires that its bid is one of six that have been shortlisted by the company. Ssangyong selected six bidders to conduct due diligence so they can decide whether to submit binding bids next month.
A senior Nissan official commented that Ssangyong has the industrial capacity that could be used by the Alliance to feed the strong demand in South Korea and other fast growing markets in South East Asia despite the fact that it has been under court-led bankruptcy protection since early 2009 after suffering cashflow problems.
Ssangyong Motor is currently South Korea’s fourth largest car maker.

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About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

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