Ford launches hybrid test fleet with JCI-Saft batteries

Ford Motor Co. said the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture will supply batteries for a 20-vehicle test fleet of plug-in Escape Hybrid SUVs that will arrive in California by the end of 2009.

The first vehicle of the test fleet arrived at a California utility company in December. Ford declined to name the battery supplier at that time.

Nine more vehicles are scheduled to ship to the California utility by year end. The remaining 10 vehicles will arrive by the end of 2009.

The fleet will be tested there and later in the New York/New Jersey area. Ford said that move will help determine if any regional differences in vehicle performance exist.

“Plug-in hybrid vehicles have great promise, but we are still working to fully address all of the technical and business challenges that stand in the way of commercialization,” Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of sustainable mobility, said in a statement Monday.

Johnson Controls Inc., of Milwaukee, supplies interiors, electronics and batteries to the auto industry. Saft SA, of Paris, is an industrial battery supplier.

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