DETROIT -- Within 10 years, Ford Motor Co.'s global sales will be cast in green -- but the shade of green is yet to be determined, one of the company's top engineers said today.
By 2020, up to 25 percent of Ford Motor Co.'s global sales volume will be a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, said Nancy Gioia, director of global electrification for the automaker.
She said the figure could also be as low as 10 percent. Demand is uncertain because the technology is changing rapidly. For example, the range of electric vehicles in five years is uncertain, she said, and consumer acceptance of hybrids and electrics is a work in progress.
Gioia is certain, though, that the price of batteries for electrics will continue to fall and that their energy density will increase. A Ford Fusion Hybrid now costs consumers about $3,500 more than the equivalent standard Fusion.
She spoke today at the Automotive News Green Car Conference and Exhibition in Detroit.
In the next three years, Ford will introduce at least five new vehicles with lithium ion batteries, Gioia said. The company will launch an electric version of the Transit Connect small van next year and a Focus electric in 2011. And in 2012, Ford will introduce a plug-in hybrid and its next-generation hybrid powertrain.
By 2020, she expects hybrids to account for about 70 percent of Ford's electrified vehicles. Plug-ins will be about 20 to 25 percent, with pure electrics accounting for the rest.
Now, about 2 percent of Ford vehicles are electrified -- either hybrids, plug-ins or electrics.
While government purchase incentives are important, the size of the market for electrified vehicles will be determined by customers voting with their dollars, she said.
“We want to be sure that we make a good first impression” on customers with Ford's hybrids and electrics, Gioia said. Few people are willing to accept “trade-offs in performance and price. Ninety percent are willing to pay a bit more for an electric.”
She said the No. 1 concern that customers have about electrics is their range. The second biggest concern is how many years the battery will last.
Ford is making hybrid and electric versions of its high-volume vehicles to cut costs. Asked if electrified vehicles need distinctive styling to sell, Gioia said early adopters like different styling. But once the market for electrics reaches 1 to 2 percent of the market, a different look will be less important, she said.
She declined to say whether Ford is planning a hybrid or electric with distinctive styling. Analysts say the unique design of the Toyota Prius has helped sales.
Through 2013, Ford will spend about $1 billion on manufacturing, research and other areas to produce electrified vehicles, she said.
Gioia has worked in various product-development positions at Ford. She was chief engineer of the Ford Aeromax Class 8 truck line and the 2002 Ford Thunderbird program. She also directed engineering for all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury passenger cars in North America.