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Ford's Future of EV Manufacturing

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author photo by Nick Chambers October 2011

Ford's modern electrification plan has been picking up speed since the introduction of the Fusion Hybrid in 2009, and in 2012 the company will shift it into overdrive by more than doubling its electrified car capacity and introducing three new models. The biggest part of that shift is the result of significant retooling to the Michigan Assembly Plant in order to build all of the company's new electrified vehicles under one roof.

When retooling is complete-sometime in the next month-the Wayne, Michigan plant will not only be the assembly location for the new conventional Focus, but also for the upcoming 2012 Focus Electric, 2013 C-Max Hybrid and plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi, making it one of the most versatile and flexible automotive manufacturing facilities in the world.

"We don't have a line dedicated to a particular drivetrain," said Sherif Marakby, Ford's Director of Electrification and Sustainable Mobility Programs, in an interview with AutoTrader.com. "The beauty of that is that if you all of a sudden have a spike in gas prices and demand for a particular type of vehicle rises more than expected, we can flex to meet that demand."

The four vehicles built at Michigan Assembly are based on a common architecture, so even the gas-powered versions are similar in assembly to the battery powered ones. The more similar the drivetrains the higher the degree of assembly similarity, but even so, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars all use different types of batteries in different locations, requiring some new thinking about the assembly process.

For instance, conventional hybrids need smaller high-powered, quick discharging and recharging batteries while pure electrics need large batteries that have good endurance, and plug-in hybrids need batteries somewhere in between. As a result of these different battery sizes, sometimes the batteries will be installed on the same station as the seats and sometimes they will be installed on the same station as the gas tanks-and sometimes both.

The end result: the retooled workstations will require operators to switch rapidly between different types of tasks as the various drivetrains come along the line. This is a new strategy in the automotive world and one that other electric car manufacturers, such as Nissan and Chevrolet, have also pioneered, but not to the degree Ford has.

Because Ford has invested so much in streamlining the process to meet the uncertainties of future demand, Marakby also told us that much of the electrified vehicle technology-such as battery control systems and transmissions-is being brought in house to be able to better control the flow of parts as demand dictates. In fact, by the end of 2012 most of the major components of Ford's electrified vehicles-including batteries, transmissions, and motors-will be built in the U.S., making them not only vehicles of the future, but truly American made as well.

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Ford's Future of EV Manufacturing - Autotrader