Today In Ford History--feb. 3
On Feb. 3, 1992, Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison took delivery of five battery-powered Ecostar minivans—part of a pilot fleet of 80 small utility vans that would log almost a million miles in North America and Europe over the next 30 months.
The test vehicle was based on Ford’s European Escort, a small, front-wheel drive panel van known for high payload, capacity and functional ability. Regenerative braking helped to recharge the car’s 770 pounds of sodium-sulfur batteries. Similar to the type Ford invented in 1965, they were considered superior to conventional lead acid batteries.
As in Chicago, most were tested by utilities or other commercial fleets operating in cities, where constant on-off, stop-and-go driving would provide the best test for battery-powered electric vehicles.
As the Ecostars logged about a million miles, Ford learned that in order to improve efficiency it was necessary to streamline the battery control system, the braking system and the powertrain. The vehicle also needed to be lighter and the convenience of the conductive charging system needed to be improved.
The high cost and limited range of current battery technology limits their appeal to customers. But Ford remains the leader in electric vehicle pilot programs, including a contract to provide the U.S. Postal Service with up to 6,000 delivery vehicles based on the Ranger EV pickup.
Knowledge from Ford pilot programs will begin to gradually show up in Ford showrooms. Later this year, for example, Ford’s Escape Hybrid Electric Vehicle will go on sale, providing fuel economy of nearly 40 mils per gallon in city driving as the SUV switches seamlessly between gasoline and electric power.