In this article from the Minneapolis StarTribune, David Morris tells the story of Ford lobbying against legislative efforts to form a task force with a nefarious goal: investigating the possibility of using the soon-to-close St. Paul Ranger plant to produce plug-in hybrid Rangers.
Morris reports that under new management (Alan Mulally, formerly of Boeing) and under pressure from competitors, Ford is rethinking their attitude toward plug-in hybrids.
GM has announced a major effort to get its new plug-in vehicle, the Volt, on the road in 2010-2012. Several dozen plug-in Priuses are on the roads in Japan, a remarkable turnaround for Toyota, a company that for years used as its tag line in Prius ads: "You never have to plug it in." The company is also developing flexible-fuel technology that could use E85 ethanol for the back-up engine.
These changes can, and should, lead Ford, the UAW and Minnesota to revisit a plan to make the St. Paul plant the basis for a new, green transportation initiative. An electricity-biofueled vehicle makes very good sense. Traveling on electricity costs about a penny a mile, compared with more than 13 cents on gas. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if every light-duty car and truck in America used plug-in hybrid technology, 75 percent could be plugged in and fueled at night by the electricity grid without the need to construct a single new power plant. Since we use very little oil to generate electricity, electric miles are essentially oil-free miles. If the backup engine were fueled by ethanol or biodiesel, the vehicle could reduce overall petroleum consumption by more than 90 percent.
Morris closes the piece with a tongue-in-cheek mixed metaphor: "The table is set. Will Ford step up to the plate?"