Ford said that it is testing new technology that allows drivers to communicate with the nations electric-power grid and makes charging the batteries of vehicles as cheap and convenient as possible.
The communications system is part of a larger effort by Ford and several utilities to gauge the electricity needs of battery-powered vehicles and to prepare an infrastructure to accommodate them.
This has to be easy for the consumer, Bill Ford Jr.
, the companys executive chairman, said. This cant be an interesting science experiment.
Ford has been quieter about its electric-vehicle plans than its rival, General Motors. Just recently, GM claimed that the Chevrolet Volt, a battery-powered car assisted by a gasoline engine, would get 230 miles per gallon.
The Japanese automaker Nissan countered with a claim that its all-electric car would get more than 360 miles per gallon.
Mr. Ford said those claims were hardly relevant now, given that the soonest any of the companies would have electric cars for sale is likely to be 2011.
I certainly wont dispute their numbers, but Im not sure its totally relevant until we have a federal standard that everybody understands, he said.
Ford plans to introduce a battery-powered commercial van next year and an electric Focus compact car in 2011. The company also has a so-called plug-in hybrid vehicle coming in 2012 that runs primarily on battery power.
The company is testing plug-in hybrids in California to assess how drivers can best recharge the batteries from an electrical outlet in their home.
The main consideration is the time of day. The optimal time is late in the evening or early morning, the off-peak hours for electricity use.
Ford is adapting its existing in-car communications system, known as SYNC, to alert drivers on when to recharge. The system also communicates directly with electric grids to prepare the home for the charging process.
Fords utility partners are studying which parts of the country will have the most electric cars the soonest. Those areas include cities where hybrid cars are most popular and energy conservation appears to be a high priority.