The UCF community got the chance to see a Ford first in electric cars. Florida’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle built by Ford Motor Company made its debut on campus Tuesday.

Ford, Progress Energy, Orange County and UCF presented the PHEV Ford Escape for a public showing and test drive.

Greg Frenette, manager of Global Electrified Fleets for Ford Motor Company, spoke about the future of electric vehicles and the company’s part in it. “Electrification is not just some passing fancy or trend,” Frenette said. “It’s where we’re headed. It’s where we’re placing our money, our investments and our research.”

Fernette said the prevention of global warming is something that Ford needs to play a part in, and that’s one of the major motivations behind creating battery electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles and PHEVs. “We’re not debating whether global warming is a reality,” Fernette said. “We think it is, and we think the automotive industry, Ford in particular, has a role to play in helping to minimize CO2 emissions.”

The PHEV Ford Escape shown after the presentation contained a 10 kiliwatt-hour lithium-ion battery that charges for six to eight hours. After charging, the battery provides enough power for 30 miles of blended electricity.

When the battery power is depleted, the car switches to hybrid mode, which has a fuel efficiency rate of up to 120 miles per gallon.

Fernette said that the company doubled their hybrid offerings this year with the introduction of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, both vehicles HEV. “It really set out a new standard for hybrid electric vehicles in the industry,” Fernette said.

Ford will be releasing a BEV small utility vehicle called the “Transit Connect” this year and next year plan on releasing a full BEV mode Ford Focus.

The day’s reveal also brought out Rob Caldwell, vice president of efficiency and technology for Progress Energy, President John Hitt and Richard Crotty, mayor of Orange County.

Crotty said that the idea of plugging your car into your home electrical outlet for less than a buck on full charge is going to appeal to a lot of people. Crotty then proclaimed Tuesday, March 2 as Progress Energy and Ford Motor Company Plug-in Hybrid Electrical Vehicle Day.

Christopher Hamilton, a graduate electrical engineering major, came out to look at the PHEV Ford Escape. Hamilton said he thinks electrical cars will become popular. “Right now, this is the most immediate technology,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of other technologies out there that haven’t made enough progress. As renewable energy becomes more and more apparent, it makes technologies like this more realizable.”

Jordan Toor, a junior information technology major, also attended the showing and said that he sees electric cars becoming a trend in the future. “They will change the way our energy dependence works,” Toor said. “A lot of technology has to go into the cars, not just research. It’s definitely innovative.”

John Chen, professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said that consumers may have concerns that the cost of the battery is too high, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. “I think that Obama’s goal of having a million hybrid vehicles on the road in the U.S. by 2015 is a realistic and tangible goal,” Chen said. “It doesn’t mean it will happen easily, but that’s a goal we can shoot for.”

Source: Central Florida Future, Ford showcases green, electric cars at UCF, by Tamra Martin. Published: Tuesday, March 2, 2010, updated: Tuesday, March 2, 2010