Ford Teams up with Azure for F-Series Hybrids
by Jason Giacchino
Let’s face it, when we think of plug-in hybrids, the first image that typically springs to mind is an egg-shaped subcompact car destined for a life spent in the paved driveway of a suburban home. A pickup truck loaded with a bed full of concrete, kicking up clouds of dust on the way to the work site has been traditionally the domain associated with internal combustion, but all that’s about to change.
Azure Dynamics ““ developer and producer of hybrid electric and electric components and powertrain systems for commercial vehicles ““ have partnered with Ford to integrate its proprietary plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology in the market-leading F-Series Super Duty series.
This collaboration will begin with the F-550 Super Duty cab and chassis, and is expected to be available in early 2013. But the collaboration doesn’t end with the F-550. Azure will also perform hybrid powertrain conversions on other Super Duty platforms, including the F-350 and F-450, spanning all engine, frame length and regular production options and configurations. The Super Duty line has established hordes of loyal customers throughout the years, many of whom are already pretty stoked about the performance benefits associated with the new PHEV option.
“As interest in alternative energy products continues to grow, consumers are looking for more powertrain options that are both environmentally friendly and fit their driving needs,” said Rob Stevens, Commercial Vehicle Chief Engineer for Ford Motor Company. “The flexibility of our vehicle platforms and chassis allows Ford to develop our own alternative fuel products or work with partners, like Azure Dynamics, to deliver consumers with the power of choice when purchasing a greener, more fuel efficient vehicle.”
With more than a 50 percent market share, the Ford F-Series Super Duty is the most established cab and chassis brand in the North American market. The commercial cab and chassis industry supports approximately 100,000 vehicles per year and is the preferred active work-truck for thousands of commercial fleets managing a broad range of logistical needs. The Super Duty offers several diesel and gasoline engine options and a variety of cab, bed and accessories options. Interest in fuel-efficient cab and chassis alternatives has never been greater due to rising and unpredictable fuel costs.
It is expected that the cab and chassis market could grow by as much as 50% over the next five years as fleet operators, who have delayed purchase decisions, return to market to replace aging inventory.
And in the reasoning that history tends to repeat itself, keep in mind that Azure and Ford teamed up in 2009 to bring the innovative Transit Connect Electric to market in just a hair over a year after the program was first announced. The new PHEV F-Series program further expands the Azure/Ford business relationship.
Obviously Ford thinks there’s a market for big electric haulers. What do you think? Voice your opinion here!