When news of a Ford F-150 hybrid truck circulated in 2014, company officials were unwilling to discuss much in the way of details or timelines. One year later, Ford CEO Mark Fields confirmed in an interview with NPR that development of a hybrid F-150 was indeed in the works and could yield a finished product by the end of the decade. Fields said that industry regulations and the finite oil supply made higher levels of electrification “necessary” in the coming years.
“Well, we do have plans to have a rear-wheel drive hybrid truck [by] the end of the decade,” Fields said in the All Things Tech segment. “So yes, we’re working on electrified F-series, and it’s really around a conventional hybrid.”
NPR’s Ari Shapiro pressed Fields on the sustainability of the automaker’s manufacturing plants around the world in light of the deal struck in the Paris Climate Change Conference. On the question of when Ford plants would reach net zero emissions, Fields would not commit to a date, but he stressed the company’s efforts to grow would be handled “as environmentally sensitive as possible.”
Turning out an electrified version of America’s best-selling vehicle would be a bold step toward emissions reductions. Full-size pickups like the F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Ram 1500 feature the worst fuel economy specs of any top-selling vehicle. Along with the GMC Sierra, these four trucks will sell close to two million units in 2015.
On the hybrid and electric vehicle front, sales continue to hold down a tiny subsection of the market. Cheap gas prices are likely to keep these numbers low.
How would a hybrid F-150 move the needle in terms of emissions reductions? Even pushing the economy of a pickup to 25 miles per gallon would represent enormous progress. A fueleconomy.gov comparison between the F-150 (2.7-liter), Ram EcoDiesel (3.0-liter), and Chevy Colorado (2.5-liter) for the 2015 model year reveals the impact of this small shift.
Ram’s diesel pickup (24 miles per gallon combined) uses 37.8 gallons fewer per year than the most economical Ford pickup (22 miles per gallon combined). If Ford could push economy up by two miles per gallon with a hybrid, the shift could represent seven million gallons of gasoline saved if 25% of F-150 buyers (190,000) switched to hybrids for just one year of sales.
(As things stand, the Ford F-150 has lower emissions at 407 grams CO2 per mile than the Ram at 425 grams CO2 per mile with the higher economy quote because of the diesel factor.)
Of course, Ford’s sustainability efforts go far beyond automobiles in development. The automaker’s mobility experiments are aimed at keeping unnecessary cars off the road (through car-sharing) as well as cutting down on unoccupied taxi time (through ride-sharing).
Taken as a whole, Ford’s efforts in lessening environmental impact involve a balance between regulation, demand, and the technology at hand, something EV chief Mike Tinskey stressed in his Autos Cheat Sheet interview. By 2020, when Ford could have its hybrid F-150 ready, conditions for an electrified pickup truck may be ideal.