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Ford's Mulally: Smart grid allows 'endless possibilities' for automotive industry

Ford's Mulally: Smart grid allows 'endless possibilities' for automotive industry

Posting in Energy

"The possibilities are endless" for a smart grid-enabled automotive future, says Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Plus, his thoughts on EVs, inductive charging and ditching your keys for good.

While the New York International Auto Show was in town, our friends at Engadget sat down with Ford chief executive Alan Mulally to talk shop, the future of transportation and why the company

A few interesting tidbits emerged from Mulally's conversation with editor-in-chief Tim Stevens. The highlights, below.

What's going to drive the cost down:

Today, the best chemistry looks like Lithium-ion. We're working on new compounds going forward that have a chance to not only store more capability but also be able to charge a lot faster, plus operate even more efficiently in cold and hot temperatures. I think this battery innovation and technological advancement is going to be so important. What we're all looking for is a systems solution, where you can actually use the battery to store the electricity on the off-peak hours, move it between your home, power station and car and manage that use of energy. Once we get to that place, we'll really drive down the cost of the car.

On getting rid of your keys:

Technically, that is not very far away...one thing we found is that, given multiple ways to access your car, either from the outside with keyless entry or from the fob inside...but I think your point about having an integrated life...that intersection between connectivity and the vehicle is going to be very, very integrated.

On fuel:

I think we're going to see electricity probably be the choice for energy, probably even before we see hydrogen. It wasn't many years ago where the advances we were making in fuel cells with hydrogen, that we could see maybe a hydrogen infrastructure...I think clearly, because of the cost and infrastructure issues, we're going to see a lot more emphasis now on an electrified future that includes not only the generation of electricity but also enhancements in the distribution system. The car is one node.

On inductive chargers on highways:

The possibilities are endless. Once you move to a smart grid and [get] the ability to access the electricity, you can just imagine all the possibilities.

On the future of EVs:

Our thought is it could be as much as 20 percent [market share] in the next 10 to 15 years. It will really be dependent on how fast we fully develop the infrastructure to how quickly we make improvements to the battery...we've got to get the costs down.

On the car as a mobile app for safety:

We use phase-ray antennas now on the back of the car -- so we have one on each side -- and so the age-old problem of pulling into a parking spot in the mall, cars on either side, trying to back out -- the only one that knows you're coming out is the person that's sitting across traffic. And now, once you're five inches out past the cars on each side, the phase-ray antenna is looking down five car widths wide telling you if someone's coming the other way. Plus you've got a camera.

On the big picture:

The biggest thing we're going to see different is integrated life, where we are connected to our digital world where we don't have a different life inside our car as outside our car.

The full 12-minute chat, below:

Interesting stuff. What do you wish the car of the future had inside?

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure