April 4, 2007 / 5:35 PM / in 11 years

Ford developing a plug-in hybrid - exec

NEW YORK, April 4 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. (F.N) is working to develop a plug-in hybrid vehicle, product chief Derrick Kuzak said on Wednesday, adding that the biggest challenge is developing the battery technology.

Speaking to reporters at the New York International Auto Show, Kuzak said the automaker is working on advanced battery technology for the vehicle.

“The battery technology is one of the biggest challenges,” Kuzak said. “There is also the problem of infrastructure. When people start driving electric cars, where will the electricity come from? That has to be looked at.”

Unlike current gas-electric hybrids, which use a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, plug-in cars could be driven entirely by electric power. But no automaker has a plug-in on the road yet, due to a host of barriers.

Rivals Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. (7203.T), which leads the market in hybrid sales, and General Motors Corp. (GM.N) are also working on lithium-ion battery technology for plug-in hybrids.

Battery technology is the key to next-generation vehicles as automakers seek ways to lower the cost of batteries and increase their power and storage capacity.

GM has said its plug-in would be able to drive 40 miles on pure electricity.

“Some automakers are saying 40, but we are saying 20 to 25 miles ... to offload the battery (give it a rest) and potentially make it more affordable,” Kuzak said.

((Reporting by Jui Chakravorty, editing by Richard Chang; Reuters Messaging: jui.chakravorty@reuters.com@reuters.net; +1-313-967-1903)) Keywords: AUTOS FORD/PLUGIN

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