Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ford Motor Co.: Green or Greenwashing?

Ford Motor. Co. has a long, albeit mixed history of developing greener vehicles. Their strategy appears to focus on offering more choice to consumers than their competitors. Ford started working on cleaner vehicles in the 1990's when they explored air-hybrid cars, but they abandoned the plan because they lacked the necessary technology to move forward with the project. Around 2005 while the company was selling large volumes of gas guzzling SUV's Ford was simultaneously making big promises about delivering greener cars. However they failed to live up to their promises.

Ford now offers a wide range of vehicles in a number of different classes. Their lineup includes everything from large horsepower combustion powered engines to fully electric engines and everything in between.

In 2008, while other American automakers were on life support Ford moved forward without a government bailout (although they did benefit from the government's Cash for Clunkers program more than the other US car makers).

For the last few years Ford has enjoyed considerable success. In 2010, Ford swept the North American Car and Truck Awards, marking only the third time in the 17-year history of the award that a single automaker has claimed both titles.

Ford has radically increased the number of fuel efficient vehicles it offers including a number of hybrid and electric vehicles.  They have dropped their over-sized SUVS such as the Excursion, (which only got around 12-14 mpg highway and 8-10 mpg city) and they have divested themselves of some of their less ecologically friendly brands such as Aston Martin and Land Rover.

Ford is working hard on research and development, effectively doubling their battery-testing capabilities as part of a $135 million investment aimed at speeding up the development the next generation of electrified vehicles. They have invested in a massive building called the Ford Advanced Electrification Center, where more than 1,000 engineers work on cleaner vehicle technology. Ford has invested an additional $220 million to transform Van Dyke Transmission into an operation capable of producing Ford’s new hybrid transmission.

According to the company’s 2011 corporate sustainability report, Ford has reduced the amount of energy needed to produce each vehicle that it manufactures by 10 percent from 2010 to 2011, and by 22 percent in the last six years. Ford has announced plans to further reduce energy usage by another 25 percent on a per-vehicle basis by 2016, based on 2011 levels.

Ford reduced the average amount of water used to make each vehicle by 8.5 percent between 2011 and 2012, putting the company more than halfway toward its goal of using an average of 4 cubic meters per vehicle globally by 2015. In addition to cutting its own consumption, Ford says it supported several water-related projects across the globe. Since 2000, Ford has reduced the amount of water it uses in everything from cooling towers to parts washing and paint operations by 10.6 billion gallons, or 62 percent. The company's Global Water Management Initiative puts in place ways to manage water conservation, quality and reuse of storm and process water.

In 2011 Ford had five electrified vehicles (Focus Electric, C-MAX Hybrid, C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid). Ford offered eight vehicles rated 40 mpg or better in 2012, and as of 2013 they offer more vehicles with this minimum fuel rating than any other US manufacturer.

As of 2013 Ford has tripled its electrified vehicle production capacity and grown its electrified vehicle lineup to six models. Ford is ramping up production of its fuel efficient EcoBoost engines. the company expects to be producing 1.6 million such engines annually as of this year. Ford is also making hybrids more affordable saying it will reduce the cost of its current hybrid system by 30 percent from its previous generation system.

In fact according to Greenercars Ford has some of the greenest vehicles in the world including Focus Electric and the Ford Fusion Hybrid / C-Max Hybrid.

On the one hand Ford has more green vehicles than any other American manufacturer. however, greenercars also reports that Ford has six vehicles in the top 12 worst vehicles for the environment list (Ford F-350 FFV, Ford F-250 FFV, Ford E-350 Wagon, Ford F-150 Raptor, and Ford E-250 Van).

While offering such a wide range of vehicles, Ford is trying to be all things for all consumers. But by providing greener vehicles alongside gas guzzling behemoths Ford is vulnerable to being convicted of greenwashing in the court of public opinion.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

Related Articles
Ford Motor Co.: Green or Greenwashing?
Ford Motor Co's Waste Reduction Efforts
Volkswagen's Sustainability Efforts Include the World's Most Fuel Efficient Car
The Greenest Vehicles of 2013
Meanest Vehicles for the Environment in 2013
Volkswagen's Sustainability Efforts Include the World's Most Fuel Efficient Car
The Electric Tesla S is Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 2013
Toyota and Tesla Making Electric S

No comments: