By DOUG CAMERON
The head of Ford Motor Co. said the auto industry is focused
on expanding the use of engines powered by compressed natural
gas, creating a potential clash with the US chemical
Alan Mulally, chief executive, outlined the alternative fuel
technologies being pursued by Ford during a town hall meeting
at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., late Wednesday,
having earlier in the week flagged the high cost of batteries
for all-electric cars.
Ford is exploring a range of alternative fuel sources including
gas and biofuels, and Mulally said the "majority" of its
electrified autos would use hybrid engines, with a move towards
plug-in models and all-electric vehicles.
The next big one that's coming now is natural
gas," Mulally said.
The potential expansion of the gas-powered auto
fleet in the US will be watched warily by chemical makers.
Cheap natural gas from fast-growing shale gas fields has
given them a competitive advantage over overseas rivals that
they are loath to see eroded by competing auto demand.
Andrew Liveris, chief executive of Dow Chemical, has warned
that any mandated use of compressed natural gas in passenger
cars would wipe out the cost advantage enjoyed by US chemical
Liveris said in an interview in February that the chemical
industry could co-exist alongside wider use of natural
gas for transportation, but suggested it was best suited
for trucks and urban transit rather than passenger cars.
With auto makers are trying to improve the cost and
efficiency of batteries.
Mulally repeated remarks made in a speech in California that
the battery for its Focus electric car cost between $12,000 and
$15,000 apiece, raising the list price well above the $22,000
it charges for the gasoline-powered version.
Another avenue being explored by Ford is hydrogen-fueled
electric vehicles, though Mulally said there was still much
work to be done on the battery and fuel-cell technology.
"We haven't given up on hydrogen," he said.
Dow Jones Newswires