Can the full-size pickup go from being a gas-guzzling behemoth to the poster child for environmental efficiency? A new partnership teaming up Ford and Canadian-based Azure Dynamics aims to bring the F-Series truck a big step closer to being earth-friendly.
Early in 2013, the partners plan to come to market with a plug-in hybrid version of some of the biggest of Ford’s popular trucks, starting with the F-550 but later adding the F-450 and F-350 models. The technology would allow the trucks to operate in electric-only mode at low speeds while also reducing fuel consumption at higher speeds in hybrid mode.
Azure Dynamics has already been working with Ford on several projects including the battery-powered conversion of the Dearborn maker’s small commercial van, dubbed the Transit Connect Electric, as well as a version of the Ford E-Van converted to hybrid power.
For the moment, the partners aren’t saying much about the specific technology that will replace the conventional F-Series powertrain, though it is likely to be similar to the E-Van conversion, they hint. The modified driveline, called the E-450 Balance, starts out with a conventional Ford 5.4-liter V-8 with a 5-speed automatic transmission. But an electric motor connected to that gearbox provides alternative power in electric drive mode, while also adding battery assist during acceleration. When coasting or braking it goes into regenerative mode to reclaim energy normally lost.