By on May 17, 2019

As per its $11 billion investment in electrification, Ford intends to have 40 electrified vehicles — 16 of which will be battery-only — on sale by 2022. That includes the widespread hybridization of trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. As towing has not historically been a great strength of hybrids, the automaker is developing a new transmission system it calls “modular hybrid technology.”

The system, which debuts on the 2020 Explorer, is said to incorporate an electric motor, clutch and torque converter to help vehicles deliver superior fuel economy without sabotaging a vehicle’s ability to haul ass or whatever customers choose to hitch up behind the tailgate. 

According to Automotive News, the new modular unit was designed to fit with existing rear-wheel-drive vehicles that contain Ford’s 10-speed transmission. It boasts 90 percent parts commonality with the existing tranny, though it incorporates an electric motor for additional torque at lower speeds.

From Automotive News:

On the upcoming Explorer hybrid, for example, the electric motor will put out 44 hp. When coupled with the vehicle’s 3.3-liter V-6 engine, it will generate 318 hp and 322 pound-feet of torque. It will also be able to tow up to 5,000 pounds and have a 500-mile range.

The fourth-generation lithium ion battery that powers the hybrids is roughly 33 percent smaller than the first generation that debuted on Ford’s 2005 Escape hybrid, and is packaged underneath the Explorer’s second-row seats to prevent it from taking up cargo space.

Meanwhile, Ford’s smaller hybrid vehicles will be dependent on an electronic continuously variable transmission. While decidedly less suited for towing duties than the modular system, Ford says it allows for electric-only propulsion up to 85 mph.

“Hybrids are more than just fuel efficiency,” said Dave Filipe, Ford’s vice president of powertrain engineering. “Whatever solutions we provide have to be no-compromise, especially as we get into the larger vehicles. We need to create something different to get the right answer for this customer segment.”

Finding balance will be key, and Ford thinks it can pull this off by offering a diverse powertrain lineup. While hybrids have become much better at towing over the years, customers still complain that their superior fuel economy becomes laughable once a trailer enters the equation. In fairness, no vehicle can expect the same mpg once asked to pull twice its own weight — not that most hybrids can manage that, anyway.

One of the biggest issues involves the kinetic energy that accompanies pulling a heavier load. Batteries and brakes can become overwhelmed when the downhill jaunt the car wanted to use to recoup energy suddenly involves twice the mass it was rated to handle. Ford’s modular system is supposed to mitigate this by being more dependent on the internal combustion engine at higher speeds, leaving the electric grunt to help on slower, uphill portions of the trip. While trailer fanatics with a penchant for really big loads will probably want to steer clear of hybrids for a few more years, Ford’s doing what it can to close the gap in the interim.

“It’s a much more affordable alternative to all-electric vehicles,” Filipe said. “Our competitors don’t have a story in this space. We’re going to be aggressively chasing hybrids and making it work for customers.”

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

 

 

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42 Comments on “Ford Debuts New Transmission System for Big-boy Hybrids...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “packaged underneath the Explorer’s second-row seats to prevent it from taking up cargo space”

    Does that mean automatic bench seat 2nd row in the hybrid?

    Cause captains chairs are standard (I’ve played with the Build and Price) and to get the 2nd row bench back is part of an expensive package.

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      No biggie Dan, when have car companies not been good at taking a disadvantage spinning it off as a feature and then charging customers more for the privilege?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The battery pack appears to be under the floor, and they all share the same floor stamping. So no it doesn’t look like the hybrid will make the 40/20/40 standard, but it may make it so you can get it for the $495 price w/o having to purchase another package. Of course to start the Hybrid is only going to be available as the Limited Hybrid. So you’ll be looking at a whole lot more money than a 202a XLT.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    do we know where the electric motor is connected to? the article implies the 10 speed trans or is it at the rear diff? my context clues skills are not as good as they used to be…

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      It’s integrated with the transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I thought it was a module bolted between the engine and the gearbox.

      The same place a clutch would go if you had a manual transmission.

      But it has to be more than just a motor. In order to function like a real plugin hybrid, it needs to be able to disconnect the engine and run under its own power. It also needs to be able to start and stop the engine.

      Remember that in a normal hybrid, the power split device (gearbox) is the heart of the system,. Ot the engine. The engine is essentially slaved to the gearbox. If it weren’t all computer controlled drive-by-wire magic, the throttle cable would be attached to the gearbox in a hybrid.

      In order to be a “no compromises” hybrid device, this module which goes between the transmission and the engine is going to have to be more sophisticated than it looks. It just bolts in there, but it respresents an architectural and algorithmic change to how the powertrain works. The 12 years I spent with a Prius show it’s mostly a win!

      I’m likely to own several of these drivetrains over the coming years. My family has been just little bigger than the biggest green car available (and affordable), which is frustrating — and now I’m up in the 3-rows-and-a-tow-hitch phase of life.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I thought it was a module bolted between the engine and the gearbox.

      The same place a clutch would go if you had a manual transmission.

      But it has to be more than just a motor. In order to function like a real plugin hybrid, it needs to be able to disconnect the engine and run under its own power. It also needs to be able to start and stop the engine.

      Remember that in a normal hybrid, the power split device (gearbox) is the heart of the system,. Ot the engine. The engine is essentially slaved to the gearbox. If it weren’t all computer controlled drive-by-wire magic, the throttle cable would be attached to the gearbox in a hybrid.

      In order to be a “no compromises” hybrid device, this module which goes between the transmission and the engine is going to have to be more sophisticated than it looks. It just bolts in there, but it represents an architectural and algorithmic change to how the powertrain works. The 12 years I spent with a Prius show it’s mostly a win, when done properly!

  • avatar
    forward_look

    Is this electronic CVT coming from the same company that built the Powershift transmission? They may encounter some skepticism.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The dry clutch PowerShift transmission that has caused so many complaints is mostly made by Getrag.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The RWD unit is the same 10sp transmission they have already been using with a motor added between it and the engine.

      The FWD set up is an e-CVT but it is the same one they have been using since 2013 in the Fusion, C-Max and MKZ. The basic architecture of that transmission dates back to the 2005 Escape.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Ford is building on what they do best here.

        Personally, as a green car “hippie”, this kind of powertrain is required if I’m even going to consider an Explorer and/or an F-150.

        I have a family of 5, I live in the Midwest, and towing is a nice-to-have. I’m basically Ford’s core market for these vehicles, except that I want go through my work-week without burning any gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Is yours a comment that extrapolates bits and pieces of information and tries to turn it all into a snarky “gotcha”? It may encounter some skepticism from people who know better.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This will end like Powershift…….

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Why do you say that? I’ve been driving a Ford hybrid for the last five years and the transmission has been flawless. The rest of the car has been terrific as well.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Because Ford’s quality has been tanking over the past 10 years and if they cannot design a transmission that works with 150 HP and is very simple, this stands no chance.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Exactly right. That’s why we have articles every day about endless failing transmissions from Ford. Way to read the tea leaves, z71_failure.

          All because an EcoBoost F-150 passed you like you were standing still, and now ya gotta rant every chance you get.

        • 0 avatar
          SD 328I

          I’m not sure about tanking.

          We got a fleet of 100 trucks as work, I work with the maintenance department, about half our fleet now are Ecoboost F150 2.7L.

          They have given us the least issues on the last 4 years out of any of the trucks we ever had, since they have been on market.

          They all have been 6-speeds though, haven’t had experience with the 10-speeds yet.

          However that will change, we are going to replace the rest of our trucks with F150 2.7Ls as the old trucks get retired.

          The other trucks we have are Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 5.3L and earlier previous gen F150 3.5L Ecoboost.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    id personally be interested in a hybrid that could charge off 110v and go as little as 50 miles off battery charge alone. that would take care of over 95% of my driving. at that point id be more worried about gas turning to varnish in the tank than anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Charging off of a 120 volt 15 amp circuit will get you about 3 miles of driving per hour of charge. A 240 volt 30 amp circuit is much preferred.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Most PHEV’s can charge with 110, but it takes forever. Just upgrading to 220 with our Volt has made a huge difference.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I drive a plug in hybrid. It has a monitor that forces the car to run on gasoline if the gasoline is getting old. Also, hybrids use a pressurized fuel system that reduces evaporation.

    • 0 avatar
      JSP

      You could consider the Volt or Clarity.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      A little quick charging math: you will get approximately 3 miles per kWh of electricity. You can determine the number of kW you will get from your charging station by multiplying volts x amps x .8. The .8 is a requirement of the US national electrical code, a continuous draw is only allowed to draw 80% of the circuit’s rated current. So for a 240 volt 20 amp circuit, that’s 5760 watts, or 5.76 kW. That will give you 17 or 18 miles for each hour charging. In my estimation, that’s more than enough for any driving I would do. We get a super cheap overnight rate from 11PM to 7 AM, and that’s more than enough for a day’s local driving.

      A 240 volt 30 amp circuit is what a typical electric clothes dryer uses.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It took many years for gasoline to turn into varnish. There have been cars stored for over ten years that could run on the gasoline left in their tanks. The problem with gas losing its volatility became an issue when the corn lobby became successful rent-seekers. Now gasohol turns into dirty water in short order.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      As others have mentioned 110 is slow but if much of your daily driving is under that 50mi then you should still be able to top it off almost every night. 12 hrs per day x 3 miles per hour and you’ve replenished 36 miles of driving.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      You can buy it. It’s called a Chevy Volt. But move fast, they stopped producing them in March.

      There are also endless copies of the Volt out there. None are as good — there’s not a single one that can operate at full throttle without kicking on the gas engine to help, unlike the Volt, and every one of them has shorter electric range than the Volt’s 53 miles. But some aren’t bad. The class of vehicles is called partial hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs.

      In terms of general goodness:
      1. Chevy Volt.
      2. If the Volt doesn’t work for you (e.g. you want plush instead of sporty or have tall rear seat passengers): Honda Clarity PHEV.
      3. If the Clarity doesn’t work for you (e.g. you don’t like the Martian-Buick styling): Hyundai/Kia Sonata/Optima PHEV, or any of the others on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I drove a Honda Clarity the other day.

        It’s very much Honda’s implementation of the Volt.

        The gas engine only fired up when I hit the OMFG-WOT switch at the bottom of the pedal’s travel, and you could feel the pedal push back before I got there. It would be very easy to avoid engaging the gasoline engine in daily driving.

        The NVH was great, but I don’t think it was as good as the Volt (though it’s been some time since I’ve been on a Volt).

        Still, if you like Hondas (and I do), you’ll love the Clarity. Alas, my wife keeps telling me she wants to keep her Civic — and I’d be a fool if I didn’t listen to her and simultaneously keep my wife happy and save tens of thousands of dollars. The Clarity is a nice upgrade from our Civic, though, in every way.

  • avatar
    TimK

    I’m in the market for a hybrid that can tow an honest 2500 lbs. Don’t need AWD and electric only for 20-30 miles would be a big plus.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    “modular hybrid technology”
    Who says the dealerships can even fix this stuff?

    Cue the lines in the dealership service department:
    – We can’t make it act up.
    – It’s a characteristic of the vehicle.
    – We reflashed it so try it now.
    – Our hybrid tech is off this week, so you need to bring it back.
    – We are waiting for the factory rep. get back to us.
    – Sorry but that’s all we can do.
    – Call the 1-800 line sir, and get the hell out of my service lane.
    – The factory engineer who could fix your vehicle was laid off to please Wall Street.
    – It’s out of warranty, so the electric vehicle tech rate is $200/hour.

    Still waiting for the George Foreman Grill edition.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yeah! And who said dealerships can fix that fancy “fuel engectchun”?

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        There was certainly a learning curve. The problem with Obamacafe is that the goalposts move so fast that plenty of technologies are being released as fast as they can be produced only to be replaced before a solid support base ever develops, never mind that they’re rushed and unproven.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Pretty much all of those are already standard dealer excuses and have nothing to do with hybrids.

      As an aside, let me assure you that engineers working for the OEM do not repair customer cars at independently owned dealerships.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “to haul ass or whatever customers choose”

    This, Mr. Posky, is very, very good. Thanks for taking pride in your work.

    –Thanks to everybody else at TTAC too. I really like this place.


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