Ford, Southern California Edison partner to test plug-in hybrids

Two No. 2 businesses have unveiled a first-of-its-kind alliance: Ford Motor Co., the No. 2 automaker in the U.S., and Southern California Edison, the country’s second-largest utility, will partner for “real-world” testing of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Starting late this year, Ford will begin sending 20 plug-in Escape SUVs to Edison, which will deliver them to a teeny handful of its 13 million customers. The utility will measure data on the vehicle’s range, durability, and impact on the power grid. Ford CEO Alan Mulally says he expects plug-ins — which can be charged in regular outlets — to be on the market in five to 10 years, but he and others hasten to point out that there are hurdles, most significantly perfecting battery technology. “Right now we have a lot to learn,” says Susan M. Cischke, a Ford senior vice president. The company is in a race of sorts with General Motors, which introduced a concept version of the plug-in Chevrolet Volt in January and hopes to produce the cars by 2010.