NPR isn’t a place where automotive news is often made or announced, but during an interview with All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro, Ford CEO Mark Fields reminded us that Ford is planning to build a hybrid F-series pickup within the next four years. While this is being reported as news by many outlets, it’s not really news; it was announced back in 2013 when Ford and Toyota decided to dissolve a collaboration on the rear-wheel-drive hybrid systems that would power such trucks and SUVs.
The sound byte that has everyone all excited arose while Shapiro and Fields discussed Ford’s $4.5 billion investment in electrified vehicles, and how Ford will address the disparity between the relatively small number of electrified cars Ford currently sells and the massive number of F-series pickups the company churns out. When pressed by Shapiro about whether Ford would ever build an electric pickup, Fields said, “We do have plans to have a rear-wheel-drive hybrid truck by the end of the decade. So yes, we’re working on electrified F-series, and it’s really around a conventional hybrid.”
Unfortunately, Fields provided no further details, such as what gas engine the trucks will use (we expect it would use one of Ford’s turbocharged four-cylinder or V-6 engines), what sort of fuel-economy gains Ford is looking to achieve with the hybrid, and whether or not the hybrid will be of the plug-in variety, although Fields’ characterization of it as a “conventional hybrid” suggests it won’t. We will also be keen to learn if the new hybrid haulers will be significantly compromised in terms of cargo hauling, towing capability, or passenger space.
While Fields himself made no real news, we nonetheless took this occasion to check in with Ford on the status of the program. And while Ford product communications manager Said Deep declined to disclose the above details, he reiterated Ford’s commitment that the new hybrid system “will deliver the capability truck and SUV customers demand while providing greater fuel economy.” He also said that Ford has been on a veritable patent spree. “Today we hold about 150 patents on our rear-wheel-drive system and another 230 more patents are pending.” Some of those may be among the 400 or so patents Ford has made available to license to other automakers starting last May.
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Ford’s won’t be the first hybrid pickups and SUVs the world has ever seen, of course. GM sold hybrid versions of the previous-generation Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade starting in 2008. In the end, the GM trucks were phased out due to low demand, go figure. It will be interesting to see how Ford’s F-series hybrid will fare in this more electric-friendly world.