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Auto blogMon, 08 Jul 2013 10:33:00 EST
It's called "F3T," and that stands for Ford Free-form Fabrication Technology. The process that The Blue Oval has developed means being able to sidestep the weeks-long process of tool-and-die making when engineers want to construct a new part, allowing them to fabricate a three-dimensional part from a two-dimensional sheet of metal in just hours.
While F3T is being developed it is limited to "low-volume prototyping or even low-volume niche vehicles," but the next step is to evaluate it for use in Ford's global manufacturing facilities. You can find out more about it in the video and the press release below.
No Prius Killer
As much as we enthusiasts like to rail on the lowly Toyota Prius as the harbinger of death for all we hold dear, there's no denying the machine's absolute and interminable grip on the hybrid hatchback market in the United States. Toyota has so thoroughly sunk its teeth into the segment that you can clearly hear the automaker's incisors clacking against one another with the conclusion of each financial quarter. And there's little wonder why. Buyers can plop down less than $25,000 and have a runabout that can return up to an estimated 51 miles per gallon in the city, leaving every other entry on the market with precious little gristle to gnaw on.
Enter the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. With its claimed 47 mpg combined, the funky little hatch from Europe already falls behind the 48 mpg city offered by the Prius, but that marginal sacrifice in fuel economy could be a small price to pay for buyers who want a credible alternative to the stalwart Toyota. Unfortunately, like the Fusion Hybrid, the C-Max Hybrid had trouble even approaching its Environmental Protection Agency estimates during our time with the car.
Solar energy might not be enough to power a usable electric vehicle on its own, but that doesn't mean it can't lend a helping hand. And that's what Ford has in store for the Consumer Electronics Show opening next week in Las Vegas.
Ford has essentially taken its C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and fitted it with the latest in solar panel technology developed by SunPower, acting like a magnifying glass to capture as much of the sun's energy as possible. So you get the benefit of an electric vehicle, with the range assurance of a hybrid, without needing to draw from the grid.
Ford estimates that a day of charging in the sunshine will give the C-Max Solar Energi concept the same full charge as the production PHEV, with a total range of 620 miles - 21 of which can be run on electric power alone. Otherwise the vehicle - which remains a concept for the time being - is identical to the existing C-Max Energi. The top-selling model in Ford's growing hybrid and electric vehicle portfolio helps put Ford just behind Toyota among the top seller of hybrids in America. Scope out the images in the gallery above and the video clip and press release below for a closer look.