The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has agreed to a three-year deal with Ford Motor Co. to develop ways to integrate plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) into the U.S. electric grid system and foster widespread use of plug-in vehicles. EPRI will test Ford Escape PHEVs with the collaboration of New York and New Jersey area-utilities, building on an existing partnership between Ford and Southern California Edison (SCE) to advance PHEVs.

Ford is building 20 Escape PHEVs for Los Angeles-area testing under the Ford-SCE partnership, which is aimed at the development of common standards among utilities for accommodating PHEV vehicles.

“This partnership represents a concerted effort by the transportation and electric sectors to work together in advancing PHEV technology,” said Mark Duvall, EPRI program manager for electric transportation. “This effort should accelerate the pace of PHEV development while enabling the utility industry to prepare for the introduction of these vehicles.”

The analysis of the Ford PHEVs will focus on battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage and grid infrastructure, as well as possible stationary and secondary usages for advanced batteries, EPRI said.

Ford is not the only manufacturer currently developing PHEV technology. General Motors is hoping to get its Chevrolet Volt passenger car on the market by the end of 2010. The Volt will use no gasoline and emit no emissions for those who drive less than 40 miles per day, GM said.

“We have devoted significant resources to this project. Over 200 engineers and 50 designers are working on the Volt alone, and another 400 are working on related subsystems and electric components,” said Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director of E-Flex systems and the Chevy Volt for GM. “That's how important we think this is, and that's how much stock we place in the future of extended-range electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt.”