Ford has used the opening day for the 2009 Detroit Auto Show to announce plans for its future electric vehicle (EV) program, confirming several zero-emissions vehicles for the North American market as well as next-generation hybrid and new plug-in hybrid models. Ford will call on its global engineering teams to develop the vehicles on its current small and midsize car platforms, but will also work closely with high-tech partners to bring the vehicles to market faster and more affordably.

The plans called for the introduction in North America of a new battery-powered electric commercial van in 2010, a battery-powered electric small car in 2011 to be developed jointly with automotive parts supplier and independent vehicle manufacturer Magna International, and a new generation of hybrids and plug-in hybrids by 2012.

The use of global platforms will allow Ford to develop products with worldwide market opportunities in mind. From the start of development, the carmaker’s new ‘One Ford’ global product vision is being enacted.

Of most interest is the electric small car. The vehicle will have a range of up to 100 miles on a single charge, and will be powered by an electric motor running on lithium-ion batteries. One of the rumors going around is that the vehicle will be based on the next-generation global Focus sedan.

Ford also has entered into a four-way "Eco-Partnership" in China to expand its global expertise with electric-powered vehicles. Ford, Changan Auto Group and the cities of Chongqing, China and Denver, Colorado, are exploring ways to develop projects to help further energy security and promote economic and environmental sustainability. Areas of focus could include developing electrified vehicle technologies, green city planning, efficient urban transportation and grid integration.

In addition, in the UK, Ford is collaborating with Tanfield, a manufacturer of electric vehicles, to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets.

Ford, however, hasn’t given up on the internal combustion engine just yet. The carmaker plans to continue making its petrol engines more fuel efficient and cleaner. To do so, the Blue Oval will expand its range of EcoBoost engines, while also offering a hybrid option for more of its vehicles.