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Alan Mulally’s high-voltage plan for the Ford Focus

The Focus-platform EV will come in three flavors: gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full electric. By Alex Taylor III, senior editor at largeJanuary 7, 2011: 4:49 PM ET

FORTUNE — Give Alan Mulally lemons and he makes lemonade.

When he took over as CEO of Ford in 2006, he was faced with a handful of under-performing brands: Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and Mercury. Rather than try to fix them, he declared them a distraction to his One Ford strategy and let them go.

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Now he’s doing the same thing with electric vehicles — playing to Ford’s strengths rather than following the pack.

Ford (F, Fortune 500) never got around to creating a purpose-built EV like Toyota’s Prius, Nissan’s Leaf, or General Motors’ Volt that are supposed to be the sine qua non of success for alternative energy vehicles.

Instead of a one-off, Mulally is leveraging the production volume of Ford’s global cars. He has taken a single car platform — the C- compact structure that underpins the Focus in the U.S. and C-max in Europe — and adapted it for three kinds of electric drive.

By integrating his EVs with an existing set of components, he saves money because he is leveraging his production volumes. The more cars you build off a single platform, the cheaper it is.

“We are going to use the scale of our global platform to create the most capability going forward,” he told Fortune recently.

Making a profit on EVs is a bridge too far for most manufacturers, but not for Ford, says Mulally. The overall profitability of the Focus line acts as a moneymaking umbrella over the EV model variations.

The Focus-platform EV will come in three flavors, depending mostly on the size of the battery pack: gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full electric.

Ever the engineer, Mulally gave Fortune an insight into how he thinks about costs and capabilities of each variation, using the ballpark estimate of $700 to $1,100 per kilowatt hour.


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