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Ford accelerates electric-vehicle plans

In its turnaround plan presented to Congress, Ford says it will invest billions in fuel efficiency and introduce a family of hybrid-electric and all-electric cars.

Ford Motor made electric vehicles a centerpiece of a turnaround plan presented to Congress on Tuesday, saying that it will introduce an all-electric van for fleet use in 2010 and a sedan in 2011.

The Big Three U.S. automakers are scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., this week with the hopes of negotiating loans to forestall a collapse from lack of cash.

All three companies are seeing a continued dip in sales, but Ford is considered far better off financially than General Motors and Chrysler. Ford on Tuesday said it could be cash-flow positive from operations by 2011, but it is still requesting up to $9 billion in loans, which CEO Alan Mulally said will act as a "critical backstop or safeguard against worsening conditions, as we drive transformational change in our company."

The business plan lists cost reductions--including plant closings and the sale of its much-criticized corporate aircraft--and investments in smaller, fuel-efficient cars and a line of electric vehicles.

Its product plans calls for:

• A commitment to improve fuel efficiency across its fleet: 14 percent for 2009, 26 percent for 2012, and 36 percent for 2015--all compared with 2005 overall fleet mileage.

• At the North American International Auto Show, Ford will discuss its "vehicle electrification plan." That will include a family of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric, or "battery electric," vehicles scheduled to debut in 2012.

Its first product will be a van-type vehicle for commercial fleets in 2010 and a sedan in 2011 with a goal of making battery-powered cars cost-effective. The cost of batteries make plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicles significantly more expensive than gasoline engine cars.

Ford said that it will work with unnamed battery and electric-vehicle powertrain providers to bring its electric cars to market.

The company said that it intends to invest $14 billion in efficiency and it will introduce in cars its EcoBoost technology, which it unveiled at last year's North American International Auto Show.

The company also said that it is exploring the sale of its Volvo car division.