"All four wheels have to stay on the ground at any one time."
It is the only instruction Kevin Layden has for me as I get ready to take his new electric car for a spin just outside of Detroit. Layden is a 26-year veteran of Ford Motor Co. who, after spending time in 20 different countries, wound up as the company's top engineer in charge of electrification, an increasingly important position. Two weeks before my visit, the company released its first all-electric car. Visitors embraced the peppy Ford Focus Electric so enthusiastically, one of them managed to tip it on its side on the closed track.
"It's a nondisruptive technology," Layden explains. As best I can tell, this is news to everyone who watches the industry. But his case makes sense: "We've got the infrastructure required to support plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles." Unlike cars powered by fuel cells or natural gas, which will require whole new fueling systems, electric-power vehicles can use the electric grid that's already there. Moreover, Layden contends, an evolutionary pathway is in place for the cars, too.