The Oak Park hybrid truck powertrain developer Azure Dynamics Corp. (OTC: AZDDF) Wednesday announced a deal with Ford Motor Co. to integrate its proprietary plug-in hybrid technology into the market-leading Ford F-Series Super Duty product line.

Azure’s plug-in hybrid technology will be initially integrated on Ford’s Super Duty F-550 cab and chassis. The combination is expected to be available in early 2013.

The agreement also allows Azure to perform hybrid powertrain conversions on other Super Duty platforms including F-350 and F-450 models and spans all engine, frame length and regular production options and configurations.

The Super Duty program will allow Azure to further expand its product line-up in its targeted medium duty commercial truck segment.

The agreement includes a ‘ship-through’ provision that permits Azure to place vehicles in the Ford transportation system and allows qualified Ford Commercial Truck dealerships to sell and service the product in key markets in North America.

“We are extremely pleased to expand our relationship with Ford and launch our PHEV technology on the F-Series Super Duty platform, which is the largest and most successful cab and chassis brand in North America,” said Scott Harrison, Azure’s CEO. “This is an ideal outcome for Azure and our customers.”

With more than a 50 percent market share, the Ford F-Series Super Duty is the most established cab and chassis brand in the North American market. The commercial cab and chassis industry supports approximately 100,000 vehicles per year and is the preferred active work-truck for thousands of commercial fleets managing a broad range of logistical needs.

The Super Duty offers several diesel and gasoline engine options and a variety of cab, bed and accessories options.

Azure and Ford teamed up in 2009 to bring the innovative Transit Connect Electric to market in just 13 months after the program was first announced.  The new PHEV F-Series program further expands the Azure-Ford business relationship which, in addition to the Transit Connect Electric, also markets the E-450 Balance Hybrid Electric Step Van and Shuttle Bus.

“As interest in alternative energy products continues to grow, consumers are looking for more powertrain options that are both environmentally friendly and fit their driving needs,” said Rob Stevens, Ford’s commercial vehicle chief engineer. “The flexibility of our vehicle platforms and chassis allows Ford to develop our own alternative fuel products or work with partners, like Azure Dynamics, to deliver consumers with the power of choice when purchasing a greener, more fuel efficient vehicle.”

Prior to the Transit Connect Electric development, Azure and Ford collaborated on the E-450 cutaway and strip chassis to create the Balance Hybrid Electric, a truck or shuttle that achieves up to 40 percent fuel improvement while reducing emissions and maintenance costs by up to 30 percent each. Balance Hybrid Electric has 60 percent share in the medium duty (class 2c – V) hybrid commercial truck market in North America and is deployed in notable fleets like AT&T, Cintas, DHL, FedEx Express, Purolator and more.

Azure officials said it’s expected that the cab and chassis market could grow by as much as 50 percent over the next five years as fleet operators, who have delayed purchase decisions, return to market to replace aging inventory.  Interest in fuel efficient cab and chassis alternatives has never been greater due to rising and unpredictable fuel costs.

Moreover, enthusiasm for eco-friendly technologies that began with the largest national commercial fleets, is spreading to smaller, regional fleets that increasingly understand that alternative energy technologies do not require a sacrifice in performance or durability. The Ford F-Series Super Duty has already attracted legions of loyal customers, many of whom are enthusiastic about the performance benefits associated with the new PHEV option.

“The F-Series program aligns perfectly with our product development strategy,” said Harrison. “We’re able to focus on development and integration of our powertrain solutions and at the same time benefit from Ford’s expertise in building ground-up vehicle platforms keeping Azure’s capital costs in check. Our engineering team has proven the flexibility of our technology through more than 40 different vehicle integrations and 35 million miles of real world driving experience.  We’ve been searching for the right opportunity and knew we could move quickly and intelligently when we found it.  We feel strongly that the Ford F-Series program is exactly the right opportunity.”

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