Combining two of my favourite things, Ford announced this morning that it had partnered with three Sonoma County farms to launch a pilot program that will add F-150 Lightning Pro and E-Transit vans, plus Ford Pro charging stations.
The winegrowers are part of a sustainability initiative that began back in 2014, so this move helps push that forward, while Ford gets an opportunity to put its electric services work vehicle to the test in just about the most picturesque spot I can imagine.
Check out the video and press release below:
Ford Pro and the Sonoma County Winegrowers, a group of more than 1,800 grape farmers in Northern California, are launching a pilot program that will add Ford F-150® Lightning™ Pro pickups, E-Transit™ cargo vans, and Ford Pro™ Intelligence™ products and services to three pilot farms in Sonoma County, one of the world’s most renowned wine regions.
The heart of the mission is to demonstrate how electric vehicles and web-based fleet management tools can have a positive impact on the agriculture industry in terms of increasing productivity, improving sustainability and lowering the total cost of fleet ownership anywhere from 10% to 20%2.
“Ford Pro is thrilled to team with the Sonoma County Winegrowers to further their sustainability goals and begin their transition to fully integrated all-electric fleets with on-site charging,” said Wanda Young, Ford Pro global chief marketing officer. “Ford Pro and the Sonoma County Winegrowers are driven by many of the same tenets – to accelerate productivity while operating responsibly.”
The pilot program is launching with Bevill Vineyard Management and Vino Farms in Healdsburg, and Dutton Ranch in Sebastopol – which collectively represent about 4,000 acres in the vineyard-rich Russian River Valley. Young anticipates the program will expand in the coming months to include other farming operations in the county.
About 60,000 acres across Sonoma County are dedicated to growing wine grapes, and another 120,000 acres are used for other diversified agriculture, such as apple orchards, dairy farms and cut flowers. In 2014, the Sonoma County Winegrowers launched an initiative to represent one of the nation’s leading winegrowing regions in terms of sustainability, with a target of reaching sustainable designation for nearly all of its vineyard acreage in the county.
Karissa Kruse, Sonoma County Winegrowers president and internationally renowned sustainability champion, said she believes electric vehicle adoption and efficient fleet management are the next steps in sustainability.
In addition to the vehicles, farms can consult with the Ford Pro team for the duration of the program. Pilot farmers will have access to Ford Pro Intelligence1 software, home and depot charging, Ford Pro™ Telematics Essentials™3 and Ford Pro™ E-Telematics™4 and energy management – all to help reduce operating costs and more efficiently manage gas- and electric-powered vehicle fleets.
“This collaboration with the Ford Pro team is a great natural next step to help us continue our progress in sustainable agriculture,” Kruse said. “A lot of farming families have a rich history with Ford, and with history comes trust. So as many of our farmers look for ways to lead in innovation and be a part of the solution, that trust is critical when it comes to investing in electric vehicles and in solutions to manage farming fleets. Our farmers love this pilot program; it’s going to be foundational.”
Vehicles among farmers’ most valuable tools
A year in the life of a Sonoma County winegrower can be sliced into two portions – roughly nine months to grow and three months to harvest. Occasionally, as in 2017, the uncertainties of Mother Nature condense the harvest to a four-week sprint. No time for vehicle downtime.
Ford Pro Intelligence* gives farmers access to important data on every vehicle – whether gas-powered or electric. The web-based service offers always-on access to vehicle health reports and other data designed to help limit vehicle downtime while lowering operating costs. All across the county, on farms large and small, winegrowers rely daily on their trucks to haul everything from fertilizer and fuel tanks to water and portable bathrooms. Some vehicles log upward of 50,000 miles a year, traveling between properties from Cloverdale to Petaluma.
Naturally, operating these vehicles – and maintaining them to keep them operational – is one of an organization’s largest expenses. At Dutton Ranch, which runs a fleet of about 70 work vehicles, fuel costs average about $5,000 per month. The prospect of reducing that monthly expense is critical to operations moving forward. Electric vehicles, coupled with the solar power that many Sonoma County ranches already generate and store, represent an important way to help offset rising fuel costs.
The technology connects wirelessly – helping businesses manage fleets with real-time vehicle insights. Information includes maintenance schedules, charge event monitoring, vehicle tracking, state of charge, range, charge history and logs, charging/battery settings and alerts, and departure preconditioning to help maximize range and save battery life for the road to get the job done.
“Just as an F-150 Lightning or E-Transit is an essential asset for a small business owner, so too is Ford Pro Intelligence,” Young said. “We believe that the telematics data will change the way farmers manage their fleets and operations.”
As veterans in sustainability practices, the Sonoma County Winegrowers have impacted other vocations regionally. Representatives in trucking, logistics, grocery stores and other specialties have taken notice, and Kruse hopes her organization continues to help lead the charge.
Ford, meanwhile, is among the automotive leaders in sustainability – the only full-line American automaker committed to doing its part to reduce CO2 emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and working with California for stronger vehicle greenhouse gas standards5. Ford is targeting 100% renewable energy for its global operations by 2035 and being fully carbon neutral worldwide by 2050.