Ford Moves to Mobile, EV and Silicon Valley
June 2012 - Prior to the opening of the new Ford R&D Center in Silicon Valley, they held a discussion and demonstration of new technology for connecting Ford products to the mobile community via applications and the web and also their direction in EV and Hybrid vehicles. The decision to open an R&D center in the Silicon Valley was driven by the shortened development and implementation time of new technology for in-vehicle applications and mobile enabled information that is only possible by the CA location and its proximity to the third party development and infrastructure community.
The vehicles were shown off in traditional automotive fashion - some on display and some available for test drive. The vehicles available for test drives had a split of power trains from EV to Hybrid to EcoBoost.
We had the opportunity to test an EcoBoost Ford Edge with their new engine updates for 2013. The vehicle was very well instrumented, and the technology for the vehicle was nicely “not in the face” of the driver. The turbo assist for the vehicle was well behaved as just part of the system, and it did not make any dramatic changes in the driving of the vehicle when it switched on and off as well as not changing the GUI of the car so the driver can just focus on driving to a destination and road safety. Unlike some early high tech engine solutions from auto-manufacturers around the world - it was not like driving a video game console or the lights and sounds of a pin-ball machine - it was simply power and performance when you want and need it.
We also drove the new 2013 Ford Focus EV. This all electric vehicle, made in the US on the same assembly line as the hybrid and gas models, is the current flagship of the EV product line touting a whopping 110MPGe with zero emissions and a 76 mile range. The MPGe rating is a new one by the EPA and is explained as “gas equivalent” for the cost of producing the electricity used to charge the vehicle. Part of this enhanced range and MPGe rating was the shift to Li-Ion batteries from NiMH. The new batteries are 30% lighter for the same energy storage and benefit from compatibility with recycling programs both nationally and internationally.
The vehicle features a new charging design that allows for full charging of the car in the 3-4 hr range vs over 6 hrs for some other cars. This is a critical shift as the lowest cost for time of use of electricity is as short as 5 hrs/day in some parts of the US. The new EVs can be charged by a new relocatable charger that is being sold and installed by Best Buy rather than Ford dealers. It is anticipated to be available from other large chain retailers that have an installation and support group. The cost of this new charger is $1499 retail plus installation. They are working on a program with SunPower and other solar providers to bundle a “balanced energy use” installation to provide collected solar energy to offset the cost of lifelong charging of the car. These solar installations are being targeted for the $10K price point prior to state and federal incentives and rebates.
One of the keys for the new information and energy management is the Ford MyMobile (69) Ford MyMobile environment. This is a web application that allows the owner of the vehicle to get real time information on the status and condition of the vehicle on a mobile device or computer. Currently the system supports interactive information on the status of the charging for car or if it unplugged, as well as status of all the configurable systems in the car. It also has a trip planner, and real time locator for charging stations across the US (currently at 7,000 stations, and targeting 12,000 stations by the end of 2012). These charging stations use a standardized connector, similar to the standard gas nozzle, to support EV’s including the Ford products. For interaction with people’s social media agendas, the app supports a trip planner and tracker as well as an “achievements” tagger that lets you record events in your travels. An SDK is being released that allows third party developers to create new mobile apps. At this time, the SDK only supports getting information and data from the vehicle for reporting to the user. It is anticipated that in the future, data may be able to be transferred back to the vehicle, but this is not scheduled, only predicted.
For comfort and enhancement of the ownership experience, the cars features a My Key system. These are a set of configurations (temperature, infotainment settings, seat positions, mirrors, etc) that are individually stored in the vehicle keys, so there are no adjustments needed when you enter the vehicle. You can use the app to “pre-condition” the car while it is still being charged and use the line power to heat/cool the vehicle to the correct level and adjust the automated motion controlled functions without taking out any power that would impact the range of the vehicle once you start to drive.
For supporting the minimized cost for charging the vehicle, Ford embarked on creating their own time of use and rate data for setting charging preferences by the owner. This data interacts with the MyMobile app to give feedback on the costs and impact on time of day charging. Interestingly, they chose not to use the White House created National www.GreenButtonData.org data base of time of use and rate data that is being used as a bi-directional database for both customers and utilities to manage and balance the smart grid. It still undetermined if coordinated management of the charging, energy storage, and interactive grid control that is underway by the US utility companies for the national smart grid initiatives is parallel, in conflicts with or compatible & beneficial with the Ford energy data solution.