Ford is taking the smarts and performance of its electrified vehicle lineup to a whole new level with EV+, a patent-pending feature that actually helps vehicles learn frequent destinations, and delivers to hybrid drivers what they love – more driving time in electric-only mode.
EV+ is part of SmartGauge® and is a standard feature on the Ford plug-in hybrids, C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi, along with the hybrid versions of Fusion and C-MAX.
“We know from our research that hybrid drivers want to drive as often as they can in electric-only mode, especially near their home or frequently visited locations,” said Kevin Layden, Ford director of Electrification Programs and Engineering. “EV+ not only delivers that capability, but also demonstrates how Ford puts customer needs and wants above everything else.”
EV+ combines the built-in GPS of Ford SYNC® with proprietary software algorithms developed by Ford engineers to learn frequent destinations.
Once frequent destinations have been learned – such as your home parking location – EV+ adjusts how the electric power stored in the vehicle’s high-voltage battery is used to power the vehicle. If EV+ determines the vehicle is nearing a frequent destination, it has the capability to remain in electric-only mode.
“We already have a GPS unit in every Ford with SYNC, so really it was just a matter of tapping into that the right way,” said Layden. “This is one of the first examples of how we’re looking to make the car smarter, by leveraging on board data to provide features and services that add value to the driving experience.”
EV+ joins a growing list of roughly 500 hybrid-specific patents Ford has accumulated in the last 20 years. Patents include everything from the leaves on the cluster screen of SmartGauge and the hands-free liftgate of the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi to an available EV-only mode button that allows customers to access electric power on-demand.
EV+ was developed by two Ford employees: Ken Frederick, HEV powertrain calibration engineer, and Matt Smith, product design engineer. They are the authors of the patent application that was recently published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
When engaged, EV+ uses onboard GPS equipment and predictive software algorithms written by Frederick and Smith to learn the latitude and longitude of a vehicle and identify locations that are visited on a frequent basis, such as home and work. The feature can be disabled and the data erased at the push of a button.
When the feature identifies frequent destinations, the way electric power is used changes. Specifically, when within a radius of 1/8 mile, or 200 meters, of a frequent stop, the vehicle has increased capability to stay in electric-only mode, the internal combustion engine stays off, and an “EV+” light appears on the dashboard.
“One of Ford’s biggest strengths is the quality of our controls and calibration. We do all of that work in-house and it shows when we deliver a feature like EV+,” said Rob Iorio, Ford Electrified Propulsion Systems Manager. “No other automaker seamlessly integrates global positioning and propulsion system control as we have with EV+.”
Big data, big challenge
Originally, the plan was to develop a way for vehicles to collect and digest vast amounts of information to predict and adjust to different driving demands.
“We wanted a vehicle to perform in a certain way when it hit a certain spot,” said Smith.
The team quickly discovered that collecting and analyzing the vast amounts of data needed to make such predictions would require an immense hardware and software system – one that would demand too many resources, both in terms of initial development and inside each vehicle.
A breakthrough came, say Smith and Frederick, when they developed a way to reach their goal without the need to collect and store droves of information. Instead, their answer was to engineer a way to analyze incoming GPS information and control distribution of a vehicle’s power based on those data.
“We realized that harnessing data already available was the way we could achieve our goal of improving the entire hybrid vehicle driving experience,” said Frederick. “Once we had access to the data, we applied machine learning principles to predict frequently visited locations that would determine what powertrain controls should be applied to achieve our goal.”
Every new Ford with SYNC has GPS equipment built into the SYNCmodule.
Ford’s award-winning SYNC communications and entertainment system enables voice-activated communication through a driver’s mobile phone and interaction with the car’s audio system. Among its many features and options, SYNC provides location-based services, such as turn-by-turn directions, and now shares GPS coordinates with EV+.
Additionally, SYNC uses GPS to relay information about vehicle location to emergency personnel in the event of an accident through 911 Assist® when the feature is properly activated.