The electric car is alive and well, and Ford has big plans for its future and that of electrification advancement. Just ask Chuck Gray, the Ford Chief Engineer of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. He shared his insight at the SAE 2011 World Congress (April 12-14) on the top five technologies from Ford, which by the way, has more than 244 patents for its electrification technology. Electrification is an important element in the Ford overall product sustainability strategy, which includes the launch of five electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. Ford launched the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010 and will launch the all-new Focus Electric later this year. These models will be joined in North America by the new C-MAX Hybrid, a second next-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid and the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.
But it’s not only the electrified vehicles capturing the spotlight – it’s also the surrounding technologies, and Chuck highlighted the emerging top five.
Auto Stop-Start: Not just for electrified vehicles, this fuel-saving technology that automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop will soon be added to conventional cars, crossovers and SUVs in North America. It’s a feature currently found on the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid and on some Ford cars in Europe. The Ford-patented new Auto Start-Stop system for gasoline engines will improve fuel economy for most drivers by at least 4 percent. The gain can be as high as 10 percent for some drivers, depending on vehicle size and usage. It also reduces tailpipe emissions to zero while the vehicle is stationary or waiting at a stoplight with the engine off.
Human Machine Interface: Sure, the name of the technology might sound a little sci-fi, but it is a significant component in the Ford suite of electrified vehicles that helps to inform, enlighten, engage and empower drivers. Just as the growing leafy vine of today’s SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide represents fuel efficiency in the Fusion Hybrid, the cluster display in the Focus Electric will use blue butterflies to represent the surplus range beyond one’s charge point destination – the more butterflies there are, the greater the range. At the end of each trip a display screen provides distance driven, miles gained through regenerative braking, energy consumed and a comparative gasoline savings achieved by driving electric. Other range enablers will include a budget view, range view and Brake Coach, which gives drivers feedback on their braking performance to maximize recuperation back into the battery.
The Focus Electric also will feature the MyFord Touch™ map-based Navigation System using the vehicle’s center stack 8-inch touch screen, which is another iteration of HMI. After adding their driving destinations, including their next charge point, into the vehicle’s Navigation System, the vehicle will coach drivers on how to achieve the desired range – or if travel plans need to be adjusted. The onboard Navigation System provides an EcoRoute option based on characteristics of efficient EV driving.
Motor: The new Ford C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models build on the success of the critically acclaimed powersplit architecture Ford uses in its current hybrids, including the Fusion Hybrid. In a powersplit hybrid, the electric motor and gasoline-powered engine can work together or separately to maximize efficiency. The engine also can operate independently of vehicle speed, charging the batteries or providing power to the wheels as needed. The motor alone can provide sufficient power to the wheels in low-speed, low-load conditions, and work with the engine at higher speeds.
While this system enables the current Fusion Hybrid to operate in fuel-saving electric mode up to 47 mph, Ford is targeting higher electric operating speeds for C-MAX Hybrid and even more capability for C-MAX Energi, which will have the advantage of additional battery power.
Battery: “Our battery and motor systems engineering are key enablers of our electrification strategy,” said Chuck. “Our goals are to continue to improve energy efficiency while simultaneously reducing costs, providing a value benefit to the consumer.” Future Ford hybrid and electric vehicles will use new lithium-ion battery systems that are designed to maximize use of common, high-quality components, such as control board hardware that has proven field performance in the current, critically acclaimed Ford hybrid vehicles.
Li-ion battery packs offer a number of advantages over the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries that power today’s hybrid vehicles. In general, they are 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, which makes them easier to package in a vehicle, and they can be tuned to increase power to boost acceleration or to increase energy to extend driving distance.
Focus Electric, C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models all will be powered by advanced lithium-ion battery systems that are being engineered by Ford. The Focus Electric battery system uses heated and cooled liquid to help maximize battery life and fuel-free driving range. Thermal management of lithium-ion battery systems is critical to the success of pure electric vehicles. The system also features cabin climate preconditioning while on charge from the wall plug to further maximize electric range during driving.
Regenerative braking system: Regenerative braking is a function that captures the energy normally lost through friction in braking and stores it. Greater than 90 percent energy recovery is achieved by delivering full regenerative braking, which means less than 10 percent of braking is through traditional friction brakes.
“As we see continuing escalation in the price of fuel, people are becoming more interested in electrified products,” Chuck explained. “We’ve developed a clearer picture of how these technologies can be leveraged and brought to market, and we’re confident that each will further improve the efficiency of our expanded portfolio of products.”
You can keep up with the latest Ford electrification news at the Ford Electric Vehicles Facebook page.