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Ford software maximizes hybrid efficiency

Fri, 09 Nov 2012

Ford will use a little navigation wizardry on two of its hybrids: the C-Max Energi plug-in and Fusion. The system will use GPS data and an algorithm to predict when a driver is close frequented destinations. The car will adjust powertrain controls to maximize efficiency.Ford calls the feature EV+, which is part of SmartGauge, standard on the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi plug-ins and on hybrid models.

“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.

The system, developed by Ford employees Ken Frederick and Matt Smith, is in the process of being patented.EV+ learns the latitude and longitude of frequent stops and can switch the car into electric-only mode when nearing home or work.The feature can be disabled with a button.

When the car gets within a radius of about 1/8 mile of a frequent stop, the EV+ sign lights up on the dash, and the driver can silently coast to the destination.

The original plan was for the system to collect all the data and change the car’s performance based on location. The team discovered that it would take too much hardware and software, and would demand too many resources from the vehicle. Smith and Frederick developed a way to do the same thing using only GPS 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.”

By Jake Lingeman