Ford, continuing to ramp up its hybrid strategy as it tries to take on Toyota in this green market segment, recently was touting what it calls a new “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.” It is known as EV+, and it is a 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.
The EV+ feature, according to the car company, combines GPS and self-developed proprietary software algorithms to learn frequent destinations. As these are learned, EV+ adjusts how the electric power stored in the vehicle’s high-voltage battery is used to power the vehicle. If it is determined the vehicle is nearing a frequent destination, it has the capability to remain in electric-only mode. One example cited of how this might work would be that when within a radius of 1/8 mile, or 200 meters, of a frequent stop, the vehicle has increased capability to stay EV only, the internal combustion engine stays off, and an “EV+” light appears on the dashboard.
This technology is one of nearly 500 hybrid specific patents Ford owns. This particular design was developed by two of its employees, and centers around the vehicle using its latitude and longitude coordinates and the locations its identifies to calculate more driving time in electric-only mode. It is tied into Ford’s in-car Sync platform, which is a communications and entertainment system that enables voice-activated communication through a driver’s mobile phone and interaction with the car’s audio system.
“We realized that harnessing data already available was the way we could achieve our goal of improving the entire hybrid vehicle driving experience,” said Ken Frederick, Ford HEV powertrain calibration engineer, in a statement. “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.”
While this is a neat feature, it will take more than that for Ford to catch Toyota in the hybrid market. The Japanese automaker recently unveiled it has sold over 4.6 million hybrids worldwide since 1997, with 1.02 million selling so far this year alone as of the end of October. It plans to to globally launch 20 new hybrid models by the end of 2015.