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Ford's hybrid cars give better efficiency by learning where you drive with EV+ feature

Ford's new EV+ feature for its hybrid or plug-in cars helps the car stay in electric mode for longer distances, offering better fuel efficiency through predictive software algorithms.


Ford is taking hybrid and plug-in hybrid fuel efficiency to a whole new level with its EV+ feature. The EV+ feature helps the vehicle learn about frequent destinations it is driven to, and to drive more efficiently by staying in electric-only mode for longer.

EV+ works with the GPS built into the Ford SYNC system to recognize frequent destinations. Once a frequent destination is learned, the EV+ system adjusts how the electricity stored in the battery pack is used. For example, if the car recognizes it is nearing a frequent destination it can choose to stay in EV 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 Kevin Layden, Ford director of Electrification Programs and Engineering. “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.”

Using the on-board GPS, the EV+ system knows the latitude and longitude location of the car. Predictive software algorithms can also identify locations that are visited on a frequent basis, such as home and work.

When within a radius of 1/8 mile, or 200 meters, of a frequent destination, the vehicle can choose to stay in electric-only mode, keep the gasoline engine turned off, and light an “EV+” indicator on the dashboard.

Ford's engineers had originally thought to approach this as a "Big Data" problem where analyzing reams of data would allow the car to optimally adjust its behavior. But they quickly learned this would require too much computer equipment to accomplish on-board a car. They realized that the GPS built into the SYNC system already provided some great information. “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.”

EV+ 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.

The Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Energi is new to North America but has been on sale in Europe for several years. It is approximately the same size as the Prius V, but has better fuel efficiency than the Prius V, and the plug-in hybrid version (the C-MAX Energi) has twice the electric driving range of the Prius Plug-in. The Energi also stays in electric mode at a higher speed than any other plug-in hybrid. The C-MAX and Fusion are part of Ford's five-pronged strategy to beat Toyota and Honda for market share.

“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.”