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Ford's in-development GreenZone technology would allow users to interface with maps from HERE (a Nokia company).

Researching the green zone of plug-in hybrid electric driving

In this Ford Motor Co. research project, the driver instructs a plug-in hybrid electric car when to operate in electric-only mode before starting the vehicle.

“GreenZone technology for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles allows customers to specify which regions along a route they want to drive electrically. The system will automatically reserve energy and alter the system’s behavior to allow electric-only driving, then optimize fuel efficiency in other regions,” Jason Meyer, Research Engineer, Ford Electrification Research and Advanced Engineering, said in an interview with Automotive Engineering.

To illustrate its in-development GreenZone technology, Meyer took an Automotive Engineering editor on a Dearborn, MI, street cruise. Before departing on the route, Meyer selected via a HERE Maps website specific areas along a route that a 2013 MY Fusion Energi would operate in electric-only mode. Those electric-only selections then synced with the vehicle’s network.

This in-development method differs from the production Fusion Energi, in which the driver selects while driving one of three operating modes (all-electric, normal hybrid, or conserve power for later use) via a console button near the gear shifter.

“Let’s say you want to drive in electric-only at the beginning and the end of a trip from Detroit to Ann Arbor. If you didn’t do anything, the production vehicle system would operate in electric mode at the start of the trip until the battery is fully depleted, then switch over to gasoline operation.

“With the GreenZone approach, the system calculates how much energy is required based on the selected zones. That means the technology will switch to fuel operation sooner to ensure when the car gets to a designated electric-only zone that electric-only is available,” Meyer explained.

A key enabler for having electric-only power available for pre-selected route points is detailed map data from the Nokia company, HERE.

According to Dave Dale, Vice President of Sales, Connected Driving for HERE, a digital point cloud of the roadway is captured using light image detection and radar (LIDAR). “What that allows us to do is get very accurate road attributes, such as slope, height, curvature, and width of the road. It also enables us to capture event triggers, such as road signs,” Dale said.

The end result is the vehicle’s powertrain system uses map data and other information to make determinations. Said Meyer, “The map data and map platform (on the web, in the cloud, and in the car) really stitch everything together. It’s the glue that everything is built upon.”

The map data being used by the powertrain system in the GreenZone example marks a first for Ford, according to Johannes Kristinsson, Supervisor of Advanced Connected Features at Ford. “We’re not using map data just for navigation purposes. In this case we’re using map data for full trip optimization,” Kristinsson said.

A driver can opt for zero-emission driving in school zones, nature parks, and other areas by selecting when Fusion Energi’s EPA-estimated rating of 19 mi (31 km) for all-electric driving is used, according to Ford researchers.

Using detailed map information to interface with multiple vehicle systems underscores an element of next-generation technology.

According to Meyer, the U.S. market already has examples of using advanced map data for driver-assist applications, such as adaptive headlamps. “But towing, distance to empty, hill assist, and other applications using detailed map data are possible in the future,” Meyer said.

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