DEARBORN - Sitting on the top shelf on the back wall of Ming Kuang’s office at Ford’s Advanced Engineering Center are piles and piles of neatly stacked boxes that contain plaques of recognition presented to the engineer for his work developing Ford patents for hybrid technology.
There are a lot of boxes – 40 to be exact.
Twenty-five of the patents are in production including key components of Ford’s innovative powersplit architecture system found on vehicles like the all-new Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. The remaining 15 are for future applications.
When asked why he doesn’t display the plaques on the walls, Kuang replies pragmatically, “Well then there wouldn’t be any room left.”
The modest Kuang, a technical leader in vehicle and battery controls for Ford’s Sustainable Mobility Team, says the work he put into helping develop 40 of the company’s 461 patents that fall under the hybrid category is all part of why he enjoys coming to work every day.
“I think there is a notion that says if you like what you’re doing you will never work a day and that’s true because if you like your work then it’s your enjoyment,” he said. “My work inspires me to get out of bed every day because it is so interesting.”
Kuang’s education is in mechanical engineering and controls. When he was pursuing his master’s degree at the University of California-Davis he developed an interest in exploring hybrid vehicles.
“In California they are very strict in terms of cleaner air, and I learned that there is something that I can do to improve the fuel economy of the vehicle and help the environment,” he said. “I could do something for society, for myself and for my kids.”
One of the many Ford patents that bears Kuang’s name involves making the engine start more smoothly when switching from electric drive to hybrid drive.
“We have to control the engine start-stop process in such a way that the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and disturbance to the driver will be minimal,” said Kuang.
Another patent covers the display system for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid that shows how efficiently the power of the car is being used. That vehicle is scheduled to be available later this year and is projected to achieve a better miles per gallon equivalent in electric mode than the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.
Kuang says developing patents is all about solving problems and striving to make great products better.
“We try to get our vehicles to be the best in the industry, and it’s an ongoing process,” he said. “We may have the best hybrid sedan today in terms of fuel economy with the Fusion Hybrid for example but we need to keep working to make sure that the next generation of the vehicle maintains that leadership.”
Though he is often singled out for recognition for the many Ford patents that he has helped develop, Kuang emphasizes the importance of teamwork.
“In this environment, it’s difficult to have one person work out all the solutions because the systems are so complex now,” he said. “I have worked with the team very well and have also made a lot of friends along the way.”
With all that said, Kuang says he and the team still need to go further.
“That’s what we need to do every day. In hybrids we’ve achieved a lot and we’re still the leader in fuel economy, but are we done? Absolutely not, there’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. “We must continue to improve fuel economy and not only meet customers’ needs but delight our customers as well. And we have to continue doing our part to take care of the environment.”