DEARBORN -- Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan are working together on a new project to accelerate the development of future hybrid vehicles.
Researchers are analyzing data from 2,500 road trips to determine how internal electronic vehicle controls could be tweaked to further improve fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive attributes.
“The Ford Fusion Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan available, and its performance is second to none. Our work with U of M is helping us develop the next generation of Ford hybrids and bring them to market even faster,” said Ryan McGee, supervisor of Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design in Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering.
Working with U of M, Ford has tested nearly 1 million design simulations of hybrid vehicle control systems to date and continues to conduct about 50,000 a week – a development speed that otherwise would not be possible.
Other academic work in hybrid vehicle technology primarily has been focused on fuel economy – often at the expense of drivability. Ford and U of M are looking at the marriage of both.
“The new hybrid controller design method we have created has the potential to offer consumers more choice in how efficient and drivable their vehicles are,” said Jessy Grizzle, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at U of M. “I envision hybrids of the future featuring multiple modes or offering customers the ability to customize their driving experience.”
The research is still in its early research stages, but initial results are promising.
“Working together with the University of Michigan research team, we are testing the boundaries of hybrid vehicle technology, exploring innovative ways to raise the bar on fuel economy and drivability,” said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, chief technical officer, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “This joint work on hybrid software development shows great promise in helping us lead the development of more efficient hybrid systems for the future.”
Ford now has four hybrid vehicles on sale – with more electrified vehicles coming.
The new Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid deliver 41 mpg in the city – 8 mpg better than Toyota Camry Hybrid – making them the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans in America. The Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid deliver 34 mpg in the city – also better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Ford Motor Company’s hybrid vehicle sales have risen 73 percent this year – compared with a 14-percent decline in hybrid sales across the industry. The fuel economy and durability of hybrid versions of Ford Fusion and Escape, Mercury Milan and Mariner also are winning over large numbers of conquest customers, many of whom are previous import owners.
Through September, Ford has sold 26,016 hybrid vehicles, up 73 percent versus the same period in 2008, according to figures from Autodata Inc.
Moving forward, Ford also plans to produce a pure battery electric Transit Connect commercial van in 2010, a battery electric Focus compact car in 2011, and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and next-generation hybrid electric vehicle in 2012.