Looking to the future, the velocity of Ford’s data is accelerating. The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, released last year, streams performance data from the car to Ford and generates 25GB of data per hour. Mike Tinskey, director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure, describes the data collected from the vehicles as “small but growing”. He says “We gather data every time the customer plugs in. We know where they’re plugging in, how many gas miles they drove, how many electric miles, how often they plug in and how often they take trips. It’s helping to shape where we go next with products.” One proposed use of this data is to work out ‘peak times’ of energy usage, and charge customers a lower rate if they refrain from plugging in when power demand is high.
Ford is also working with Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden to develop a global energy model, to try and anticipate future energy supply and demand.
“The model looks 100 years into the future and can be used to address what-if questions, such as, ‘If we had a carbon dioxide emission target of x, what would that mean for autos, trains and planes?’” says senior technical leader Tim Wallington, who heads the Ford analytics team focused on sustainability issues.
The research has led to Ford developing vehicles which use a range of new fuel technologies- including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles- rather than pushing one particular fuel technology for the future.
“We did thousands of scenarios, and the bottom line is that given the uncertainties in future costs and efficiencies, it’s not possible to pick a winner,” Wallington says. “Customers can vote with their money as to which they want and which one wins the future. This is the high-level strategy.”