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For the next generation of Ford’s in-dash displays, the company is actually putting some thought into them—and focus groups are using a high-tech virtual simulator to determine what works in relaying information to drivers and passengers alike.
The driving simulator is carefully designed to match the interior of a Ford Focus Electric, with two 4.2-inch color LCD screens on both sides of the speedometer. Once the occupant gets in (and 30 drivers have already), the simulator takes him on a diverse 11-mile drive—across winding hills, city streets, country roads, stretches of flat nothingness, and Grandma’s house.
“These screens are an integral part of Focus Electric and we thought the best way to make sure they would do their job is to have people come in and try them out for themselves,” said Paul Aldighieri, an engineer with Ford. “The only true way to get a feel for what the screens are telling the driver is by actually getting behind the wheel.”
The simulator gauges how drivers react to all of the information that pertains to the Focus Electric: battery charge, remaining range, and whether you could be driving even more efficiently. It’s a lot of information to display, especially while someone’s driving and doing the 100 other things one normally does while driving (applying makeup, eating cheeseburgers, flipping off tailgaters, sexting) so engineers have to determine what’s effective and what’s not. Butterflies to display eco-friendliness, for example, are more welcoming than circuitboard graphics.
The system is integrated into MyFord Touch, which offers information about range, destinations and charge points. It’s all controlled through five buttons on the steering wheel, which will also bring up the ability to customize information to individual drivers (which Ford calls “MyView”). When the Ford Focus Electric finally comes out, it’ll be key for consumers to know that, well, circuits are too nerdy for environmentalists!
The electric car market will become much more competitive in the next year when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Ford Focus Electric hit the road. An announcement was just made regarding the official miles per gallon equivalency ratings, or MPGe, putting the Mitsubishi in the EV lead for now.
It should be made clear that the i(subcompact) is an entire class-size smaller than the Volt or Leaf(compact), so this is a ‘small’ victory.
The Mitsubishi i is $13,000 less than the Volt and $5000 less than the Leaf. The i will cost $27,990 for the ES model before a federal tax credit of $7,500 making the i the least expensive mass produced EV in the U.S. The i can be preordered now with the first shipments available in early 2012.
Ford thinks it’s finally figured out the best place to put the charging plug on an electric car: on the front grille, like the Nissan Leaf? On the pillar, like the Tesla? Or where the gas cap is supposed to be, like on the G-Wiz?
Nope, to all of those: Ford believes that the charging port for their upcoming electric Focus should be on the left front fender, so drivers can see the charge port when leaving the vehicle and remind themselves to charge up, and where it also won’t get easily damaged.
“The left front fender location keeps the charge port in sight, before the customer enters or exits the car, for an easy reminder to unplug or recharge,” said Mary Smith, a supervisor with Ford’s electric vehicle program. “It creates an intuitive placement for owners that also has aesthetic appeal.”
Owners of electric cars are expected to usually charge their vehicles at home, at a rate of nearly four times per day or almost 1,500 times per year. Compare this to the average owner filling up a gas tank once a week, and it’s important to find a spot for the charging port that’s both convenient and safe. If the port was in the front or rear, for example, owners would have to dig it out from snow or debris, and it could get damaged in even a minor accident.
But most importantly, with the charging port on the front fenders, it’s easy to stick on more of those stylish fake fender vents that have swept the industry, as if their designers were zombies that had shuffled into a Pep Boys. After all, what’s the point of burying an electric charging port subtly into the grille when it can impress people alongside all that “ELECTRIC” badging?
Consumer Electronics retailer Best Buy is already selling Brammo electric motorcycles and has won contracts to supply home charging equipment for the upcoming Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle. Now, it looks like the company might actually consider selling electric cars or at least contribute in some way to the ownership experience.
Chad Bell, a senior director from Best Buy, recently said, “we are having conversations with startups,” and “we are very excited about several partnerships that we can’t talk about yet.”
From some angles selling EVs make sense. Best Buy currently has 1,101 stores across the U.S. and as Bell noted, the company’s retail stores have far higher volumes of people coming through their doors every month than most dealers.
Having access to a turn-key retail network already vested in the field of electronic transportation could prove very attractive for small companies trying to break into the market, but at the other end of the spectrum, Bell says there are plenty of opportunities for Best Buy to work with established auto manufacturers. Examples include teaching consumers about EVs and how to operate them; including charging equipment, as well as syncing smart phones with vehicle connectivity systems, tasks that many dealers might find more effective to outsource than performing in-house.
In regards to the push for more EV vehicle focus, Best Buy’s Bell said, “it’s not a short-term play for us. This is a long-term business for us to be in.”
[Source: Automotive News]
One of the big advantages of an electric car is the lack of routine servicing they require. With only the battery and electric motor present, consumables like fluids, filters, belts and the like are obsolete.
Ford is making this a big selling point for their upcoming Focus Electric, as it released a list of 25 items that will never require replacement or repair for the first 150,000 miles. Of course, we normally shy away from blatantly running press releases, but the document gives a cool insight into one of the big differences between EVs and gasoline powered cars.
Of course, that’s assuming that the battery technology is all sorted, and it lasts through the 150,000 mile mark…
Hit the jump to take a look
Amidst a sea of smart phones and 3D TVs, Ford has unveiled its new Focus Electric model at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Set to take on both the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, the Focus Electric is the first zero-emissions passenger car from the Blue Oval and follows the launch of the Transit Connect EV last year. Ford is promising to deliver three more EVs by 2013.
Slated to go on sale later this year, the Focus Electric uses a lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor to make 123-hp and 181 ft-lbs of torque, enabling a top speed of 84-mpg. Speed and acceleration have never been an issue with electric cars, but charge time and weight are. The Focus Electric is still heavy at nearly 3,700 lbs, but Ford has made impressive advances in charging, claiming that with a special 240-volt home setup, the Focus EV can be recharged in three to four hours – that’s half the time of the Nissan Leaf.
Ford has yet to announce an official range, but it does say the car will meet the needs of most Americans. That being said, expect it to have a total distance similar to that of the Leaf, with a 100 mile claimed range and something closer to 70 miles in real world driving.
Offered exclusively in hatchback form the electric Focus gets a slight redesign from the standard mode, with a new front end that looks lifted directly off an Aston Martin.
Inside there’s the new MyFord Touch system with 8-inch touch screen designed specifically for an electric car, with special info displayed including the battery charge level and distance to the next charging station. The built-in navigation system will even let the driver know if they can make the distance on the current level of charge, and even coach them on more efficient driving to help.
Owners can then bring the experience of owning a Focus Electric with them when they leave the car thanks to the MyFord Mobile app. Along with expected features like being able to check the state of charge from your smartphone it can also do some unique things: like let you know how much longer it needs to charge to reach a pre-set destination in the Nav system; find charging stations; and even let you pre-set charging times for off-peak utility hours. (Get more on the MyFord Mobile app here).
In addition to all this technology, the Focus Electric also includes standard features like six airbags, SYNC, 17-inch wheels, a push-button ignition, a 9-speaker audio system and traction control. The ‘compact’ size of the lithium-ion battery pack also means the Focus Electric retains some of the standard car’s functionality, with 60/40 folding rear seats. And in keeping with the car’s environmental theme, much of the interior uses recycled materials, including for the seat fabrics.
GALLERY: 2012 Ford Focus Electric
GALLERY: MyFord Mobile
Similar in many ways to GM’s Chevy Volt OnStar App, the MyFord Mobile app will let owners of the Focus Electric keep tabs on their car and interact with it. The new app will let owners check the EV’s state of charge, its estimated range at that charge point and even figure out how much longer it needs to charge to meet a specific distance. An additional feature will also let owners schedule charge times for when rates are lowest.
Working with MapQuest, the app can find charging stations and signal if the station is within the range of the car, even creating longer trips by stringing together charging stations along the way.
The MyFord Mobile app can also alert the owner if a charge has been interrupted or if the charge has reached a sufficient level in order to reach a set destination.
Added features include the ability to lock and unlock the doors, use a built-in GPS system to help you find the car and it can even use power off the grid to warm or cool the car’s interior so it’s ready when you are.
With all these convenience features, Ford is also looking to engage owners in the electric car experience, with the MyFord Mobile app letting them download vehicle performance and efficiency data. The vehicle will also grade the driver based on how efficiently the car is being driven, and even give awards that can then be shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The MyFord Mobile app will be available for Blackberry, Android and iPhone smartphones as well as any phone supporting HTML-5 or WAP 2.0. It can also be access from a secure website from your home computer.
From inside the car, the Focus EV will integrate the app through a MyFord Touch system that has been customized to the electric car experience.
GALLERY: MyFord Mobile App
Official release after the jump: