Monthly Archives: October 2013

You are browsing the site archives by month.

We’ve been merged

Woke up this morning to the following e-mail:

 Dear Focus Electric MyFord Mobile User,

We wanted to let you know that we have successfully implemented the changes that we notified you of in a previous email.   The Focus Electric version of MyFord Mobile has now been migrated to our new environment.  Rest assured, all of the Focus Electric-specific content has been maintained.  We value your commitment to purely electric vehicles.

Impact to you

  • You will still be able to use your existing user name and password on the new site.  In the event that you have both a Focus Electric and a Plug-In Hybrid account, the Plug-In Hybrid account credentials will take precedence.
  • There is a new MyFord Mobile app available for both iPhone and Android. The existing Focus Electric app no longer functions or receives updates. You will now need to delete the old app and download the new app.
  • To ensure the system is displaying the most recent vehicle and driving information, you should press the “Update” button immediately after logging into MyFord Mobile.
  • Your data has been migrated from the current version to the new version.
  • You will have to re-enter any Value Charge times after selecting the “Update” button.

The new MyFord Mobile app is now functional for Focus Electric customers and can be downloaded via the following:

Android

iPhone

In addition, as we streamline the user experience, the following features have been affected:

  • The Discussion forum will become available at a later date
  • Trip Planner is now available only on the mobile app
  • Facebook and Twitter integration for driving achievements have be discontinued

Benefits

Having a single MyFord Mobile offering serving both our Focus Electric and our Plug-In Hybrid customers enables future enhancements to be made more quickly. We recognize that Focus EV drivers have very different needs than PHEV drivers.  In fact, your EV-specific functionality remains and non-EV functionality will not be displayed for Focus EV’s.

We hope you have an enjoyable experience with the new MyFord Mobile system.  Should you have any issues, please call the Customer Relationship Center at 1-800-392-3673. After the language prompt please select option 3 and then option 4 to be connected with the team that interacts with consumers on Ford’s In-Vehicle Technology.  The hours of operation are 11:30 AM – 8:00 PM M-F and 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM Saturday (ET).

Regards,

Beth Profitt
MyFord Mobile Manager, Connected Services
Ford Motor Company

Chad D’Arcy
Focus Electric Marketing Manager
Ford Motor Company

From what I can tell it appears that the functionality is almost exactly the same as it was: What wasn’t working still isn’t working, and what was working still works. For instance: The trip and charge log accurately reflects the fact that I drove somewhere and charged but the values in the log are completely inaccurate (miles driven, power used, power charged, etc.). I was hoping for some improvement. This would also imply that the issue is not with the website (inaccurately displaying the data) but with the car inaccurately sending the data to the website. Which means to get any meaningful data on the website it will take another software update to the car…

 

Electrons for everyone…part 2

Recargo has a really nice infographic showing the state of charge stations in the US in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Take a look; its pretty interesting.

 

Missing the mark

Most likely Ford believes they hit the target with their marketing of the Focus Electric. They may have, but their target was completely misplaced. Take a look at the FFE’s brochure: How it stresses the “green cred” in the car (the recycled plastic seats, the high efficiency, etc.). In essence they are marketing to the “green” crowd that wants to save the planet, etc. Now lets take a look at who is buying the car (ok this is totally anecdotal and could be due to location bias, observation bias, etc.): The people I’ve observed buying the FFE (and many other EVs for that matter) are early adopter hi-techy types. These are people that jump at the brand new cellphones, and tablets when they first come out. These are the first to purchase the latest computer. They buy the latest hi-tech gadget to come out because it is new and different. At this point in time EVs are still new and different.

Had Ford really recognized who would be buying the car, perhaps they would have designed it a little differently. Despite the very configurable dash there are a bunch of features that are missing that early adopters would love to have:

  • Ability to charge the battery to any level–not just full every time (this could have been accomplished by adding a % value to the “value charge” settings)
  • More information on the dash: The car shows a lot of detail about power consumption as you drive but it would also be nice to see “charge consumption” (e.g. when I first get in the car after it has been charging: show how much was charged in a few different units like % of battery, and kWhr)
  • Ditch the “brake coach” and instead show the regen on the same meter that displays power usage (instead of showing a power usage from 0 – ~500 Whrs make the range go from -300 or so to 500 Whrs and show how much power is going back into the battery when braking–this way the driver will know how much s/he is getting depending on how hard s/he is pushing on the brake pedal)
  • More diagnostic information  on the dash. This is a big one, even though the FFE does have many icons for different failures on the dash more detail could still be provided.

That last item above is huge and could have helped solved some of the biggest issues with the FFE: The dreaded “Stop Safely Now” (SSN) error. In short when a driver gets this message the car shuts off all drive power (including power steering power) leaving the driver in a panic trying to find a safe place to point the car to in the next 10 or less feet before it stops (not a safe thing to do in the middle of an intersection, or on a busy freeway)! In many instances the SSN error records no codes and the car can be safely driven away a few minutes later after a restart (but not all instances). What if Ford had the vision that it should put all information/codes related to the SSN error on the display when it happens–this sounds reasonable: presumably the dash module and the engine computer were talking at the time, otherwise the dash wouldn’t have known to put the message up and whatever other module that was panicking is also sending out information that its shutting down. How would this change help? Imagine the following two scenarios:

  • Today: Driving along normally..”Ding” the SSN message appears and the car dies. The driver was able to safely get to the side of the road, but is pretty angry about the situation. S/he manages to get the car started and drives it to a dealer. The dealer looks over the car, scans it with IDS, and reports back “no trouble found”, no codes, car operates normally, etc. Dealer gives the car back to the customer who is even more angry at this point and calls Ford and gets “well this is the first we’ve heard of it!?” Which, of course, only infuriates the customer more–eventually this customer will get his/her car purchased back as a lemon and vows never to drive Ford again…
  • Possible: Driving along normally.. “Ding” the SSN message appears along with 3 codes “EM1234”, “EM4567”, “EM8901”. The driver grabs a quick picture of the message on his/her cell phone after safely pulling over. Gets the car to the dealer and shows/e-mails the pictures to the dealer. “Well I see here that one code is low voltage on the 12V circuit, another code is a network error, etc.” At this point dealer still pulls no codes from the car (as it hasn’t recorded those codes) but still has a starting point to investigate, and can even send the images off to Ford so the dealer and Ford can, possibly, work out a solution.

We understand that we’re early adopters and this kind of thing may happen; by providing just a little bit of diagnostic information Ford may have found some solutions to a bunch of the errors its seeing today with the FFE (granted it is also possible that even with codes the SSN message may just say: “I found a problem” and not report out what it is; I don’t think this would happen though because the car clearly knows “why” its shutting down. It may not be the root cause but it still is a starting point in the diagnostic process).

In addition, keep in mind who many of us early adopters are: Many of the posters on Ford’s My Ford Mobile website, and the My Focus Electric website have indicated that they are engineers (often the profile of an early adopter LOL). Providing just a little bit more engineering data to us would make us very happy indeed! (Even if it was a setting in the menu systems that needs to be turned on…we’ll find it and turn it on!)

 

This time for sure….?

Here we go again with Ford merging MyFord Mobile of the Focus Electric and the Energi products:

Dear Focus Electric MyFord Mobile User,

On behalf of Ford Motor Company, we want to keep you in the loop on the previously communicated maintenance for MyFord Mobile.

As we strive to merge the Focus Electric and Plug-in Hybrid versions of the MyFord Mobile App into one streamlined version for a better ongoing consumer experience, we plan to make another update to MyFord Mobile on October 29, 2013 9:00 AM EST.

Planned Benefits

The intent of the planned action on the Focus Electric version of MyFord Mobile is to allow future enhancements to be made more quickly. We recognize that Focus Electric drivers have very different needs than PHEV drivers.  In fact, your all-electric functionality will remain and the app will not display any PHEV functionality.  When we ultimately complete our planned action your all-electric functionality will remain.

How will this impact you?

  • The MyFord Mobile website and mobile app will not be functional for approximately 8 hours during the maintenance period. During this period you will see the message “Service or Network Error”.
  • You will still be able to use your existing user name and password on the new site.  In the event that you have both a Focus Electric and a Plug-In Hybrid account, the Plug-In Hybrid account credentials will take precedence.
  • There will be a new MyFord Mobile app available for both iPhone and Android. The existing Focus Electric app will no longer function or receive updates. You will need to delete the existing app and download the new app after the maintenance period is complete. The new app can be downloaded via the following:

Android
iPhone

  • To ensure the system is displaying the most recent vehicle and driving information, you should press the “Update” button immediately after logging into MyFord Mobile.
  • Your data will be migrated from the current version to the new version.
  • You will have to re-enter any Value Charge times after selecting the “Update” button.

In addition, as we streamline the user experience the following features will be affected:

  • The Discussion forum will become available approximately one week later
  • Trip Planner will be available only on the mobile app
  • Facebook and Twitter integration for driving achievements will be discontinued

We apologize for any inconvenience. Should you have any issues, please call the Customer Relationship Center at 1-800-392-3673. After the language prompt please select option 3 and then option 4 to be connected with the team that interacts with consumers on Ford’s In-Vehicle Technology.  The hours of operation are 11:30 AM – 8:00 PM M-F and 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM Saturday (ET).

Regards,

Beth Profitt
MyFord Mobile Manager, Connected Services
Ford Motor Company

Chad D’Arcy
Focus Electric Marketing Manager
Ford Motor Company

Its getting cold outside

This week has been the coldest its been since I’ve owned the car (back in May). This morning the temperature was 32 F as I was leaving for work.

EV batteries don’t really like it much when the temperature is outside of their comfort zone (around 70 F). Too high and the battery is damaged, too low and it can’t hold as much of a charge. The Focus Electric has a thermal management system to attempt to keep the batteries within their optimal temperature range. The problem is, though, when the temperature is far outside that range the management system will use up electricity heating or cooling the batteries. So even if the batteries are kept at their optimum temperature the car’s overall range will still suffer due to extra electricity expended maintaining the batteries temperature.

I’ve been noticing the affect of the weather as the temperatures have dipped over the past few weeks. My commute in to work, which was using only 20% of the battery when it was a balmy 80 F outside, is now consuming 25% or more without even using the cabin heater (for my own comfort! LOL).

The car also has a feature for that: to minimize my discomfort and heat/cool the car before it is unplugged you can program in a specific time and temperature you want the car to be ready for up to two times a day. I’ve also been experimenting with this feature. For all the time I’ve been using it (on the Focus Electric the feature is called “Go Times”) I’ve had it set the temperature of the car to 72 F–a nice and comfortable temperature. After a conversation with a coworker yesterday I decided I’d try out the higher temperature setting: 85 F. This morning in a matter of about 20 minutes the car went from completely frost covered to mostly clear and wet–the windows were completely clear of frost, the roof was mostly clear with just a little frost on the back (furthest from the heater vents inside the car), and the rest of the body still had a lot of frost but it was thinning. Wow–it never did this when set to 72 F! Of course when I started my commute I got in a very toasty warm car as well–to the extent that turning on the vent/defrost on cool provided a nice cool breeze (as well as keeping the windows from fogging up using a minimal amount of power).

I’m now eagerly awaiting our first snowfall to see how much of the snow will be melted off the car before I leave for work (planning on posting a picture of that!).

 

Whats next?

At some point Ford will be redesigning, or at least refreshing the Focuses: The ICE Focus, the Focus ST, and the Focus Electric (FFE). I’ve read some speculation that Ford may drop the Focus Electric–I don’t think that is the case (why would they start building them in Europe if they plan on abandoning them?). I’m figuring that the California laws that have forced most of the manufacturers to produce electric vehicles will only get stricter in the future forcing many manufacturers to produce more BEVs–not less. In addition every automaker on the planet now has a really serious competitor producing very good BEVs (e.g. Tesla). Thus we’re likely to see more BEVs in the future, including more Focus Electrics.. Time will tell though.

My hope is that the FFE will evolve some by the time my lease is up so that I may lease a new, improved one and continue to drive electric. To that end here are a few things that I’d like to see on an improved FFE:

  • Software Improvements: This almost goes without saying, but the FFE does have some pretty significant bugs (to be fair MyFord Touch has some significant bugs that need to be fixed across the board!).
  • Improved reliability: A few FFE owners have had recurring “Stop Safely Now” issues (that is the message that appears on the dash when all the power cuts out; frequently while driving down the road). Fortunately I haven’t had the issue (almost up to 6000 miles now) and I hope I never do (which is why I haven’t really posted about it since I haven’t experienced it).
  • A moderate amount of increased range: I’d like to see all electric cars have a range increase to at least greater than 100 miles (a doubling would be even better; in the FFE’s case a doubling of the EPA rated range would put it at 140 miles). They don’t have to put the latest bleeding edge battery technology in; just some of it to get a bit more range.
  • Better battery/frame integration (e.g. distribute the battery more under the car to reduce the amount of intrusion into the trunk). I realize that this item directly contrasts with the one above (more range = bigger battery), but if I could get the above item without any more reduction of storage space I’d also be happy.
  • A more efficient system for heating the car. Currently the FFE uses resistive heating (basically a wire that gets hot when enough current is running through it)–about the least efficient way there is to heat the cabin.
  • Incorporating a fast charger plug (Ford has publicly committed to the SAE fast charging standard–commonly known as the “frankenplug”).
  • Perhaps make use of the in-wheel motors: In theory using in wheel motors reduces the amount of “stuff” under the hood (more room for a battery?).

That’s about it; in reality I’m still pretty happy with my FFE (after about 5 months) so my list isn’t that long or extensive. Maybe in a year or so I may have more ideas…

 

EV Advocacy

Those of us early adopters driving EVs tend to evangelize our cars just a little bit. How can you not? Just driving one around for a week or two makes you realize how nice an EV actually is. The quiet and smooth ride, the instant torque, etc. In lots of ways it really does feel like driving the future around (especially since I’ve noticed that the distinctive sound my Focus Electric makes is very similar to the “vehicle noise” you would hear for a car in all those 80s Sci-Fi shows–Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Quark, Logans Run, etc.).
Currently the biggest “minus” about driving an EV is the state of battery technology: To get an EV the range of a similar ICE vehicle much more volume of the car must be taken up by the battery (sometimes by several factors: 2X, 3X, etc.). Even the Tesla Model S devotes a significant portion of the bottom of the car to the batteries. This will change in the future rather quickly as there are a lot of people doing research into better, higher density, lighter, etc. batteries.
Moving on from the battery, what about the rest of the car? Well what if we compare the drive trains: On a conventional car you have an internal-combustion-engine with many moving parts. With the EPA ratings pushing higher and higher the gas engines of today will be getting more and more complex (adding direct injection, turbo chargers, variable valve timing, Urea injection–for Diesels, etc.). All of these added parts are just more points of failure waiting to happen. Think about it: as a car ages you put more and more effort ($) into the engine to keep it running. An EV’s drive train couldn’t be simpler: One or more electric motors either connected directly to the wheels or through a reduction gear and differential to the wheels. (In the FFE’s case the motor wraps around one of the half-shafts and is connected to a differential through some reduction gears–see this post–there isn’t even a clutch the motor is always turning!) In addition the electric motors used in EVs are either permanent magnet or synchronous motors without brushes–they won’t ever wear out! On an EV as the car ages you’ll find yourself repairing and/or replacing items that you’d never think to in an ICE car: Suspension arms, seats, HVAC fan motors, etc. I bet it will be common to hear about EVs with a million miles on them (with more than one battery swap out).

 

In-wheel motors

I know more than one engineer who, when purchasing a car, tries to get the simplest configuration possible. The logic goes: “Less moving parts, less things to break”. The idea is to purchase for longevity instead of other goals (like, being in Michigan, traction for winter driving, etc.).

You would think that these engineers would really love an EV: Much fewer moving parts than even the simplest conventionally powered car. Most of the current stock of EVs, however, have a single electric motor connected to the wheels through some reduction gearing, and a differential. This is still a bunch of moving parts (although much fewer than a gas car with pistons, a transmission, clutch, etc.). By far the simplest (and most likely most efficient) arrangement would be to simply put pancake motors in the wheels. This past winter Ford teamed up with Schaeffler to create a Fiesta with just that.


Perhaps the next generation of Ford’s EVs will be based on these–one would hope so!

A Ford press release on eWheelDrive.

 

A “new” display…

Playing around with the myriad of display options in the Focus Electric sometimes reveals a gem or two. Even now after driving a few months I stumbled upon a configuration of “MyView” that I don’t think I’ve tried before:
MyView Display
In this view I’ve switched the climate and “other” power meters to the right display and am showing the “power bars”. The “power bars” show the power consumption over the past 5 intervals (intervals can be set for 1, 2, and 5 minutes each making the 5 bars show 5, 10, or 25 minutes of power consumption. In this image I have them set for 1 minute each).
This display serves to show a rolling average of your driving over the past few minutes. Time will tell if I like this new display over my previous favorite information dense display (seen below, and discussed here):
FFE My View display

Things they are a changing…or not!

Today was supposed to be the day that the PHEV and BEV MyFord Mobile sites merged. Instead users awoke to the following e-mail:

Dear MyFord Mobile User,

This email is being sent to inform you that we were unable to execute the changes of the MyFord Mobile website and mobile app that we had previously informed you would occur. We will now be making the aforementioned changes at a later date.

You may see the new version of MyFord Mobile in the app store or pushed to your phone as an update.  Please do not use this version and continue to use the version you have been.

We apologize for any inconvenience as we make this change. Should you have any issues, please call the Customer Relationship Center at 1-800-392-3673. After the language prompt please select option 3 and then option 4 to be connected with the team that interacts with consumers on Ford’s In-Vehicle Technology.  The hours of operation are 11:30 AM – 8:00 PM M-F and 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM Saturday (ET).

So a few people at Ford lost a weekend for nothing and will have to do it again. These kind of issues happen–you work on the software rollout, test and test, try a test rollout on a development server, then when you go to do it for real something pops up that you didn’t account for and have to roll everything back and start over (then typically on Monday you get an epiphany that the issue was caused by a missing semi-colon! LOL).

Update: Wow this certainly could not have gone worse for Ford! At some point the smartphone app updated to a version that simply says: “Use the new version download here”. Of course the “new” version doesn’t work at all since they rolled back the website. Thus, unless the smartphone user is savvy enough to be able to find the old version of the old app, all of the smartphone apps are currently useless. For many people this is the last straw: they are going to get rid of their FFE and, quite possibly, never purchase another Ford again–I don’t blame them.