Category Archives: Technology

Ford working on CCS for the FFE?

Is for working on CCS for the FFE? A couple too many acronyms there? Ok we know FFE = Ford Focus Electric as I’ve been using that in this blog for quite some time now, but CCS? CCS = Combined Charging Standard. It is the “fast charge” capability that SAE (yeah another acronym: Society of Automotive Engineers) had developed for North America.

To date Ford has said nothing about any improvements to the FFE. Just a year ago when they announced the 2015 ICE Focus the big news for the FFE was an additional color that was it. Since then Ford has said not so much as a peep about the future of the FFE (or even any possible BEV product). When they announced the 2015 Focus there was rumors that Ford would be including a Focus Energi. That rumor made a lot of sense: They already had the powertrain developed, it is already in a Focus based product (the C-Max), therefore it would take very little engineering to get done. Alas the 2014 auto show circuit came and went with no new news on any electrified Focus (or Ford BEV model).

Fast forward to today: We are in the middle of the auto season here (with the LA Auto show kicking it off last fall and the Detroit Auto show in a week). Included in this is CES. Now CES isn’t your usual auto show, but Ford has had a keynote address there for the past few years (in fact it was back in 2011 that Ford announced the FFE at the CES). This years Ford CES keynote can be viewed here. I encourage you to take the time to watch it as it shows the very different direction Ford is taking/planning for way out in the future. Pay careful attention at the 29 minute mark, though where Mark Fields says this:

It would also be beneficial if urban shared vehicles were electric. Because not only do they lower operating costs they also can be refueled in their parking space. But shared EVs need time to charge and in Dearborn we are developing fast charging technology for our vehicles. Plus we’re looking at partnerships with retail and fast food businesses to develop fast charging infrastructure. Because we want to make EVs easer to use because when more people chose EVs everyone benefits from the lower emissions.

The context of the quote is for an urban vehicle sharing environment but the last few sentences (about businesses and what they are doing in Dearborn) hints that they are already working on this for production vehicles. The only fast charging technology that Ford has publicly bought into is the J1772 CCS standard (and the photo in the video seems to imply that is what is on the FFE shown–including a much simpler charge port door):

CCS Fast charging doesn’t really make sense for the Energi products with their 21-mile range and small batteries. It only really makes sense for the FFE or another large battery BEV. Thus one could conclude from this small morsel of information that either a CCS enabled FFE is coming down the pipeline, or that Ford is working on another BEV for the marketplace?

Will Ford slip in more pieces of info like this at the Detroit Auto show in a week? You’ll have to pay close attention (like I did pulling the above needle out of a haystack)..!


What’s the Best EV for the average consumer

Green Car Reports published this article attempting to clarify “The Best EV for the Average Consumer”. As one would expect the comments are overflowing LOL.

Given the title of my blog here you can also predict what my answer is. I find some of the reasons to eliminate the FFE from contention to be quite arbitrary: Eliminating the compliance cars because they are low quantity sellers and there may be service issues? A low quantity seller means you’re more unique than driving around one of the million other Leafs? Service issues? (As pointed out in one of the comments) These are EVs which have much fewer moving parts and hence less need for service. Besides: The FFE is mostly the same as an ICE Focus and there are Ford dealers everywhere.

The biggest reason to discount the FFE, and justifiably so is the lack of any form of quick charging. (Hopefully Ford will include the CCS charge port at some point–they have publicly supported CCS instead of CHAdeMO since CCS is an SAE standard.) The “average” consumer would want a quick charge because designing for the “average” usually means the “lowest common denominator” thus you’d need quick charging even if the vast majority of people most likely would not need that feature. In reality if you need quick charging only once in the life of the car then you’d need the capability.

Having said all that, when people ask me if I’d recommend the FFE I heartily give its endorsement. If your lifestyle fits within the parameters of a short-range EV then go for it!


What to do about heat?

When you look under the hood of the FFE you notice that it has a rather large radiator (most likely its the same part in the ICE Focus–they look very similar). A large radiator like that is designed to dissipate a lot of heat something which the FFE doesn’t generate much of whilst driving around. The whole arrangement shows an interesting design decision on the part of Ford…

When you look at the front of the FFE you see the fake grill and a small opening for air below it, permitting a lot less airflow while driving than the conventionally powered Focus. In this pic you can clearly see the difference:
Red Focus Blue Focus
The front of the ICE Focus is open whereas the FFE just has that gap at the bottom. The reason for this is obvious on the ICE Focus: The gas engine generates a lot of waste heat that must be removed to prevent an overheat situation–even in cold weather there is still plenty of waste heat to go around.

For the FFE on the other hand: Very little heat is generated while driving and thus the front can be a solid nose (with a little decoration); even rounded a bit in an attempt to improve aerodynamics (look at most EVs they all will have very little pass-through). What about that large radiator though? This comes into play during charging and on hot days. The FFE has a battery temperature management system. When charging the battery generates a lot of heat. Heat that also must be dissipated to prevent damage to the battery. This is the reason for the large radiator: To help with this heat removal. In addition, when charging, the car is stationary so there is no forced air coming in from the front; airflow must be generated by the radiator fan (most likely also the same part number as on the ICE Focus). Indeed, during charging I quite frequently hear the radiator fan running at full speed (especially near the end of the charge cycle).

The other use for the radiator is similar: removing heat but this is during a hot day. When the outside temperature gets a bit hot out the car will “complain” that its hot out and should be plugged in. This is to use the fan, and if needed the chiller, to remove heat from the battery if it gets too warm (something it won’t do if parked and not plugged in).

Note that the car also complains when parked and its cold out to be plugged in so that it can keep the battery warm.

I bet you were expecting different subject matter when reading the title of the post?


New Sync 3

Today Ford announced Sync version 3:

Ford today introduced Sync 3, the latest generation of its infotainment system that will debut on 2016 Ford and Lincoln models next year in a bid to win over critics who found past versions hard to use.

I’ve briefly played with the new system–or at least a very early version of it. It is very responsive and smartphone like (drag across the map to pan, pinch to zoom out, etc.). The article also mentions new features like the ability to download updates over a WiFi internet connection–a very handy feature. I’m not sure how many customers will go that route though as I’d bet there is a good number of MyFordTouch systems that have never been updated at all. Well at least the tech savvy customers will appreciate that.

As far as the FFE is concerned: I wouldn’t expect this to show up until at least the 2016 FFE at the earliest; perhaps even when the Focus redesign hits somewhere around 2017. We’ll see (it would be nice if it does make it to the 2016 as my lease will be up by then).


Extending the range of your EV

The BMW i3 has a cool REX option where they include a small motorcycle engine to extend the range by a hundred miles or so. There is another way to extend the range of your i3, if you have the cash:
Charge Plot

(Click on the image to see more of the RV)
This form of range extension was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Extreme RV” show.

That’s right: simply build in a garage into your RV. They even wired an outlet into the compartment so that the car can charge while the RV drives down the road (no mention on the website or during the show if the EVSE is a Level 1 or Level 2). The neat thing here is that the ramps extend: You don’t drive the car up into the RV; you just drive it up onto the ramps and then retract the ramps.

The cost of this is completely on another level. There are people who could afford a Tesla Model S at $100k+ but could not afford this combination ($250k+ for just the camper alone, then you still have to pick up the i3). Not to mention that you’ll be burning a lot of Diesel going from city to city.

Comparing the dimensions of the i3 vs the FFE we find that the Focus might be a better fit in there: The i3 is about 5″ taller and 15″ shorter than the FFE. Thus the “garage” could be a little shorter (and longer) to fit the FFE. Here the important thing is shorter–this makes more standing room in the bedroom above the garage. The steep rake on the FFE’s front windshield may also help out since the car is stored on an angle which may allow for an even shorter garage.

My “My Ford Mobile”

It turns out that simply using the developer tools in Chrome you can reverse engineer the REST interface to My Ford Mobile….and make your own app!
My My Ford Mobile
What you see here is just dumping out some fields that are returned by a “get battery condition” call. It isn’t as pretty as the official MFM app (and mine won’t be: I’m a programmer not a designer). Not sure how far I’ll take it, but its fun to hack around with.


What is Ford’s next EV move?

If you are expecting some insider information here you’ll be sorely disappointed! LOL

That’s the rub though: We’ve heard rumors and speculation about what Ford will do in the past but nothing concrete. There have been rumors of an EV MKS, “insider info” about a Focus Energi, many have postulated that an EV MKZ would be perfect from Ford. What have we heard from Ford itself? Crickets..

Even though Ford’s people have said stuff like “We could make a Model S” and “We could make an electric Mustang” the implied statement following both of those would be “but we won’t” (otherwise why say something like’d just do it).

Another point is the fact that Ford did announce the Focus Electric waaay back in 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show. It wasn’t released to purchase until December 2012–that is almost two years. Granted this was a brand new powertrain for Ford to tackle. For contrast: Ford announced the all aluminum new 2015 F-150 back in January 2014 at the Detroit auto show and it is already “on sale” (you can order one now but can’t take delivery until early 2015). This is only a years timeframe.

This means that a new EV from Ford will be 1 or 2 years out from any announcements they make..and they haven’t said a peep. So all you get now is empty speculation.. and the fear that Ford won’t say anything about EVs for the foreseeable future…

Of course I could be a bit impatient here as well since we are heading into “auto show season” (LA Auto show is next week and it would make sense for Ford to announce any EV news there… we’ll see.)


Contradictory article contradicts itself!

In the Detroit News today there is an article with the headline: “Buyers, electric cars slow to connect“.

I do realize that, in many cases, the headline is written by a different person than the article. The first section of the article would seem to confirm the headline saying things such as:

But four years after the Volt went on sale in late 2010 to enormous fanfare, sales haven’t met early optimistic predictions

Then later on, though, the items such as this are mentioned:

Still, EV sales overall are growing — with EVs up 25 percent and plug-in hybrid sales up 35 percent — but they still account for a minuscule .7 percent of U.S. car and truck sales. Some 20 models come in EV versions in the U.S.

What isn’t mentioned is that plug-in sales are increasing at a rate faster than hybrids did (source). The article, to me, just confirms that people are being overly critical of plug-ins in general and that if they aren’t a sales smash (e.g. in the top ten sales list) then they are a failure. This is completely unreasonable; no new technology was a sales leader when it was first introduced (Apple iPhone notwithstanding).

I have another nitpick with the article:

Automakers have spent billions to introduce the vehicles. They repeatedly cut prices in an effort to juice sales. Just this month, Ford Motor Co. cut — again — the price of its slow-selling Ford Focus EV. Its price tag is $29,995 — down $6,000 since last year and down $10,000 since the Dearborn automaker put the vehicle on sale in late 2011.

Price alone isn’t why the FFE hasn’t sold that many (all along its price structure has been in-line with its competitors). Ford itself has said many times “We don’t expect to sell many of them” and, given how much effort they’ve put into selling them, sales have born that out. The FFE is a great implementation of an EV and Ford would sell many more if they simply marketed the thing…

In contrast the Detroit Free press has published an article helping people decide what kind of alternative vehicle they should get.

Drive Electric Week–Ann Arbor

This year the National Plug In Day event, er sorry Drive Electric Week, for Southeastern Michigan took place in Ann Arbor at Briarwood mall. This is a very popular mall with a lot of traffic–a much better location than behind a parking structure at a community college where last year’s event took place.

In addition, this year the timing worked out for me: The event was originally planned for Saturday but there is a U of M football game on Saturday (many people attending the game park at the mall and take the shuttle and traffic near Ann Arbor on game days is a nightmare). I would not have been able to attend the Saturday event with my son’s sports schedule.

Now on to the event; I loaded up the FFE with some EVSE’s and a table to display them all:
Loaded up
Arriving just prior to the official start I setup my display:
All set up
The EVSE table
On display I had the Juicebox, a Clipper Creek LCS-25P, and the Ford Level 1 charger. I was surprised to learn that many of the EV drivers haven’t heard of the Juicebox. This was most likely due to the fact that the majority of cars that showed up were Volts which doesn’t need much more than what came with the car (in fact many of the Volt drivers just used the included Level 1 charger).

The car tally for the event was:

  • 1 C-Max Energi
  • 1 Jet Electrica
  • 3 Tesla Model S
  • 2 Focus Electrics
  • Half dozen or so Volts
  • 3 Battery Scooters
  • Many battery bicycles

Shortly after setting up I was asked to assist with placing the signs around the mall. I only mention this small detail because we used a Tesla Model S to drive around and place the signs–my first and only ride in a Model S. What struck me the most about the Model S was how similar an experience it was to riding around in the Focus Electric. Now before anyone gets all bent out of shape, think about it a little bit. They are both EVs and they both exhibit all the common qualities that makes everyone love an EV: the smooth and quiet ride. As far as acceleration: Yeah the Model S has that in spades (and this was only a 60) over the FFE.

During the show/event I noticed that when people would show up to see the cars they tended to gravitate to my small display first. I’m not sure if that was because I had a lot of stuff to look at with the EVSE’s on display, that I was always by the car, or simply because of my car’s color. I did get a few comments on the color and how striking it looked compared to the other cars on display (most of the other colors: The Ford’s were their Ice Storm color, the Volts and Model S’ were various colors of: Silver, Black, White, etc.).

I would estimate that throughout the day I spoke with about a dozen people. Some happened to be driving by the mall and noticed the cars, some were already going to the mall for other reasons and noticed the cars, the remaining few (about 3 or so) actually looked up the event online and came specifically for the show. All of the discussions were positive–I may have even sold an EV or two (perhaps even an FFE–there was a gentleman and his friend who were really interested in everything about the FFE).

If you’re still reading this far, you’re probably thinking: Enough blabbing already! More pictures. Ok here is the Jet Electrica:
Jet Electrica
Jet Electrica

Here are the converted electric bicycles: (These were very popular with everyone taking at least one for a spin.)
Electric Bicycles

Finally, some wide shots:
That's it
In the lot near Sears
Model S

On the whole everyone seemed to agree that it was a good turnout (given the fact that the date changed only two days ago) and it was much more visible being at a popular mall right by the busiest entrance.


Disco pants and haircuts….Yeah

In an earlier post I mused on how effective it is to have public chargers at motels and hotels. Other optimal locations for public charging are locations where people tend to stay for a few hours. These locations include:

We happen to take advantage of one of these types of locations this past weekend which worked out quite well: A Mall.
At the mall

This mall in particular lies slightly beyond the 1/2 “tank” range from our house and thus a short charge is required to complete the round trip. These chargers were recently added about 6 months ago (four Level 2 chargers to be specific). We took a little over an hour browsing and shopping in which time the car gained about 20% in battery charge (don’t know how many kWh that was because these were simple chargers–no card access required, no 800# to call, just plug in and they charge with just some status LEDs indicating charging, fault, ready, etc.). At the time all four parking spots were available which can be unusual for some areas of the country.

This is great as more and more companies realize the benefits of having a charger (shows a progressive business, encourages those who own EVs to shop there, etc.) we’ll see more of this–especially if EV sales continue to grow.