Ford Motor Co. and a Nokia subsidiary are developing the GreenZone system, which automatically manages the energy efficiency of a plug-in hybrid vehicle as it cruise over zones established by the driver. The system is part of the carmaker’s research into connected vehicle technology. It enables drivers to establish zones through Nokia's maps on a mobile device, computer or in-car navigation system.
Once the vehicle is in the zones, the vehicle’s system would switch its powertrain to electric-only. Those zones may include parks, residential areas or any place where a driver wants to minimize pollution.
Ford and Here, a Nokia unit providing in-car maps for carmakers, are developing the system in a way that it could help drivers select routes by considering factors that may impact energy usage, including live traffic, weather and changes in elevation, says Johannes Kristinsson, the carmaker’s supervisor of advanced connected features.
Kristinsson quipped that the GreenZone system is currently a research project, and they still have “a few years of research left" before it could be installed into a production model. The carmaker recently demonstrated a version of the GreenZone system on a Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, making it pass through a quiet residential street where Fusion quietly shifted from gasoline engine to all-electric mode.
The GreenZone can be seen on the Fusion’s navigation screen along with a blue dot showing the car's progress. Once the Fusion got out of the GreenZone near the school, the gasoline engine automatically powers up the car.
Joel Brush, global account director for connected driving for Here, remarked that the system will use location to optimize and personalize the driving experience. While Ford's plug-in hybrid vehicles could now make energy-usage calculations through its on-board computer, the GreenZone system provides more promise since it will connect with the cloud.