High-Tech Problem Solvers

Watch: Ford myth busters take on electric vehicle misconceptions

Ford's new Mustang-inspired crossover EV is coming soon and the automaker's engineers are trying to head off some skepticism at the pass.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

A June survey by global research and analytics consultancy PSB reveled that while most Americans expect electric vehicles (EVs) to gain widespread adoption in the near future, many of them have a number of misconceptions about them.

Confusion about the capabilities of the models is not restricted to just Americans. The survey revealed that Chinese and Europeans are just as confused.

That survey, its results, and clearing up the misconceptions is the subject of a recent post on Medium by Ted Cannis, global director, electrification, Ford Motor Company.

As the head of electrification for Ford, the questions I get from family, friends and colleagues about electric vehicles run the gamut," he shared. "'Are electric vehicles fast?' 'Do they work in winter?' 'Can I really give up visiting the gas station?' 'Are they capable enough to help me do my job?'"

Cannis says that the easy answer to all those questions is, "Yes."

More than 90 percent of Americans and Europeans don't believe quick acceleration is a great benefit of electric vehicles. This could work out to benefit automakers like Nissan who have taken a less rapid approach to acceleration than Tesla's Ludicrous mode allows.

EV Myths Busted: Fun to Drive | Electric Vehicles | Ford www.youtube.com

That doesn't mean that everyone has to offer a measured approach. Ford is seeking a more blistering approach to acceleration with its forthcoming Mustang-inspired all-electric SUV.

Other findings include:

  • 42% of Americans think electric vehicles still require gas to run.
  • Nearly 80% of Americans would not pick an electric vehicle for extreme weather, while almost 65% would not choose one for all-wheel drive.
  • 67% of Americans and 68% of Europeans don't believe that electric vehicles are capable enough in terms of towing and hauling.
Ford recently showed off the all-weather prowess of the forthcoming Mustang-inspired EV by filming it testing the Smithers Winter Test Center on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

EV Myths Busted: Winter Test | Electric Vehicles | Ford www.youtube.com

The company also recently showed off the capability of a prototype of an all-electric Ford F-150. With hybrid and electric variants of the model deep into development, the company had to do something to prove that EVs can haul - and they did, with over one million pounds behind the hitch.

EV Myths Busted: All-Electric F-150 Prototype Tows 1M+ Pounds | Electric Vehicles | Ford www.youtube.com

Recent reporting indicates that Ford could debut their all-electric pickup by 2021. The company's long-awaited all-electric SUV is expected to arrive in showrooms in late 2020.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The navigation in the forthcoming versions of the F-150 and Bronco employs a combination of Telennav and Ford technology.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

You May, but your Ford F-150 or Bronco will not get lost on the trail. That's thanks to the automaker's partnership with Telenav, which powers the navigation technologies inside the new versions of the two iconic vehicles.

The SYNC 4 system that will be in the two vehicles will include the Telenav system, which includes specialized route suggestions for towing and off-roading. The two systems, working in tandem, will store maps and continue routing even when drivers go outside of cell coverage.

Ford SYNC 4 Navigation The system also lets drivers know of hazards ahead.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

"Customers want connected vehicle technologies to work more like smartphones with real-time, personalized services – and that is exactly what we are offering with Ford SYNC 4 innovations such as Telenav's navigation system," said Gary Jablonski, manager, Ford Connected Vehicle Infotainment Systems. "F-150 and Bronco drivers now can get richer, quicker location search results, tow more confidently with custom routes and keep following off-road trail maps where other navigation systems go dark when cell coverage ends."

The routing system also has specialized options for customers that are towing anything from a boat to a 4x4 to a camper and beyond. When determining a route for navigation, the system guides users to routes best suited for the dimensions of their trailer to help avoid sharp turns, narrow bridges and low overpasses. Off-road enthusiasts can navigate to and on many 4X4 trails across North America, with additional trail maps to be added over time.

During traditional vehicle usage, the mapping system will give F-150 and Bronco owners the latest maps for reliable, time-saving navigation and be capable of providing location information such as finding cheap and available parking or a well-reviewed restaurant to eat at along the way.

SYNC 4 doesn't rely on strictly touch screen inputs. Ford's digital voice assistance may be used for many of its features.

Additionally, SYNC 4 offers users the ability to see landmarks and their descriptions and user ratings from Yelp.

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Production of the Volkswagen ID.4 will mark the automaker's first all-electric SUV launch. The ID.4 will have about 310 miles of range, depending on the drive package.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is investing heavily into electric vehicles (EVs), even in the U.S. where the models make up a smidgeon of the sales each year. The company has already begun expanding its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory to build a North American center for the engineering and assembly of EVs.

That doesn't mean that they're just working on cars. They're working on the design of the "things" that go into cars as well. Much of this will happen at the Engineering and Planning Center (EPC) in Chattanooga. Breaking ground on the center is set to happen soon with the expectation of it being fully operational by spring 2021.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plant Volkswagen is investing $800 million and adding 1,000 jobs at its Tennessee plant. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The EPC will feature a unique, state-of-the-art high-voltage laboratory that is designed to develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs. These cells and packs are slated to be assembled in the U.S. before being inserted into vehicles.

"There are two ways that auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries," said Wolfgang Maluche, Vice President of Engineering at Volkswagen of America. "A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter."

The lab will include pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and – perhaps the most unique – a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.

According to Volkswagen, most automotive labs have MASTs, "but almost none were designed for electric vehicle batteries". EV batteries present their own set of testing challenges because of their size and weight. They typically weight hundreds of pounds each, making them the heaviest component in an EV.

"The battery is not only shaking; it is going through a series of harsh conditions to test its durability in a variety of possible environments, from the South Pole to the Sahara," said Jason Swager, the Director of Electrical Development. "We needed to build a MAST that could withstand the immense force and frequency that we need to test these batteries."

Volkswagen describes the process:

"To run a MAST at such high frequencies, Volkswagen had to design its own tool rather than using an outside supplier. The supports for the MAST will be buried 12 feet under the lab's floor and buttressed with concrete to help withstand the forces in use. Volkswagen's new lab will be only the second location in the country with a MAST of this size."

Volkswagen is building the lab to LEED standards. "This lab was planned to be as sustainable as possible," said Maluche.

The production version of the Volkswagen ID.4 EV is expected to be revealed soon. It will be produced at the factory. The company recently celebrated the 1 millionth vehicle to roll off the line at the plant.

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