Charge your car by phone

New fea­tures give hy­brids more ap­peal, writes Paul Pot­tinger

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On Road -

AMO­BILE phone ap­pli­ca­tion that ac­ti­vates and mon­i­tors elec­tric-ve­hi­cle charg­ing and a por­ta­ble charger for the home are Ford’s new­est gam­bits in its bid to be­come a ma­jor maker of al­ter­na­tive en­ergy ve­hi­cles by 2020.

Ford man­ager of ve­hi­cle elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Chris Pick says that though hy­brids will by far re­main the Blue Oval’s pri­mary non-con­ven­tional ve­hi­cle, cars with al­ter­na­tive en­ergy pow­er­trains of all types could make up as much as 25 per cent of the com­pany’s over­all pro­duc­tion by the end of the decade.

Speak­ing at Ford’s global head­quar­ters in Dear­born, Michi­gan, Pick says the tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenge of im­prov­ing plug-in-hy­brids (as op­posed to full hy­brids such as Toy­ota’s Prius) and EVs re­mains for­mi­da­ble.

But, he says, a greater chal­lenge is cur­ing the buy­ing pub­lic of ‘‘ range anx­i­ety’’, so the com­pany is con­cen­trat­ing on mak­ing them as com­fort­ably ‘‘fa­mil­iar’’ as pos­si­ble.

‘‘The elec­tric ver­sion of the Fo­cus (show­cased at the Detroit Mo­tor Show) is sim­ply an elec­tric ver­sion of a main­stream ve­hi­cle,’’ Pick says.

‘‘You get all you get in the new Fo­cus with the ben­e­fit of an elec­tric driv­e­train. It is not a project car or a demo ve­hi­cle.’’

Pick says Ford’s new EV charger is a por­ta­ble do­mes­tic ap­pli­ance that ‘‘re­places petrol miles with elec­tric miles’’, one that he claims charges faster than that of the ri­val Nis­san Leaf and pro­vides greater range than the Chevro­let Volt. It will also, he says, be about $500 cheaper in the US — $US1500.

The down­load­able phone app, called My Ford Mo­bile, is free to users for the first five years.

While this and the home charg­ing kit are the sexy fea­tures of Ford’s elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, Pick says EVs will com­prise only 5 per cent of the 25 per cent of ve­hi­cles that will make up Ford’s al­ter­na­tive power source pro­gram.

Cars with more fa­mil­iar hy­brid pow­er­trains, such as the Fu­sion and the new C-MAX, will make for about 70 per cent this seg­ment.

Hy­brids ca­pa­ble of run­ning for dis­tances solely on plug-in recharge­able bat­ter­ies will com­prise the rest.

Pick says Ford is al­ready the biggest maker of ‘‘full hy­brids’’ next to Toy­ota.

‘‘We don’t want to force this on cus­tomers,’’ Pick says. ‘‘We want to pro­vide more op­tions for those ready to move from con­ven­tion­ally pow­ered cars.

‘‘Just as one size of ve­hi­cle doesn’t fit all buy­ers, we’re go­ing to pro­vide them with op­tions. We are in the early stages of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, so this will be some­what pre­mium priced.’’

As to how the range of EVs could be ex­tended be­yond the 140-odd km now pos­si­ble, Pick says this will be driven by early-adopters.

‘‘We won’t re­ally know un­til they use their ve­hi­cles over ex­tended pe­ri­ods and we know what their needs are.

‘‘We don’t know whether we should in­stall a big­ger bat­tery, be­cause bat­tery technology will be­come more so­phis­ti­cated.’’

Ford Aus­tralia spokes­woman Sinead McAlary says the new wave of hy­brids and EVs will first roll out in North Amer­ica, then Europe, with Asia-Pa­cific to fol­low some time later.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely on the agenda, but there’s no time­frame as yet,’’ she says.

More op­tions: Ford’s C-MAX con­cept car, un­veiled in Detroit last month, has a hy­brid pow­er­train.

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