Electronics360 Contributing Editor Rick DeMeis recently spoke with Mazen Hammoud, Ford Motor Company’s Electrified Powertrain Systems Chief Engineer. Mazen leads system sizing, supplier strategy, controls and calibration for all hybrid, plug-in-hybrid, and battery electric vehicle programs globally. Below is an excerpt from the audio interview.
Electronics360: What are Ford's powertrain electrification plans for the next few years?
Mazen Hammoud: Our electrification strategy revolves around "the power of choice," where we have offered electrified powertrain options in some of our most popular compacts, particularly the Fusion, which comes with a traditional powertrain as well – Ecoboost plus full hybrid and plug-in hybrid. We also have an electrified-powertrain-only vehicle line, our C-Max full hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in. We also offer a full electric vehicle in our Focus and we have a Lincoln full-hybrid offering, the Lincoln MKZ.
We have announced a collaboration with Toyota to develop a full-size pickup truck hybrid. It will result in two different trucks, an F-150 on our side and a Tundra on the Toyota side—they will share many of the components for the electrified powertrain.
Q: On the new Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, what were the key technology enablers?
A: The highlights of what we did for the plug-in, to achieve the attributes we were able to deliver to the customer, are the in-sourced CVT transmission (which we built internally) for the full and plug-in hybrid; in-sourced assembly of the battery (using cells from the supplier); electric vehicle (EV) driving up to 85 miles per hour — a major enabler for achieving 100 mpge — as well as our 21-mile all-electric range.
Q: What are the reasons for in-sourcing the battery—cost, quality control?
A: It's all of the above. We view batteries and electrified powertrains as key competitive advantages. Being able to control quality — to be in control of our own fate, if you will, by having the expertise internally — [enables us to] deliver the highest quality to the customer at a competitive cost.
Q: In bringing about the plug-in hybrids, the Fusion and C-Max, what were the biggest challenges in getting those to market?
A: The challenge is that the costs are higher than for a full hybrid. There is a bigger battery, where a lot of the cost is, and additional components, such as an on-board charger and charging port. So the weight goes up, and we had to compensate for that with the overall system efficiency.
And the cost is higher, so we have to provide sufficient value to justify the added cost. For example, having opportunities for a customer to recharge the car, based on a customer's usage, ends up determining the ultimate value [to him or her]. A customer that has a longer commute and is only able to recharge the car once a day [at home] or less, means it would be a tougher equation (lower value) than a customer with a shorter commute able to drive EV one way to work and recharge during stopovers.
Q: Can you explain the EV+ feature on the Fusion Energi plug-in?
A: It is a feature in our powertrain where the vehicle "learns" the normal routine of the driver. It is able to recognize where, for example, the driver stops for an extended period of time, such as at work or at home. The system adjusts the battery state-of-charge strategy to further take advantage of draining the battery to levels normally we would not go to—because it offers better overall efficiency that way.
If you were going through "normal" driving, we would want to maintain a higher state of charge. It is an adaptive type of feature that mirrors the customer's behavior and learns favorite destinations—and based on that, is able to offer extended EV driving. An icon in the instrument cluster comes on to tell the driver that you are now in EV+ driving and taking advantage of the feature and getting better efficiency.
Q: Does the EV+ mode take into account both driver behavior and GPS input?
A: How the algorithm works, whether it looks up in GPS itself, I am not able to disclose that, but it does know when the customer is at their favorite destination within, say, a mile or two, and pushes the battery further into discharge.
Q: If Ford management came to you and said, 'We're going to double your research budget," in what areas would you want to invest?
A: Like everybody else, the battery area is one [in which] we think there's room for advancement. We rely a lot on our suppliers for advancements. We do our own development, but we are a lot more involved with internal research with electric machines more than the battery cells themselves. If we had more resources and were able to justify its scale, then we would invest more in battery research.
You want to balance that with our ability to influence industry by guiding existing research and development with our supply base, with an eye on what could be actually put into production on the mass-scale level.
So a lot of our ongoing battery research is guiding the suppliers in terms of cell chemistry, etc, and how they can get to levels that would be most efficient. That is one area where there are more opportunities to push that technology further and maybe look for other technologies beyond lithium ion (Li-ion) in order to get battery electric vehicles to where they need to be to be a viable option for a customer.