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Transportation Power The Almighty Buck Technology

Ford's Badly Needed Plan To Catch Up On Hybrid, Electric Cars (arstechnica.com) 181

Ford supposedly has a plan to adapt to the changing world of transportation. The company recently announced that it's "going all-in on hybrids," readying six new battery electric vehicles by 2022, with the first due in 2020, and adding more performance versions of its SUV line up. "Additionally, by the end of 2019, every new Ford will have 4G LTE connectivity, and the company is developing a new cloud platform that will deliver over-the-air updates," reports Ars Technica. From the report: New hybrids: "Hybrids for years have been mostly niche products but are now on the cusp of a mainstream breakout," said Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets. "The valuable capability they offer -- plus fuel efficiency -- is why we're going to offer hybrid variants of our most popular and high-volume vehicles, allowing our loyal, passionate customers to become advocates for the technology." So America's best-selling truck (the F-150) will get the ability to act as a mobile generator, something that should come in handy on job sites. Meanwhile, the Mustang will have performance to match the 5.0L V8 version but with more low-down torque, according to Ford. The company says that these new hybrids will be cheaper and more efficient than its current hybrids, via "common cell and component design and by manufacturing motors, transmissions, and battery packs."

New BEVs: We have to wait for those new BEVs, too. The first of these -- an electric performance SUV -- also shows up in 2020, but with five more planned between then and 2022. Ford says that it's "rethinking the ownership experience" as part of this and that over-the-air software updates to add new features will be part of the $11 billion investment plan.

More SUVs, more commercial vehicles, a super Mustang: Other new vehicles on the way include a reborn Ford Bronco SUV and an as-yet unnamed small SUV, but before then we'll get redesigned Explorers and Escapes, due in 2019. Next year, Ford will also bring a new Transit van to the US, and it says advanced driver-assistance systems, like automatic emergency braking and others, will be added to future commercial vehicles like the future E-Series, F-650, F-750, and F59-based vehicles.

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Ford's Badly Needed Plan To Catch Up On Hybrid, Electric Cars

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  • So long as... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2018 @06:07AM (#56274309)

    I don't need to call tech support while crusing down the road at 120kph for 2 hours until I get a connection to the internet in order to stop my car, we'll be good. (Read: FU Benz, FU).

    Call me a luddite, but I much prefer cars that have mechanical linkages and less software. Generally speaking, the mechanical engineers have a few hundred years of mistakes and experience under their belt. Software developers on the other hand are drunk on the gold rush of disruption and won't stay up thinking about my safety after their nightly hookers and blow and government regulators won't put them in jail for fear of dampening the hysteria.

    • Re:So long as... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @06:48AM (#56274349)

      It's not really a software / hardware distinction, the problem is more how complicated it gets. When we switched from relay logic to software logic in the production lines I was working on in the 1980 and 1990 the fault rate went way down, because less things were able to break. Plus you didn't have to re-wire the entire cabinet when the logic changed, you could just copy over the software. But of course those processor maybe had 512 bits of input and 128 bits of output, and the software consisted of maybe a few thousand and/or logic instructions and perhaps 1028 bits of RAM to store intermediate results. (and yes, i *mean* 0/1 bits, not bytes or anything else)

      But yes, anything that has anything that's even remotely in the the area of "over the air" ... something is *way* to complicated to be trusted with operating machinery in my opinion.

    • Luddite!! :)
  • the grail (Score:2, Interesting)

    ...would be a genuine low emissions, super high efficiency diesel engine under the hydrid package. Good electronics and battery tech mean you could optimize the diesel's operating parameters.
    • Re:the grail (Score:5, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday March 17, 2018 @07:18AM (#56274417) Homepage Journal

      ...would be a genuine low emissions, super high efficiency diesel engine under the hydrid package. Good electronics and battery tech mean you could optimize the diesel's operating parameters.

      Diesels depend on being hot. They are utterly unsuited to a hybrid duty cycle. The only company that has a diesel worth using in a light car is Subaru, since they've got a Boxer and it doesn't have to be stupidly heavy to cancel vibrations because it does that naturally. And they have never bothered to sell it here in the states.

      • Diesels depend on being hot. They are utterly unsuited to a hybrid duty cycle.

        The term "hybrid duty cycle" is extremely vague in your usage. No you wouldn't use a diesel like an Atkinson Cycle [wikipedia.org] engine on a Prius. You would use a diesel like you would on a locomotive. The diesel is running continuously and acts as the power source for a generator for the electric motors that actually turn the wheels. No direct drive from the diesel to the wheels. It should be an excellent way for large trucks (particularly long haul versions) to hybridize. You could have battery banks to power the

        • It is not used because it is inefficient. Diesel electric locomotives (and very large mining trucks) are this way because a conventional transmission would be far too large and heavy and would require the engine to be used in a large range of engine speeds. Smaller diesel trains do use a conventional transmission because the fuel consumption is lower.

      • We dont make diesel engines heavy to "cancel vibrations;" we make them heavy because of their massive compression ratios.
      • No they don't depend on being hot. Diesels generate spontaneous fuel-air combustion through adiabatic compression. The only requirement is that the ambient air temperature be high enough that the temperature and pressure after compression is sufficient for the fuel and air to spontaneously combust. If the ambient air temperature is too low (typically a little above freezing), then it initially needs the assistance of glow plugs to offset the loss of heat through the engine walls and help get the temp in
    • ...would be a genuine low emissions, super high efficiency diesel engine under the hydrid package. Good electronics and battery tech mean you could optimize the diesel's operating parameters.

      Don't say that word! That's the one word that the Knight of the Ni Automobile Industry can't hear right now!

      Lots of folk have looked for the Holy Grail . . . and the results have been . . . well . . . not so great. When Ford says they are "going all-in on hybrids", it sounds to me like they are making a risky bet, with unsure hands. I'd rather hear them say something like, "we have solid plans for the long-term success of our coming hybrid products."

      Taking risky bets is what business, especially vent

      • 1-Pick a large American city. 2-Install wireless charging points everywhere in that city, preferably drive on/off mats or coils in the pavement. Bonus points if you install them at traffic lights and at the mall. 3-Roll out EV cars that use those chargers. Congratulations, you now have critical mass in the EV business.
        • I don't have any doubts that EV is the future . . . and I don't have any doubts that some automobile manufacturers will have tremendous success doing it.

          I do, however, have doubts that Fiat, Ford and GM will be able to have success. They're still too stuck in the internal combustion engine world. Even if the boss says that they are going electric, there will be internal inertia and resistance . . . intentionally or unintentionally.

          It kinda sort reminds me of how some folks inside IBM never accepted that

      • Lots of folk have looked for the Holy Grail . . . and the results have been . . . well . . . not so great. When Ford says they are "going all-in on hybrids", it sounds to me like they are making a risky bet, with unsure hands. I'd rather hear them say something like, "we have solid plans for the long-term success of our coming hybrid products."

        So, you'd rather be lied to? Because that would be bullshit. Ford doesn't know how the growing popularity of mobility services (as opposed to vehicle ownership) is going to play out any more than anyone else does.

        Yeah, bailing out GM was maybe a good idea . . . but the government did not force them to ditch the executives who made all the bad decisions. The same thing happened on Wall Street.

        Well, Ford just changed its leadership, so you should be happy.

  • It's dead, Jim.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Ill bet Ford's real plan was to buy Tesla after using it's media partners, the ones it pays all those ads for, to futz with the Tesla share price. Crap, didn't work 'er' lots of hybrids is the new plan. Just guessing of course ;D.

  • All I could find were Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Durango.
  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Saturday March 17, 2018 @07:09AM (#56274403) Homepage

    lots of mention of how they keep car s/ware patched ... no mention of what else they might use the 4G connection for -- maybe slurping data, like where I have been and sell that data on. They will have an interesting time coping with the upcoming EU GDPR [wikipedia.org].

    • by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @07:48AM (#56274467) Journal

      I'm all for hybrid and electric vehicles, but I'm really not happy that every industry is going to over-the-air update models.

      There are of course the security issues, but there is also the more insidious side effect that it promotes a "ship it now" mentality instead of "ship it when it's ready" mentality.

      I'm hoping the "right to repair" movement maintains its momentum and also includes "right to not require connectivity."

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Even today such data collection is illegal without permission in the EU.

      My Leaf asks me if I agree every time I turn it on, and if I don't it works fine but doesn't send the trip data up to the cloud service. I mostly decline since I don't use that service.

  • If someone can make it work trucks powered by electric motors off batteries topped up by turbines is probably the medium term way to go. The emissions are way better as is fuel economy.
    • Re:Turbines (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2018 @10:10AM (#56274807)

      Not sure why you said turbine... Turbines are lightweight and reliable, but they are fuel hogs... In the aircraft I fly, turbines burn about twice the fuel of a piston engine of the same HP. They also have limits on how many times you can start them up, so they're not great for frequent start/stop operation. You might be thinking of a co-gen turbine system, but that's not mobile...

      These guys [achatespower.com] on the other hand make an engine that might work well, or of course you have BMW with their motorcycle engine in the i3 Rex.

      My other comment on the big automakers in general is that when they say Hybrid, a lot of them mean "mild hybrid" i.e. a 48 volt hybrid system. It's a quick and dirty way to get some of the benefits of a hybrid grafted onto existing cars without a major redesign, my worry is that with the state of global warming a 15-25% increase in fuel economy isn't sufficient. I'm of the opinion that we need a combination of BEV and PHEV (like the Volt) to radically decrease the amount of fuel we're burning. I'm concerned that a 15-25% decrease, while automotive use seems to be increasing, may help stop the increase in carbon emissions, but won't help decrease it by the amount we need to be thinking of.

      Here's an article on mild hybrids [jalopnik.com] and here is the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] on mild hybrids.

      My experience so far has been with a BEV (Honda Fit EV) and PHEV (Chevy Volt First Gen). Of the two, I liked the Fit the best. However, my daughters did not. The main problem was, as a pilot I'm used to figuring out ahead of time where I'll be going, where I'll refuel, etc. But the average driver (like my daughters) just wants to hop in and go, and when the little gauge says "E" to just find a nearby gas station and top off. They don't want to have to plan the trip.

      The Volt works out very well for them, in that they can drive typically 35-40 miles on the battery, and then the gas motor kicks in, and they don't have to do any planning unless the gauge reads "E". So, in many ways a great compromise between pure electric and pure gas, and I would think a great way to transition people into electric vehicles... but I wish the battery range was more like 100 miles.

      What I don't like about the Volt (and mostly I think it's a good car):

      1) Especially in the winter, a lot of trips end up running the gas engine. If it's below freezing, the car often will not use the battery at all (it just flashes a message that it's using the gas engine because of the temperature). In the winter the car simply doesn't have the range - the battery range drops to about 20-25 miles which is NOT enough to complete most trips that aren't just around town.

      2) The fuel economy when the engine runs isn't that great... about 40-42 mpg. I think that's because they put in an engine big enough to keep the vehicle moving at highway speeds once the battery is depleted.

      3) You're carrying a full sized engine around all the time. I think the BMW i3 has the better idea... have a much smaller engine just barely big enough to recharge the battery. In fact I think I'd like the option to go even further than the i3: instead of an engine which can keep the car moving at highway speed (except on a steep hill) give me a really small range extender engine, one that won't move the car much faster than 25 mph... Here's my reasoning:

      Most of the time I charge at home, do a trip, and hopefully get home, all on battery. Sometimes I'll drive further and I'll plan on charging at some point during the trip so that I can make it home without having to use gas. But sometimes there's no place to charge, and that's where it's great to have the gas engine.

      But instead of hauling around a full size engine all the time, or even a motorcycle engine like the BMW i3, how about a really small engine that can act li

      • It's not all that bad of an idea. You're really just mitigating the risk of not finding a charging station, which in the early days might be often. I've been looking at a rather expensive electric, but I have trouble getting past the whole 100 or even 200 mile range, and that is if you can find a charging station.

        However conceivably you could just buy an all electric, then throw an electric generator in the trunk, and some gas containers, and that would offset the risk a bit if you do take a long trip somep

  • Hybrids (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tquasar ( 1405457 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @07:51AM (#56274469)
    Will the workers at service centers need training and new tools and equipment to diagnose and repair these new vehicles? Independent shops have been prevented from having what they need to work on some cars and trucks.
  • Not interested (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @07:53AM (#56274471)

    I don't want over-the-air updates for my car.

    I want a reliable car that works when I get it, doesn't need troubleshooting, doesn't need patching, because it works. Treat my car like a fucking computer and not an engine powering a frame and wheels and I'm going to find a different car.

    • Re:Not interested (Score:4, Insightful)

      by crow ( 16139 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @08:34AM (#56274553) Homepage Journal

      I just want the built-in navigation system to get automatic map updates, instead of requiring over $100/year for updates. Yes, I'll mostly use my phone for navigation anyway (because the navigation is horrible in my Nissan), but it would be nice if I didn't feel like the car company was always trying to suck more money out of me.

      • Don’t know how Nissan does it, but Toyota was based on DVD’s. Pretty easy to get on ebay and buy a pirated one to update your maps for a fraction of the cost of the official DVD. I use my phone for nav, but the built-in has a much larger screen and is useful for interpreting the instructions the phone puts out.
        • by crow ( 16139 )

          Nissan uses SD cards with their DRM feature to prevent them from being used more than once. It's nasty.

      • I just want a bigger screen and a hook up to my phone. Give me an Android and iPhone app that'll broadcast my phone screen to the vehicle screen. Now, my maps are always updated (via phone), and I don't have to do squat with the car. The car screen can still play the radio or backup cam, etc.

        How is this NOT a thing already?

    • Re:Not interested (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @09:03AM (#56274627) Homepage

      The thing is, OTA updates can give you material improvements. For example, a while after Tesla started shipping dual motor Model S's, an engineer had the idea of "Torque Sleep", wherein you automatically sleep one of the two motors (which have different gear ratios) in low torque demand times, then instantly wake it when traction or accelerator pedal needs require it. Since you have three separate choices on motor operating conitions (double torque on the front motor, double torque on the rear motor (different RPM), or balanced torque between the two), you have three choices of efficiencies, and can choose the most efficient combination. When they pushed out this update, overnight people with dual motor configs got a dozen miles more range.

      Here's another: when Model Ss started being rolled out, there obviously wasn't many years of data available about how all of these motors would hold up in the real world, so Tesla had to make conservative assumptions about power limits. Years later, once the data was available, Tesla used OTA updates to raise the limits on a lot of their slower models, improving their acceleration.

      Autopilot of course has a huge amount of software development going into it every year. OTA updates deploy this to all owners. Trust me, owners *much* rather this situation than the alternative situation where nobody is allowed to have Autopilot until some unknown future date when it's "flawless" on all roads in all situations and never makes the driver take control. The reality is that there never will be some sort of date when it's "perfect"; there will always be continuous improvements, and you want those improvements in your vehicle.

      OTA updates are a good thing.

      • OTA updates have a good side, but the bad side becomes too tempting. We've already seen them hacked. That is a problem that doesn't need to exist in cars.
      • Re:Not interested (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @05:46PM (#56276823)

        The thing is, OTA updates can give you material improvements.

        No: *updates* can give you material improvements. There is no reason for them to be OTA. OTA, while maybe more convenient for some, opens the gate to a whole slew of abuses and risks. When you car has OTA access you can be tracked by everybody and their dog, you can be hacked, and you have no control over the updates (and if some update proves to be buggy, tough noogies. Just wait for the next one,which will,fix the problem, we promise).

        Instead of OTA, updates should be done via a DVD or USB. To me, the mild inconvenience of having to download an update to an USB and stick it in the entertainment system is trivial compared to having the choice to apply the update on my own schedule and being safe from bored teenagers who buy an exploit off the dark Web and think it would be cool to disable your brakes or from criminals who lock your car and ask for a Bitcoin payment to get it unlocked. Add to this the fact that Google, the insurance companies and any number of other nosy outsiders don't get to know every breath I take and every move I make, and the decision is clear.

    • Lots of people said that about mobile phones.....
    • Treat my car like a fucking computer and not an engine powering a frame and wheels and I'm going to find a different car.

      That's okay if you're willing to drive something old, like my 1982 300SD. The only part that makes decisions for you is the transmission, and it makes those decisions mechanically. But what if you want niceties like... safety? It was a stunningly safe car for its day, but it doesn't have airbags or pretensioners (those became standard in 1985 or 1986, not sure which.)

  • Just Ford? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Saturday March 17, 2018 @08:20AM (#56274517)
    Would that was just Ford that finds itself in this position. The German car makers just got a swift ass kicking in the form of the diesel emissions cheating scandal that caused WV just sink EUR 20 billion (that's USD 25 billion) to secure future battery supplies meaning that they are finally getting serious on pluggable hybrids and electrics. Just to keep that in perspective, it's worth keeping in mind that the fine they got for the diesel emissions cheating was also USD 25 billion. It just goes to show these bozos only learn through pain caused by money disappearing from the wallet. I'm assuming that many other car manufacturers in the US, Europe and the rest of the world now find themselves in a similar position as Ford and WV, i.e. playing a game of catch-up. This is basically a race to secure as much of the existing battery production capacity as possible because it is limited and (according to Bloomberg) it will take up to 10 years and a massive investment to expand it significantly so it's first come first serve unless you have the cash to build your own battery factories like Tesla has done and sink your own cash into mining. The companies that are late to the party will go belly-up or disappear in mergers just like all those venerable old camera manufacturers who bet that digital will never surpass the quality of film. We'll probably also see a bunch of companies that make things like electric powered fork lifts or electric engines expanding into car manufacture just like we saw computer manufacturers and then cellphone makers start making digital cameras or camera/gadget hybrids like smartphones. In 10 years some of us might find ourselves driving the new Komatsu or Jungheinric sedan (and if you think that's a weird thought remember that Lamborghini used to make tractors). The really interesting part is that in 2014 we got an oil market crash because of 2 million barrel daily overproduction of oil in a market where daily production is ~90 billion barrels, so what will happen when electric cars have eaten up 10-15% of the car market? ... since something like 75% of oil is used for transport and a lot of that is for cars. Then there is the look on Jeremy Clarkson's face when he has to rename his show 'Top foot-pedal accelerator senor value'.
    • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        West Virginia. They've started making cars now, didn't you know? Need to do something now that nobody's burning coal....

    • All this stems from the late 1990s when CARB first threatened to implement a zero emissions vehicle requirement (that a certain percentage of each manufacturer's sales had to be zero emissions if they wanted to be allowed to sell ICE vehicles, with the percentage increasing every year going forward). At the time, nobody knew which technology would pan out. GM and the Japanese automakers bet on battery-powered electric vehicles. Ford and Chrysler bet on hydrogen fuel cells. I don't think the European car
  • Can't tell if this will be a good thing or not. Since the first announcement of this, the consumer in the US has only seen the "Transit Connect", which isn't really a Transit van but rather a smaller imitation of one (that doesn't really quite fit into the minivan category either). The full size Transit is something of a replacement for the old Econoline vans, but Ford forgot to market them so they aren't really selling (and they are only supposed to be sold directly to commercial buyers for no obvious re
    • The full size Transit is something of a replacement for the old Econoline vans, but Ford forgot to market them so they aren't really selling (and they are only supposed to be sold directly to commercial buyers for no obvious reason).

      When people have a choice, they buy a Sprinter. We bought our 2006 T1N Sprinter from a plumber who was selling it only because he couldn't get commercial insurance for it any more for some reason. It's got strobes, even. (I have disabled them so I don't strobe by accident.) He hates his Transit and it's been in the shop twice as much as the Sprinter was by the same time. In addition, while the diesel Sprinter regularly delivers OVER the EPA estimate, the Ecoboost sprinter always underdelivers. Ford isn't bo

  • If I were them, I'd wait even longer - let the whole industry shake out and make its mistakes. Personally, I'm not convinced there's a huge market now anyway, especially after all the governmental subsidies are withdrawn.
  • Someone should look at this [fleetcarma.com]. Not only do they have the best selling vehicle (the F series truck, which outsells ALL electric vehicles by almost a factor of 5), but they have two in the top 10 for electric vehicles. I think someone's politics is writing this story, if you look at the actual facts they will see that Ford actually has a good profit margin for auto makers, dominates a major space (light duty trucks), and competes well within the tiny market called electric vehicles (two of the top 10). Given
  • In the 80's and 90's, when lead-acid batteries still ruled, some of the most popular EV conversion vehicles were compact pickups like the Ford Ranger and Chevy S-10. Ford even sold a production Ranger EV from 1998-2002. With the current popularity of pickup trucks, why is no one producing an electric pickup? How hard can it be?

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."