DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. and a unit of Finnish technology giant Nokia are developing a system that automatically manages the energy efficiency of a plug-in hybrid vehicle as it travels through zones designated by the driver.
The GreenZone system, part of Ford's research into connected vehicle technology, would allow drivers to set up the zones using Nokia's maps on a mobile device, computer or in-car navigation system.
The vehicle's software would automatically switch the vehicle's powertrain to electric-only when in the zones. Motorists could plan their routes in advance to operate most efficiently in the zones they designate. Those zones could include parks, residential quiet zones or densely packed urban areas where the driver wants to minimize pollution.
The system is being designed to eventually help drivers choose routes by factoring in everything that affects energy usage, including live traffic, weather, changes in elevation and so on, according to Johannes Kristinsson, Ford supervisor of advanced connected features.
"The system is a research project now," he says. "We still have a few years of research left" before it goes into a production model.
Ford recently demonstrated a version of the system on a Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid near Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. Driving from a bustling commercial thoroughfare into a quiet residential street, the Fusion's gasoline engine shut down and the car quietly shifted to all-electric mode. The GreenZone was displayed on the car's navigation screen along with a blue dot showing the car's progress. Once the Fusion emerged from the GreenZone near the school, the gasoline engine kicked back in, all in sync with the map.
Ford's partner is Here, a Nokia subsidiary that provides in-car maps for carmakers in Europe and the U.S.
"We're using location to optimize and personalize the driving experience," said Joel Brush, global account director for connected driving for Here.