Ford Patents Plug-In Hybrid That Starts Its Engine When Parked To Charge Battery

4 months ago by Sebastian Blanco 44

Ford EV gas engine charge batter patent

We collect cool little electric vehicle patents in a series called Your Future EV. Sometimes, though, a patent idea jumps out at us as something worth its own post. Like this idea from Ford to keep your PHEV charged. By using the gas engine. When no one’s in the car.

Yes, Ford thinks that people won’t be freaked out by a parked car randomly (okay, seemingly randomly) starting up its gas engine so that the traction battery can get some electrons. Filed September 29, 2015 and published yesterday, Ford’s patent is officially called the, “Electrified Vehicle Method And System For Charging During A Non-drive Cycle.” That’s legalese for letting, “a portion of an electrified vehicle” start up, check the battery state of charge and then charge the battery with the internal combustion engine if – and this is important – the EV is in an open space. The patent doesn’t say how the car will identify its surroundings, but it does say that, “The internal combustion engine is not started, however, if the electrified vehicle is in an enclosed space.”

Here’s how the patent describes the activity (lightly edited for clarity):

During a non-drive cycle, the state of charge in the traction battery and the state of charge in the accessory battery can decrease over time. For example, if the traction battery is a 25 Ah battery with a 15% state of charge at the conclusion of a drive cycle, the state of charge for the traction battery could drop to 5% during the subsequent non-drive cycle. The drop could be due to self-discharge of the traction battery  when the vehicle is parked for an extended period of time. During the non-drive cycle, the controller periodically wakes reassess the state of charge for the traction battery and the state of charge for the accessory battery. … The timing of the wake-ups could be based on temperatures of one or both of the batteries, or the voltages of the batteries. … If the state of charge for the accessory battery is below the threshold, and the state of charge for the traction battery is below the threshold, the controller can start the engine to charge the traction battery. Notably, the controller verifies that the vehicle is in an area appropriate for starting the engine prior to starting the engine. Since the controller can start the engine without responding to a user input, the starting is considered an autonomous starting of the engine.

The car will also be able to send the driver text messages, asking that the car be moved if it’s not in an open area. Or, the patent says, “The alert could be an email, an audio signal, a visual signal, or some other type of notification providing an indication to the operator.”

As is always the case when it comes to patents, just because a company gets a patent for something doesn’t mean anything will ever come of it, but we like to look behind the curtain nonetheless.

Source: USPTO

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45 responses to "Ford Patents Plug-In Hybrid That Starts Its Engine When Parked To Charge Battery"

  1. Spoonman. says:

    It shouldn’t do this if it has enough range to get back home, but it’s actually a pretty cool idea for a PHEV.

    1. Mikael says:

      Pretty cool? Ford killing the environment both locally and globally, now without even a driver present

      We should be getting pitchforks and ropes…

      1. danwat1234 says:

        Beats coming to a dead car to have the engine run for maybe 20 mins under load every few weeks or whatever. I’d imagine it would only run if it’s needed if it were to never plug in again. Then again, suppose the car could disconnect the traction battery from further self-discharge, disable thermal management. Besides to keep the accessory battery charged.

        No need for an accessory battery anymore, like in the Hyundai Ioniq, hmm, then even less need for the engine to cycle on to keep the car ready.

  2. David Murray says:

    I guess I’m at a loss for the purpose. The only benefit I could see would be for a vehicle with a very small range extender engine. That way, it could recharge the battery for later driving so that the driver need not worry about a drop in performance using a tiny Rex.

    1. DJ says:

      Ya, that’s basically the only use.

      Not sure frankly I would want my PHEV to randomly do this either.

    2. Kieran Mullen says:

      Extremely low state will cause damage.

  3. unlucky says:

    EVs don’t have engines.

    1. unlucky says:

      It’s very confusing when only 3 stories down there is a story about how drivers in the UK would consider an EV now and it is referring to EVs (as seen by the mention of limited range in the concerns). Now here you have an article referring to something else (a PHEV or plug-in) which has an ICE and thus can charge itself in place.

      insideevs could be consistent at least in the titles/summaries even if the source articles are not.

    2. Ziv says:

      The Volt is an EREV or a PHEV-53 if you wish. So it is an EV. It is not, however, a BEV.
      Is that what you meant to say?
      There is a reason authors and commenters use the acronym EV instead of BEV, it is to include cars that function primarily as an EV in the group, even if they have a gas genset.
      You may not like it, but it is how most people look at the technology.

      1. unlucky says:

        No. What I meant to say is it isn’t an EV.

        If it’s powered by electricity and gas it isn’t an EV. If it is powered by electricity and hydrogen it isn’t an EV.

        A PHEV isn’t an EV any more than a hot dog is a dog or a vice president is a president. Just because one name contains another doesn’t mean one is a subset of the other or even overlapping at all.

        1. Ziv says:

          LOL! You are on a sad journey, dude. I hope you find something a bit more important to base your next rant on.

          The Volt is as much an EV as a Leaf is, and come to think of it, the Volt is a BETTER EV than the Leaf.

          1. unlucky says:

            Hey, thanks for the insult. You really brightened my day! I’m here to receive any further pointless attacks you wish to send my way if that’s what it takes.

            1. Ziv says:

              unlucky, the vast majority of people in the know consider the Volt to be an EV. They have done so for around 8 years. Yet there is a small minority that comes on and comment about the same issue over and over again.

              Get over it. The Volt is considered to be an EV, but not a BEV. EREV’s are EVs by definition.

  4. Mark.ca says:

    I fail to understand its usefulnes…the gas used to charge the battery why not just use it to get to the charging station wherever that may be…what is the difference?

    1. DurkleGT says:

      While in an efficiency aspect there’s no difference (or even potentially worse in this situation depending on how the powertrain is set up) I can see that the user experience could be better this way.

    2. Jason says:

      If I’m reading this correctly, it is only used if the traction battery gets below a certain level. As it is well reported that the LiIon battery can be damaged if it totally discharges. I think BEV owners are well aware of this and pretty much plug in whenever possible or if the car is sitting a long time.

      Given the amount of PHEV and Hybrid out there, the reported battery problems seem nonexistent, so I don’t think this solution is required, and probably why Ford has not implemented it yet.

  5. mustang_sallad says:

    This makes sense if you’re talking about the 12V starter battery. On top of that, an EV needs a 12V battery to start as well, so you could use the same algorithm to turn on the high voltage battery (instead of the engine) and use that to charge the 12V battery. IN that case, you wouldn’t need to worry about where the vehicle is.

    1. Jason says:

      Technically you don’t need the 12B battery, why would you when you got 24kWh+ of battery sitting there. 12v is a legacy thing which I expect will disappear some time in the future generations of EV.

      I’ve heard various reasons for the 12v battery being there, but my personal favourite is that all the legacy car auxillary systems use it, so why reinvent it. Someone also told me it is in the design rules and that is why it is there. Also, if weight is such a big issue, why isn’t the lead acid 12v replaced with a much lighter LiIon?

      1. Kieran Mullen says:

        All EV have a 12 volt battery because all the off the shelf interior components are designed to run on it rather than the high pack voltage.

        1. David D. Nelson says:

          My 2003 Gizmo EV does not have a 12V battery. It simply has a DC-DC converter to convert the traction pack voltage to what the 12V systems need. I’ve received all kinds of arguments why this setup is prone to issues and isn’t best and can’t be done this way. I’ve owned it for over 10 years and never had trouble with the 12V system. No, EVs don’t have to have a 12V battery to operate safely and reliably. In fact, I’ve heard of several EV owners having to jump start their EV because the 12V battery was dead. My 2016 Soul EV+ even had a software update to address just this issue.

          1. Ray says:

            Well said. This is my first time reading as to the system you describe. I gather the 12 volt battery is the cheapest method to activate the car. My 2011 Nissan Leaf still have the original battery. I use a trickly charger for time to time to keep it sharp. Thanks.

  6. Dan says:

    Answer to a question no one asked? Maybe I missed it in the article, but what about parking in an enclosed space like a garage?

    1. Ziv says:

      The diagram has a “Is vehicle in an enclosed space?” decision box. It won’t turn on the genset if it is enclosed, supposedly.

      1. mike w says:

        How does the car know if its parked outside or inside?

        1. Ziv says:

          Danged if I know. Air sensors? ACC sensors? The decision box makes it look like the car will have the ability to test for being in an enclosed space, but I haven’t a clue how.

  7. bro1999 says:

    So instead of using gas to run the range extender while driving…..you’re gonna use it to charge the battery when the car is parked, which is less efficient than simply running on the ICE.

    Worst. Idea. Ever.

    1. mustang_sallad says:

      I don’t think you understand – this is about running the engine just enough to keep the battery from self discharging to a dangerously low level and bricking the car when it’s left parked for a very long time. It might charge the battery from 5% to 15%. It’s not talking about running the engine instead of plugging in, it’s a safety net.

    2. realistic says:

      bro, as a PHEV driver and a consultant who is heavily involved in hybrid electric projects (i.e., there’s an ICE involved), even I would agree. I think mustang is right and the idea is not so bad.

      Now I’ve been the guy who drove his Volt all the way to the “bottom” (still about 15% remaining) and finished the ride to the airport on the engine. Then I parked the car in ORD remote parking Lot F for a week with temp varying from -10F to +15F over eight days. I didn’t have a bricked battery when I got back, but I worried about it. I suppose Ford’s idea has some possible merit.

  8. Magnamundian says:

    Illegal in some countries to run engine while parked…

  9. taser54 says:

    Forgive me, but the link is to a patent application publication only, not a patent.

  10. Some Guy says:

    I did not think that Big Auto could find a way to pollute even when parked at night.

    And now I’m proven wrong.

    I have an even better idea: Don’t generate the electricity directly, but put in Mercedes technology for heat recovery from the exhaust to make electricity, which is then used to shine the front-lights to illuminate the area, genereting solar electricity.

    However, tomorrow is April 1st, so I sincerely hope that this is just a hoax.

    1. Mister G says:

      Wait a minute, many Republicans will love this idea.

    2. Jason says:

      +1 LMAO

    3. bhtooefr says:

      To be entirely fair, gasoline vehicles without vapor recovery systems pollute whenever there’s any fuel in the tank and any less than a 100% seal of the fuel system (which there has to be to allow for expansion)…

  11. PHEVfan says:

    This makes no sense whatsoever considering that Ford specifically did NOT put a mode in the energi models to charge the HV battery during driving (beyond that of regular hybrid mode). Now they want to charge it when you are NOT driving?!?!?

    Give us the former, please, not the latter.

  12. Mark C says:

    Then the day comes when the “enclosed space sensor” malfunctions in someones attached garage and the pollution kills the owner.

    “Oops, if you bring it in, we’ll replace the sensor and throw in a free wash job for your inconvenience.” hahahahahahahaha, great idea Ford s/

  13. Taser54 says:

    The article title states that Ford Patented this. The link provided is only to a Patent Application not a patent. There is no evidence that this has completed the patenting process.

    Publication of an application does not equal patenting.

  14. Mister G says:

    This is similar to a hole in the head lol…fossil fuel industry is getting desperate to create demand for dirty fossil fuels.

  15. Anderlan says:

    This is exactly what happens if you lock the door and leave your hybrid turned on. Except the 100-200W background accessory usage is probably more like 1-10W.

  16. Paul says:

    Simply emit black smoke from the tailpipe and this wiil warn people nearby that the batteries are in charge mode and exhaust is actively being emitted.

  17. Toby says:

    Idle running of an ICE is limited to 3 minutes in many areas here in Sweden, so it better be a very efficient charger 😉

  18. DTM says:

    Two years ago my Ampera (volt) was updated just to avoid self starting the engine for maintenance or protection reasons. In fact, it was done to avoid emissions in closed areas like garages.

    Strange that this idea was patented by Ford. And even more strange that they actually received some kind of acknowledgement for this ‘invention’

  19. DougP says:

    Hey everyone, the purpose of this “feature” is to make sure that the traction battery has sufficient charge to start the engine. Ford PHEVs do not use the 12V battery to start the engine, they use one of the electric motors, which draws power from the high voltage traction battery. This will make sure that if you leave your car parked in the Minneapolis airport ramp for 2 weeks in January, there will be sufficient charge in the traction battery to start the engine when you return. That’s all.

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