Ford Explores More Accurate Method for Predicting Electric Vehicle Range

SEP 13 2013 BY STAFF 13

Focus Electric Window Sticker...Is That Range Figure As Accurate as Possible?

Focus Electric Window Sticker…Is That Range Figure As Accurate as Possible?

Back in 2011, Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering team began exploring ways in which it could more accurately estimate electric vehicle energy consumption.

Do I Need to Charge Now or Will I Make the Trip Without Juicing Up?

Do I Need to Charge Now or Will I Make the Trip Without Juicing Up?

Ford believed that if energy consumption could be fully understood, then range predictions would be far more precise.  It was from this that Ford set out to explore how traffic simulators and vehicle propulsion impacted energy consumption and range.

Ford’s resulting work is now found in the book titled “Simulation and Modeling Methodologies, Technologies and Applications.”

A snippet of the work from that book, courtesy of Green Car Congress, is found below:

“To alleviate range anxiety, new vehicle electronics features are needed to help vehicle operators make diving choices that avoid discharged battery situations, extend vehicle range, and combine charging with other good uses of time. Development of these features requires practical meta-models that can accurately predict energy consumption on public roads.”

“Building meta-models from field-test data requires statistical regression of public-road vehicle data (PRVD) over very large geographic areas. At present there are not enough production test vehicles available to collect a sufficient amount of data, noise factors are not well controlled, and data collection is too time consuming to support product launch. As a results modeling and simulation are essential tools in analysis of BEV performance.”

“In this work we propose implementation of traffic simulation combined with propulsion modeling for determining electric vehicle energy consumption. We use traffic micro-simulation to create surrogate PRVD data that has many of the properties of actual PRVD data, specifically capturing the stochastic nature of vehicles moving through roads with traffic. The surrogate data is analyzed using propulsion simulation to estimate the amount of energy the vehicles will consume in a specific driving maneuver to derive statistical information.”

We’re sure that the rest of the book is written in this overly technical manner and that it would be a bore to read, but what’s important here is that automakers understand that range predictions must be accurate and that they’re working on a solution that’s as precise as possible.

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13 Comments on "Ford Explores More Accurate Method for Predicting Electric Vehicle Range"

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Ford is misguided in focusing on trying to make more accurate range predictions. Driving style, weather, road type, road terrain, and traffic conditions all pay a role in actual energy use per mile. Without accurate real time data on all the factors, it is nearly impossible to calculate an accurate result.

A better focus to reduce range axiety for average vehicle purchaser is to build:
1. battery capacity to exceed a minimum 120-150 mile range, and
2. fast charging infrastructure, capable of providing over 90 miles range per hour of range (CHAdeMO today provides 150 MRPH, and SuperChargers provide over 300 MRPH)

Hopefully Engineers at Ford are also designing real-world solutions and not just writing books with more guestimates in their range prediction.

I totally agree. Range prediction isn’t the issue. Charging speed and availability are much more important.

Work along the lines of what Ford may be doing could be used to improve routing in navigation software though, and not just for EVs. I really wish to eventually see options other than just “fastest” and “shortest route” along with distance and time indications, but things like “minimize energy use” and/or accurate consumption prediction(s).

(The online tool Nissan offers is an okay first attempt, but it’s a bit clunky to use and hasn’t turned out to be very accurate; it probably fails to take into account many of those necessary factors).

Ford is on the right track. The more accurate the range predictions are, the more accurate onboard systems in EV will be, which will make them more reliable and less ‘anxiety’ for the driver about making it to their destination on a daily basis.

The more the driver is confident once charged at home, and that he has enough range for the journey, the less worry about running out of power or looking for a charging station.

Just like drivers if ICE vehicles, after refueling at a gas station, don’t immediately start to worry about running out of gas or looking for a gas station when they drive their ICE vehicle on a daily basis.

I think the Spark EV already does this.. But I wish all EV’s had two or three range numbers. One would be a maximum range based on your current battery capacity. This would be a best-case scenario. The other number would be a worst case range. Then I think they should add a 3rd number that shows your range based on your current driving style. Only, that number should literally update every 10 seconds or so, rather than how the Leaf updates every couple of minutes. This would give the driver a better idea of if they can make it or not. First of all, if they know they have 13 miles to go and the worst-case meter reads 15 miles.. Then they should know they can definitely make it. But also giving them a faster-updating current range would better help people understand how their driving style is affecting their range.

Maybe I am reading something into this, but I think the flip side of this would indicate where to put the charging stations. In other words, where the demands of driving will consume the most battery power, you should place more level 3 chargers to reduce range anxiety. Where the driving speeds are low, the terrain is level, and few stops are required, you may only need a few level 2 community chargers. Better models of energy consumption would help provide guidance for charging sites.

I would need a range meter that would at least tell me if I have less then 10 or 20 miles of range in that I would charge up a electric car that at least was able to tell me if I had 10 or 20 miles left before I would take it out. At this point I have gotten driving some of my ICE cars on E down to a science about when they are going to run out of gas.

My quite old Roadster is actually quite accurate at predicting the range. No complicated “regressions” are involved. They just extrapolate the way the driver has driven in the past, so if the driver is ‘consistent’, then the range will be accurate.

First order improvement to today’s systems should use on-board GPS NAV destination and the elevation changes and speed limits along the route to give a range shortfall or surplus forecast for the destination. If there is a shortfall, recommend a charging destination en-route with the best charging capability and least detour. Of course, EV drivers with good planning skills always know where backup charging stations are should the available energy be insufficient to make it to the next planned charging stop.

Indeed, when I plan a route, the system should use elevation information on the proposed route. So that it wouldn’t indicate a range, based on experience, since I drove flat the months before.

Exactly. I have yet to see an in vehicle GPS that indicated changes in altitude.

Something to think about, someone driving to Denver has a shorter range than someone driving away from Denver.

Not if you’re driving in from Vail 🙂

Wow, this is great tech but maybe Ford can work on the “Stop Safety Now” feature so as to really remove range anxiety!! 😉

I own a Ford Focus EV. Simpler fix would be to simply display the remaining kWhs remaining. People are intelligent. Treat them that way.