Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan are working together on a project to accelerate the development of future hybrid vehicles. Researchers are analyzing data from 2,500 road trips to determine how internal electronic vehicle controls could be tweaked to further improve fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive attributes.

Working with U of M, Ford has tested nearly 1 million design simulations of hybrid vehicle control systems to date—as many as 175,000 per week—and continues to conduct about 50,000 a week. While other academic work in hybrid vehicle technology primarily has been focused on fuel economy, Ford and U of M are looking at the union fuel economy and drivability.

The new hybrid controller design method we have created has the potential to offer consumers more choice in how efficient and drivable their vehicles are. I envision hybrids of the future featuring multiple modes or offering customers the ability to customize their driving experience.

— Jessy Grizzle, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at U of M

Working together with the University of Michigan research team, we are testing the boundaries of hybrid vehicle technology, exploring innovative ways to raise the bar on fuel economy and drivability. This joint work on hybrid software development shows great promise in helping us lead the development of more efficient hybrid systems for the future.

—Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, chief technical officer, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering

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The research is still in its early research stages, but the partners say the initial results are promising.

Ford now has four hybrid vehicles on sale, with more electrified vehicles coming. Ford Motor Company’s hybrid vehicle sales have risen 73% this year, compared with a 14% decline in hybrid sales across the industry. (Earlier post.)

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