Ford Uses Big Data to Drive Sustainability

Ford Fusion Energi

by | Oct 28, 2013

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Ford Fusion EnergiFord is using big data and analytics to increase fuel economy, reduce vehicle emissions and drive other sustainability advances, the automaker says.

John Viera, Ford’s global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters, says the company’s investments in big data have continually increased over the last 15 years.

Viera outlined Ford’s use of analytics and big data as part of a panel discussion at Friday’s 2013 Net Impact conference in San Jose, Calif. The group, comprised of scientists, mathematicians, computers modelers and other researchers, uses analytics and big data to minimize Ford’s environmental impact and improve its bottom line, according to Viera.

For example, the group has developed a science-based model that projects CO2 emissions generated by the fleet of vehicles on roads worldwide for the next 50 years, helping Ford set aggressive fuel economy targets.

Researchers at the center have also advanced Ford’s EcoBoost engines, hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies, flex-fuel, all-electric, biodiesel, CNG and LPG models. They’ve also created mathematical models that optimize millions of possible vehicle combinations to help construct an eco-conscious and cost-effective global technology roadmap, resulting in green products such as Ford Auto Start-Stop, which saves fuel use when the car is standing and running at idle. Savings vary depending on driving patterns, but owners who spend most time in heavy urban areas and city traffic will benefit the most — up to 10 percent — and on average. Auto Start-Stop improves fuel efficiency by about 3.5 percent, the company says.

Ford researchers have also developed specific tools such as the Ford Fleet Purchase Planner, an analytical system that uses mathematical optimization to provide fleet customers with customized purchase recommendations that help them save money and improve corporate sustainability.

Ford says it continues to expand its use of big data as more and better technologies, methodologies and datasets emerge. The plug-in hybrid Ford Fusion Energi (pictured), for example, generates about 25 gigabytes of data every hour that are useful for further improvements in fuel economy and vehicle emission reductions. Ford researchers are already experimenting with vehicles that generate 10 times that much data —250 gigabytes — per hour, the company says.

Some other areas Ford is exploring for green analytics potential:

  • Green routing, which optimizes driving routes to reduce a vehicle’s impact on local air quality in specific locations, such as near hospitals, schools and in high-density residential areas.
  • Statistical analysis of vehicle usage data to provide insight into consumer acceptance of electric vehicles and the electrification of personal transportation.
  • Optimal use of current and future biofuels.
  • Demand and availability of strategic materials used in powertrains, including rare earth elements, lithium and platinum group metals.
  • Life-cycle analysis tools aimed at measuring energy and water use — along with greenhouse gas emissions — associated with alternative fuels and materials.

Ford invested $8 million in a battery lab that opened earlier this month at the University of Michigan that the automaker says will help it develop batteries that are smaller, lighter and less expensive to produce.

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