2017 Ford Focus ElectricEnlarge Photo
As in other industries, "big data" is an increasingly common buzzword these days in discussions of electric cars.
Last November, several research entities presented relevant data sets and advocated for their use at an electric-car "datathon" hosted by the White House.
Putting theory into practice, Ford has now analyzed customer data to analyze how its electric cars and plug-in hybrids are used for the past few years.
The Dearborn automaker believes cooperation with rivals is the next step in data utilization.
The pitch was made at the recent SAE Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium by Brett Hinds, Ford's chief engineer for electrified powertrains.
2017 Ford Fusion EnergiEnlarge Photo
Using the MyFord Mobile service, Hinds said Ford has collected data on 35,185 distinct vehicles since 2013, over more than 80.6 million trips.
As a vehicle drives, data is uploaded to the cloud. Customers have access to it for 30 days, and it is ultimately sent to secure servers at Ford for analysis.
The data is anonymized and compared against the Atlanta Regional Travel Survey, which is considered to be representative of U.S. driving patterns.
MORE: Tesla's autonomous-car efforts use big data no other carmaker has (Dec 2016)
Based on that comparison, Hinds said Ford feels confident in using data from the MyFord Mobile service to make estimates about the general driving population.
For every customer with MyFord Mobile data, Ford established a distribution of trip profiles based on where they were going, how often they were moving, and how often they started the vehicle.
That data can be mathematically represented with a Gaussian distribution, a procedure Ford would like other automakers to adopt.
2017 Ford C-Max EnergiEnlarge Photo
Automakers could use this standardized method of data analysis to inform the designs of future plug-in cars, or to use in lobbying efforts with regulator agencies to "set regulations that more closely reflect real-world driving conditions," Hinds said.
While its sales efforts to date have tilted toward plug-in hybrids, Ford says it plans to launch a 300-mile all-electric SUV.
Hinds said analysis of customer data indicates 300 miles will be enough range for the majority of driving situations.
It would be enough to cover the longest daily distance any customers surveyed had done repeatedly, he said, and DC fast charging would cover scenarios where that range proved inadequate.