Every driver of a plug-in hybrid electric car eventually wants to drive more on electricity and less on gasoline.
So it's frustrating when the battery charge indicator shows a reasonable level of charge, you're only a few hundred feet from home, and yet the engine kicks on because of that one steep hill.
Wouldn't it be nice if the car could "know" that it was close to its destination, where it would be recharged?
That's exactly what Ford has built into its new 2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid hatchback. (It'll also most likely appear on the upcoming 2013 Ford Fusion Energi as well.)
The new "EV+" feature lets the C-Max Energi learn frequent destinations over time, using a proprietary predictive software algorithm developed by two Ford engineers, Ken Frederick and Matt Smith.
The algorithm uses the Energi's onboard GPS equipment to monitor the latitude and longitude of frequently visited locations. (Ford hastens to assure us that the locations can be erased "at the push of a button.")
If the car senses it's getting near a location where it's customarily plugged in to recharge, it will change the way power is used--depleting its battery pack further than it normally would.
Specifically, if you're within an eighth of a mile--or 200 meters--of one of those locations, the car keeps itself in electric-only mode.
Drivers will see this is happening because the EV+ alert light on the instrument cluster illuminates.
That delivers more electric-only driving, which not only gives a marginal reduction in gasoline usage, but keeps the car in its smoothest quietest mode for longer.
And that makes drivers happier.