As Ford stays on track to have five electric vehicles (EVs) on sale in the North American market by the end of 2012, the company is putting significant resources into making it easy for customers to find a place to recharge them—and not just by teaming with third parties to support the nation’s electric infrastructure. Ford engineers have worked just as hard to find the right place to locate the charging ports on the vehicles themselves. “After benchmarking multiple competitive vehicles, we found there wasn’t much consistency in charge port location ,” said Susan Curry, Ford Electrified Vehicle Technology Integration supervisor. “We wanted to give customers a location that made the most sense for them and would seem as simple as filling up at the gas station.” For Ford’s new electric vehicles, there was another consideration, too. While most people fill their gas tanks about once a week, or a little over 50 times a year, the company expects most EV drivers to plug in and disconnect their vehicles four times a day, which is some 1,500 times a year. That extra interaction meant it was extra important for Ford to get the placement of the charging ports just right, since drivers would be using them so often. After gaining input directly from potential customers, as well as studying those other vehicles, Ford was quick to rule out two seemingly obvious possibilities: The very front and rear of the vehicle. That’s because both locations could have caused problems if customers had to deal with things like packed snow, dead insects or other road debris, and even fender benders. The solution? Incorporating the port high on the quarter panel on the driver’s side of the vehicle, just aft of the wheel opening, in a place that “keeps the charge port in sight before the customer enters or exits the car, for an easy reminder to unplug or recharge,” according to Mary Smith, Ford Electrified Vehicle Technology Integration supervisor. “It creates an intuitive placement for owners that also has aesthetic appeal.” That appeal is designed to reach other drivers as well, because the charging port can be illuminated to indicate the vehicle’s charge state—and ensure that passers-by and other motorists know they’re looking at one of Ford’s breakthrough energy savers. And you can be sure they’ll be looking at more and more of them in the very near future, since the first Ford EV —the Ford Transit Connect Electric—went on sale to commercial customers in 2010, and the Ford Focus Electric is slated to debut later this year.
Ford Works To Make Plugging In Easier