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Ford of Europe piloting geofencing and blockchain technology to ensure PHEVs operate efficiently in city center low-emission zones

Ford is extending its European plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) trial to Cologne. The study, which is also testing Ford PHEVs on the streets of London and Valencia, Spain, aims to better analyse and show the real-world benefits of such vehicles for the environment and for commercial vehicle owners and operators.


Working with five municipal fleets and the City of Cologne, nine Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans and one Tourneo Custom Plug-In Hybrid people-mover will be put to the test in a variety of real‑world use cases. Ford will also investigate how innovative geofencing and blockchain technology could help to accurately track and increase the number of “green miles” driven by vehicles.

Blockchain creates permanent time-stamped records of data which are saved on multiple computers and which constantly grows as new records or “blocks” are added. Geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary defined by GPS technology.

In Cologne, as in cities across Europe, low-emission zones are being introduced to address air quality challenges by discouraging the most polluting vehicles from driving through them. However, these zones can present difficulties both to the cities implementing and administering them, and to drivers understanding where and when restrictions are in place. That’s where Ford’s geofencing and blockchain technology pilot could help.

Each of the 10 PHEVs in the 12-month Cologne trial features the FordPass Connect on-board cellular modem, and a plug-in device which enables the geofencing and blockchain capabilities. Whenever a trial vehicle enters a controlled zone, its electric-drive mode is triggered and the zero-emission driving green miles are documented. The emissions mode and time that vehicles enter or leave a controlled zone are recorded to a secure distributed ledger—a blockchain—ensuring emissions data is safely stored and shared among relevant parties including city authorities and the vehicle or fleet owners.

The dynamic geofencing technology also means the vehicles can adapt in real time to changes in emissions zones. For example, cities may choose in the future to adjust controlled areas or create new ones based upon local weather or environmental conditions. The connected PHEVs will then automatically switch to low-emission mode when they enter these updated zones.

Trials by Ford in London have already shown how PHEVs offer a compelling solution for commercial vehicle owners in cities with low-emission zones. Ford Transit Custom and Tourneo Custom PHEVs can operate in electric-only zero-emission driving mode delivering a range of 56 kilometers (35 miles) and 53 kilometers (33 miles) NEDC respectively. Longer journeys between cities are supported by a Ford 1.0-liter EcoBoost gasoline engine that charges the battery to extend the overall range beyond 500 kilometers (310 miles) NEDC.

The blockchain technology we are testing here in Cologne enables secure, tamper-proof tracking and logging of vehicle emissions records, which makes it ideal for the PHEV pilot. Security, trust and transparency of emissions data are of paramount importance to all stakeholders in this project, and are key for our vision of cleaner air in the city.

—Gunnar Herrmann, chairman of the management board, Ford-Werke GmbH

The project also sees Ford become an official partner of SmartCity Cologne. Initiated by the City of Cologne and regional energy supplier RheinEnergie AG, SmartCity Cologne is a cooperative platform for partners throughout the region to pilot technologies and services that promote climate protection and energy transition.

The Ford Transit Custom is the first vehicle in its class to offer plug-in hybrid capabilities, and is available to order now with first deliveries before the end of the year. Introduced from spring 2020 and available for retrofit to earlier vehicles, a new Geofencing module will be able to automatically switch the vehicle to zero-emission driving mode when entering low emissions zones. Operating without blockchain technology for now, it will still ensure that businesses are able to comply with regulations and avoid charges or penalties.

Ford is Europe’s leading commercial vehicle brand, with the Ford Transit model range setting a second-quarter sales record of 68,800, up 2.7% from the same quarter of 2018. Ford earlier this year announced that a new all-electric Ford Transit van will join the Transit range, anticipated for volume launch in 2021.


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