You probably know Ford best for its petrol driven cars. But at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the car manufacturer seems keen to establish its green credentials with two prototype foldable electric bikes, the MoDe:Me and the larger MoDe:Pro as well as a new smartphone app.
Forming part of Ford’s ‘Handle on Mobility’ initiative, which is itself part of the company’s recently unveiled ‘Smart Mobility Plan’ (it seems you can never have enough projects to work on), the idea is to study how these prototype electric bikes can work alongside cars and public transport to deliver easier and faster daily commutes.
Both e-bikes are equipped with a 200 Watt motor with 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assist for speeds up to 25Km/h. The bikes boast technology inspired by the automotive industry including a rear-facing ultrasonic sensor which warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking them by vibrating both handle bars as well as alerting the motorist to the presence of a nearby cyclist. Clever eh?
Built with the help of bike manufacturer Dahon, the MoDe:Me e-bike is intended for urban commuters and folds and stows easily for taking onto public transport or putting in the back of a car, while the ModeMe:Pro is built by the Ford team and intended for urban commercial use by people such as couriers and other delivery services.
The e-bikes also work with a prototype app called MoDe:Link. Compatible with the iPhone6, this provides real time information for the cyclist including satellite navigation complete with handle bar vibrations which let you know when to turn as well as maps displaying bike friendly roads, hazards and alerts. Electric pedal assist rate can be adjusted depending on your heart rate with a ‘no sweat’ mode reducing the requirement to pedal so you don’t end up a perspiring heap at an important business meeting!
The app also recommends which is the best mode of transport to take in order to arrive at your destination in the quickest possible time. For example if a train is cancelled the app could recommend that you drive or cycle instead.
Says Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering: “There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together.”He adds: “Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare.”
At MWC, Ford also launched a new app that enables electric vehicle drivers to remotely connect their smartphone with the car to manage charging – and even set a chosen cabin temperature for their journey. Called MyFord, the app enables drivers to remotely manage the status of their car, check the range, and plan journeys to include charging.
The MyFord app shows CO2 savings and offers tips on how efficiency might be improved. Among the first vehicles to offer MyFord Mobile in Europe will be the zero emission new Focus Electric which will be available this Spring as well as the C-MAX Energi plug-in electric hybrid vehicle.
At MWC, Ford is also showcasing its open source research initiative, the Info Cycle Experiment, which will gather information about how bikes are used in different urban areas. A sensor box on the bike frame collects data such as wheel speed, acceleration, weather and altitude.
Ford first announced its Smart Mobility Plan at the CES Show in Las Vegas in January. This comprises a total of 25 transportation projects across the globe including how driverless cars can be integrated into our lives and how urban parking can be improved by identifying the nearest available spaces to the driver.
“Changing the way we think, collaborate and behave is essential to ensuring freedom of movement,” says Barb Samardzich, chief operating officer, Ford of Europe. “The Ford Smart Mobility plan supports our commitment to innovation and is aimed specifically at developing smarter transportation systems that take the worry and anxiety out of journey planning and improve the quality of life in busy cities.”
Traffic problems and overly-long commutes have a significant economic and social impact in large cities, claims Ford. According to the European Commission, congestion within the European Union costs about €100 billion per year. A study by the UK Office of National Statistics shows that each minute added to a commute also affects anxiety, happiness and general well-being.