Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Dec 21

‘Drive My Way’ program brings 2016 Volt direct to customers

 

Is this a good idea? What else could Chevrolet do?

By Brian Ro

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Last week, Chevrolet reached out to a group of people in select markets offering delivery of a new 2016 Volt for a 30-minute test drive.

The e-mail from Chevrolet’s “Drive My Way” program came to an undetermined number of prospects and offered the 2016 Volt for them to check out at a destination of their choice.

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet To Delay Volt Production To Next Spring as 2017 Model Year For 39 States

According to the email, a “vehicle specialist” would “bring the test-drive to you” and ride along for the 30-minute drive.

The fine print however says the customer must agree to let GM collect driver behavior data such as speed, braking, and acceleration, along with vehicle location.

RedCap Valet is identified as the company supplying the vehicle specialist.

New Direction

With this initiative, Chevrolet may be following its own tagline of “Find New Roads.”

Bringing the Volt to the customer contrasts highly with usual test drives conducted by traditional Chevy dealers. One bit of flak Chevrolet has received the past few years is the hit-or-miss care its dealers – independent franchises – may give the Volt.

Dealers must first opt in with Chevrolet to sell the Volt, and though many have done so, some have still shown ambivalence toward the car and stories have gone forth of them not being knowledgeable or motivated enough to sell it.

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Without violating any contractual agreements with its dealers, Chevrolet appears to be bypassing them to a point, making up for potential gaps in the Volt’s marketing. The move appears far more customer centric and undoubtedly the specialist will know a Volt from a Cruze.

SEE ALSO: Can the 2016 Volt Break Beyond ‘Niche’ And Go ‘Mainstream?’

In a HybridCars.com interview in January with Steve Majoros, Chevrolet director of car marketing, Majoros said that marketing for the 2016 Volt would be different from the first generation.

At the time Majoros said GM would take a partnering role with dealers, and seek to train and empower them to effectively communicate the Volt to prospective buyers.

He and others at Chevrolet and parent company General Motors have otherwise reiterated a message that they have learned a lot about how they need to refine communications going forward.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevy Volt Ads Take Serious Poke At Leaf and Prius

Also indicating Chevy’s latest marketing strategy, the automaker published two internet video ads taking aim at two of the Volt’s competitors, the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius hybrid.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 18

200-Mile Road Trip in a Gen 2 Volt

 

By BillR

2016_Volt

On October 28 I took delivery of a new 2016 Volt. It is an LT version in Kinetic Blue Metallic with the Light Ash/Dark Ash interior. Optional equipment includes the Comfort Package, Leather, and Bose stereo. What an excellent car!

For the first 750 miles or so, I had been driving in EV mode exclusively (except for testing the total range on the first day and testing Hold mode). My lifetime efficiency peaked at 115 MPGe.

After three weeks of ownership, I decided to use the Volt for a 200-mile business trip from New Hampshire to Massachusetts and back. My planned route would involve about 50-percent interstate driving, 40-percent rural driving (speeds of 40 to 55 mph), and about 10-percent urban driving. The weather forecast called for morning lows in the 20s, and highs later in the day in the 40s and 50s.

Staying Comfortable While Maximizing Range

I typically try to minimize the amount of electrical energy used for cabin heating, however, the windshield on the second-generation Volt seems to need a great deal of defrost on cold days. I believe this is due to its steep slope and large surface area. This large surface cools quickly, condensing moisture from within the cabin.

In addition, while I am willing to accept some level of low temperature in the cabin, I don’t want to be freezing. Therefore, I have the car’s “Engine Running Due To Temperature (ERDTT) set to engage at 35° F outside air temperature, and I have my own logic for this setting. If I want to be somewhat warm at 35° F and below, the car will require more and more electrical energy. This reduces my EV range.

However, if I run the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), not only do I get 42 mpg, I also get free heat! Since heat is a byproduct of running the ICE, I feel it is more energy efficient when it gets cold to utilize the ICE to provide heat and reserve the battery for propulsion.

As the U.S. EPA observes, a gallon of gasoline has an equivalent of 33.7 kilowatt-hours of energy. With a 30-percent efficient ICE, this leaves over 23 kilowatt-hours of waste heat. That’s 65 percent more than the entire 14.0 kilowatt-hours that is usable in the battery pack!

Thus, I planned my trip to strategically utilize the battery and ICE to provide the best range and interior comfort.

The owner’s manual states:

Use Hold Mode on a trip where it is expected that all of the electric charge will be depleted. Use Hold Mode mainly during highway or high speed driving to maximize both EV miles and fuel efficiency.

Therefore, my strategy was to use EV mode on urban and rural sections of the route, and utilize Hold mode on the interstates. I also planned to use Hold mode on some of the faster rural routes as well.

At 6:05 on a Wednesday morning I left my home. I had a fully charged battery and the temperature in the garage indicated 56° F (see Figure 2, please excuse my blurry photos). The odometer read 759 miles and the coolant temperature was 60° F. The indicated EV range was 60 miles (see Figure 3).

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I utilized the steering wheel heater from the start of the trip, and that is a true blessing. My intent was to drive several miles in EV mode, and then switch to Hold mode to get cabin heat. I kept the cabin heat in ECO mode with a low fan setting and the cabin temperature set to 70° F

However, since it was only 20° F that morning, in less than 1 mile of travel, the ICE started and the message “Engine Running Due to Temperature” appeared on the driver’s display. Also at this time, the windshield began to fog up. The normal defrost did not seem to defrost the windshield fast enough for me to maintain good visibility, so I needed to use Max Defrost. This cleared the windshield quickly, but likely utilized some of my battery energy.

On the DIC, I was monitoring coolant temperature. I noticed that the ICE continued to run until the coolant temperature reached 145° F. Then the ICE shut down. This worked well, for soon after the engine shut down, I was able to proceed at 35 mph through a small town in EV mode.

Once I had gone through the town, I stopped to get a picture of my energy usage (see Figure 4). As I continued on my journey at 50 mph, ERDTT kicked in again. My observations from this trip (and subsequent trips that I have taken) is that ERDTT will run the ICE until your coolant temperature reaches 145° F, at which point the ICE shuts down. Once the coolant temperature cools to 120° F, the ICE starts again. So my observation is that ERDTT maintains the coolant temperature nominally between 120° F and 145° F.

fig4

I continued the first leg of my journey, utilizing Hold mode on the faster stretches of rural roads, and returning to normal mode for urban and slower driving scenarios. This enabled me to maintain reasonable cabin temperature, keep the windshield defrosted, yet utilize only a portion of my electric range, and reserve my battery for propulsion purposes only. With the warm coolant temperatures, it seemed that no electric power was being consumed for climate control (or defrosting).

After about 1 hour of driving rural and urban roadways, I got on an Interstate for approximately 8 miles. I was traveling at 65 to 70 mph and the coolant temperature was about 190° F when I exited the Interstate.

From here I drove about 7 miles on more rural roads to reach another Interstate highway. I was able to utilize the heat stored in the 190° F coolant for heating/defrost for the next 7 miles and travel in EV mode, however, since there was a great deal of stop and go traffic on this road (typical morning commute delays), by the time I reached the next Interstate highway, my coolant temperature was nearing 120° F, and ERDTT was about ready to engage. Fortunately, I reached the entrance ramp just prior to this point, went into Hold mode, and zoomed up the entrance ramp.

I will just briefly touch upon the performance difference between EV mode and Hold mode. Acceleration certainly feels stronger when the ICE is running, especially at speeds above 30 mph. I have no data or facts to back up this statement, only my perceived “seat of the pants” reaction.

Once on this second stretch of Interstate highway, I used cruise control to the best extent possible, and traveled at 70 mph, plus or minus a few mph. The coolant temperatures increased to between 180° F and 205° F. With all this heat energy available, I changed the climate control settings to Max, set the cabin temperature to 78° F, and increased the fan speed to about 75 percent. After a few minutes, I felt very warm and cozy, and decided to maintain this setting until I exited the highway, at which time I would resume Eco settings. Between the heat stored in the cabin and the heat stored in the coolant, once I exited the highway, I was able to reach my destination that morning in EV mode with plenty of warmth. Final coolant temperature at my destination was still 154° F.

While traveling on the Interstate, the DIC indicated at times that the ICE was providing all propulsion power. On small inclines, I would sometimes see motor power providing boost. On some downhill sections, I would see the engine running and the motors in regen (green color). There was no particular trend that I could establish.

At one point in the Interstate drive, the traffic slowed, and basically kept moving, but at speeds from 10 to 40 mph. During this slow drive, the ICE shutdown, and the car was propelled by electricity exclusively, even though I was still in Hold mode! As the traffic began to increase speed, the ICE started and went to a high rev status. As I continued to drive, the ICE speed subsided to more normal speeds.

Although I again don’t have positive proof, it appears that in Hold mode, the ICE will build a buffer in the battery. When conditions are right (like slow speed driving), the ICE shuts down and the motors propel the car utilizing the energy in the buffer. Once speed increases, the ICE starts, and may need to operate at higher power settings to restore energy to the buffer (i.e. bring the battery back to its original energy level when placed in Hold mode).

Another example of this buffer was noticed when I exited the Interstate. Upon leaving the highway, I restored the car to normal mode, and the ICE shut down. I looked at my gas mileage, and the reading was about 38 mpg. However, as I continued to drive the last 6 or 7 miles of my journey on a 40 mph urban road, the miles were still being recorded as gasoline miles, even though I was in normal (EV) mode! Again, I believe this is the Volt utilizing the battery energy that was placed in the battery buffer by the ICE. After a few miles of driving, the miles then were recorded as EV miles, however, the indicated gas mileage had increased to 40.0 mpg!

The first leg of my trip was just under 90 miles, and I used just over half of my battery’s usable capacity. The trip took just over 2 hours and interior cabin heat was a little low on the first part of the trip, but much improved when the coolant temperatures got up to 150° F and above. Figure 5 indicates that I got 120 MPGe on electricity and 40.0 mpg on gasoline. The ambient temperature had warmed from 20° F to 34° F. Figures 6 and 7 show the energy used for climate control was 0 percent, while the coolant temperature at my destination was still 154° F.

fig5

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For my return trip, temperatures in MA had warmed to the low 50’s, while in NH they were only in the mid 40’s. Also, I had other business to complete, so my return trip was longer (mostly more rural/urban driving).

Utilizing the same driving strategies during the drive to MA, I was able to complete my entire trip using very little energy from the battery for climate control (0 percent indicated). Figure 8 shows that I returned home with a total trip length of 202.7 miles. Of that distance, 57.5 miles were EV miles, and gas mileage was 44 mpg.

fig8

Recently, I took another trip of 98.4 miles (more than you would want to attempt in a Leaf). I utilized the same strategy as in the 200-mile trip. On this day, the temperatures started in the upper 30’s, rising to the low 50’s by the return home. As seen in Figure 9, I traveled 60.8 EV miles and got 49.9 mpg for the non-EV miles. Due to defrosting needs early in the morning, I used 2 percent of my battery for climate controls.

fig9

In summary, strategic use of the battery energy and thermal energy derived from the ICE can help to maximize EV range and still provide good levels of comfort within the cabin.

 

Dec 17

Mark Reuss Hints Chevy Bolt could be in customer driveways before this time next year

 

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If a hint means what it appears to, the first 2017 Chevy Bolt EVs could be in customers’ driveways before this time next year.

The revelation came from none other than President of General Motors North America, Mark Reuss in response to a Dec. 5 Facebook post by EV advocate Chelsea Sexton.

Showing a photo of herself 19 years ago in a GM EV1, she teasingly asked Reuss if GM will give cause for celebration with first Bolt deliveries in time to coincide with the EV1’s 20th anniversary.

Reuss’s response was not exactly yes, but it definitely was not no.

“Have you been naughty or nice,” said Reuss along with a Santa image smiley.

Sexton’s tongue-in-cheek response was “Yes,” but she also interpreted Reuss’ reply as meaning a yes to her question, and many others would as well to such an answer.

“I did interpret it as a ‘yes,’” she said, adding “whether or not they note or take advantage of the actual 20th anniversary in their launch activities” is unclear.

“It will be hard for GM to escape that observation, so they might as well,” she observed.

Exactly. GM might as well. But will it?

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Officially, Reuss and GM have not announced a specific launch date for the 200-mile estimated range EV to be priced in the mid 30s, and net below $30,000 with federal tax credit.

The EV1 was of course GM’s first EV, and the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” which featured Sexton and other early electric car protagonists highlighted past GM decisions which it might prefer people forget.

GM Says Li-ion Battery Cells Down To $145/kWh and Still Falling

General Motors has since worked to vindicate its commitment to electrification with the Chevy Volt, the very limited-market Spark EV, Cadillac ELR, pending Malibu Hybrid, but the Bolt is one car many are eager to see more of.

It will beat the Tesla Model 3 to market, but what Tesla may show first images of as soon as March this year, and to be priced and spec’d at least similarly, has also aroused much curiosity.

But for now, the Bolt is it, it’s ahead also of the next-gen Nissan Leaf, and with inexpensively sourced LG Chem batteries helping the cause, it will be the cheapest 200-mile (or so) range EV going.

ChevroletBoltReveal07

The car, designed secretly at a GM facility in Australia was only shown January this year in Detroit alongside the 2016 Chevy Volt, and it is being fast-tracked into production.

Spy photos have circulated and the official pre-production version’s reveal is scheduled next month at CES in Las Vegas.

Known already was it was to be a 2017 model, so first deliveries by December 2016 would not be out of the question at any rate.

What do you think? Do you see an opportunity for GM here?

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 16

Ford to build hybrid F-series by decade’s end

 

A few unanswered questions: 1) How much oil might this save? And, just as pressing, 2) will GM be moved to follow Ford back into hybrids? And, 3) how far away are we from plug-in hybrid trucks and SUVs? (not counting VIA Motors)

By Brian Ro

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Yesterday Ford said that a hybrid version of its popular F-series trucks would be built by the end of the decade.

The revelation came while CEO Mark Fields was discussing the company’s recent announcement of a $4.5 billion investment in developing 13 new electrified vehicles, and he gave the briefest mention of the hybridized F-Series variant.

“We do have plans to have a rear-wheel drive hybrid truck by the end of the decade,” Fields told NPR in an interview. “So yes, we’re working on [an] electrified F-series, and it’s really around a conventional hybrid.”

Fields did not state whether it would be for sale in dealers or in pre-production form by then, and other core details were omitted too, including which F-Series it would specifically be, though it’s most likely Fields was referring only to the F-150 when he said “F-series.”

SEE ALSO: Ford To Invest $4.5 Billion Into Electrified Vehicle Development

The Ford F-150 – one of several F-Series pickups and the natural candidate for hybridization being the lightest duty – is America’s best-selling vehicle. This year about 570,000 units of Ford’s F-150 badged trucks will be sold.

Compare that to the combined total of Ford’s Fusion and C-Max passenger car hybrids, which might sell less than 39,000 this year.

Ford’s F-Series are available in both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive, but Fields mentioned rear-wheel-drive only.

The American automaker’s move also comes as General Motors has phased out its 2-mode hybrid versions of Chevrolet and GMC pickups and SUVs. Those Silverados, Yukons, Sierras, etc. did not substantially beat non-hybrid counterparts’ mpg, were heavily contented, and sold poorly.

Click to expand. Source: Fueleconomy.gov.

Click to expand. Source: fueleconomy.gov.

What Ford may do with RWD F-Series is unknown, but with fleet emission mandates to meet, and technology in hand to do better, electrification advocates can surely hope for an initiative to build hybrid trucks that is not without precedent.

In August 2011, Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to a collaboration that would have had the two auto giants jointly develop hybrid rear-wheel drive light trucks and SUVs. However, the deal fell apart just two years later as Ford management decided to head in a new direction, which left Toyota officials miffed.

Fields also expanded on the automaker’s recent announcement concerning its future plans on electrification.

“Part of our job as a company and as an automotive manufacturer and now as a mobility company, is to think of what the world is going to look like five, 10 and even 15 years from now,” Fields said. “And our view, very simply, is that over time, oil is a nonrenewable resource. And therefore, over time, higher levels of electrification will be necessary not only to meet consumer demand in that timeframe but also to meet the regulatory requirements.”

Fields did not comment on whether the manufacturer had plans for making a plug-in hybrid version of the F-series.

NPR

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 15

Electrified vehicles are big money losers says Bob Lutz

 

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The “Father of the Chevy Volt” Bob Lutz said a capital-strained auto industry is making unprofitable cars to satisfy regulators, and he’d be “surprised and shocked” if the 2017 Chevy Bolt is profitable.

“I no longer have access to General Motors figures, but I would be surprised and shocked if the 200-mile electric Bolt is going to make money,” said Lutz at an Automotive News roundtable discussion held in August. “You look at the cost per kilowatt hour of batteries and the number of kilowatt hours they have got in there and then you look at the selling price. It’s just not going to work.

Since Lutz’s statement General Motors revealed in October it pays LG Chem, its collaborative partner developing the Bolt, just $145 per kilowatt-hour for battery cells. GM has said it will be profitable, and Lutz did qualify he is not privy to those details any more.

SEE ALSO: Ford and Toyota to Collaborate on Hybrid Truck Technology

But he his point was part of a broader thrust naming the Volt and plug-in Cadillacs as he noted ongoing costs, and focused on other business realities of cars developed for emissions mandates.

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His comments have gone largely unreported as they were part of an over 1.5-hour-long video on a subscription only industry site. The frank and revealing insiders’ discussion was between auto industry “superstars,” Bo Andersson, Arndt Ellinghorst, John Krafcik, Bob Lutz, Tim Manganello and Andy Palmer.

The actual topic was Fiat-Chrysler head Sergio Marchionne’s postulation in April that the auto industry is financially skating on thin ice, and collaborative partnerships would be needed.

“The capital consumption rate by OEMs is unacceptable — it is duplicative, does not deliver real value to consumers and is pure economic waste,” said Marchionne in a PowerPoint presentation being talked over by the illustrious guests.

SEE ALSO: BMW and Toyota Deepen Ties To Co-Develop Li-Air and Fuel Cell Tech

Marchionne said “it is about … fundamentally changing the paradigm for the industry,” which the insiders pondered against a backdrop question of whether this was just Marchionne’s pitch to sell FCA.

Lutz therefore was not the only one piping up. Andy Palmer, head of Aston Martin and formerly an executive with Nissan also spoke of cost containment issues driving up prices.

“What often … get called ‘minor projects’ in an automobile company have simply exploded,” said Palmer. “Those kind of projects, basically regulatory compliances, are now a major part of our R&D spend every year. That is really, really a problem. It creeps up on us. Basically that’s destroying value.”

Where the money is.

Where the money is.

Agreement was voiced by others in the crosstalk, but Lutz made more strong statements about whole product lines being hurt by compliance cars, as automakers can look at plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Even if they are sold nationwide, these vehicles make up less than 0.75 percent of the U.S, market, and do not keep the lights on for major automakers burning through cash.

On the other hand, trucks, SUVs and crossovers are where General Motors and other automakers make their most substantial profits.

With gas prices declining, automakers have been booking ever increasing sales for these types of vehicles while working on electrified cars because they must meet regulations.

This, said Lutz, has cost everyone, even the truck buyers, as he blamed electrified vehicles that cost as much to develop as other vehicles, but make much fewer sales.

“I don’t know if anybody noticed, but full-size sport-utilities used to be — just a few years ago used to be $42,000, all in, fully equipped. You can’t touch a Chevy Tahoe for under about $65 [thousand] now,” he said. “Yukons are in the $70 [thousands]. The Escalade comfortably hits $100 [thousand]. Three or four years ago they were about $60,000. What this is, is companies trying to recover what they’re losing at the other end with what I call compliance vehicles, which are Chevy Volts, Bolts, plug-in Cadillacs and fuel cell vehicles.”

BMW and Toyota shake hands Jan. 2014 as they share costs on expensive advanced li-air battery and fuel cell research.

BMW and Toyota shake hands Jan. 2014 as they share costs on expensive advanced li-air battery and fuel cell research.

Better, said Lutz, would be collaborative agreements between carmakers, and for the past several years even former competitors have been partnering to share costs and intellectual property on advanced technology intended to save fuel and cut emissions.

“Yeah,” said Lutz, “Just do one fuel cell vehicle and have about six companies each participate in the architecture so that at least they might attain a volume of maybe 100,000, so that everybody can have their 5,000 or 6,000, which they’re going to need to comply with California.”

Lutz pointedly said also the auto industry is losing money.

“For the last 30 or 40 years, investors and analysts have been saying the automobile business is a great consumer of capital and does not return economic value to the shareholders,” said Lutz candidly of past history that the car business can be a money loser, and things are now getting worse.

“The automobile business consumes enormous amounts of capital, which is why our fixed cost is so high and why when there’s a downturn and the volume collapses, we’re all into the multibillion-dollar losses and hemorrhaging cash,” he said.

Five years since the launch of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, the plug-in market has seen fits and starts as it works against all manner of resistance, including automakers not as gung ho, say, as Tesla’s Elon Musk, or Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn.

Whether Lutz’s statements are all on point, or some miss the mark, the roundtable is an eye opener of been-there-done-that industry leaders talking shop.

Regulations are tightening, they all know it, and as they are looking to develop alternative tech, how to do it profitably appears to be of real concern.

Automotive News

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 14

Ford plans 13 PEVs by 2020 investing $4.5B

 

Not much has been announced yet on new product, but Ford says it is more serious about electrification.

By Brian Ro

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On Thursday Ford said it will invest $4.5 billion for electrified vehicle technologies in plans that include bringing 13 new electrified cars to market by 2020.

At a press conference held at its Dearborn, Mich. headquarters, Ford CEO Mark Fields reaffirmed the auto giant’s commitment to electrified vehicles as he discussed plans to electrify over 40 percent of its vehicle lineup within the next five years.

“Overall, electrification is going to play an important role in our future,” Fields said. “It’s not going away, at all, and we’re actually embracing it because, from a customer standpoint, we think that’s the thing they’re going to want.”

Ford’ will start with the 2017 Ford Focus Electric revised with a range bump to 100 miles, which will go on sale late next year. The revamped Focus Electric will come equipped with DC fast charging capability, allowing it to replenish 80 percent of its battery charge in 30 minutes.

Ford officials also teased a covered model of its next-generation Fusion plug-in hybrid, scheduled to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

The Fusion and its C-Max sibling are available in both regular hybrid and plug-in hybrid “Energi” variants. The 20-mile EV range Fusion Energi has been usurped for its second-highest electric range title by the pending 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV, so eyes will be on whether a range increase is included for Ford’s family plug-in sedan.

Year-to-date sales of Ford’s Focus, and two Energis has totaled over 17,000 units through November. This is relatively OK at this stage, but Ford’s present plug-in offerings compare to top sellers – themselves down year over year as well – like the Chevy Volt with 13,279 sold, and Nissan Leaf with 15,922.

SEE ALSO: November 2015 Dashboard

Under stringent fuel economy standards mandated by Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements, automakers are feeling the pressure to add fuel-efficient vehicles to their lineups to ensure they meet CAFE mandates. Under CAFE, manufacturers will be required to attain a fleet average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025, which amounts to about low 40s on window stickers.

That Ford needs to more than update existing mid-pack models appears clear.

As it announced a 100-miles update for the Focus EV for 2017, cross-town rival General Motors will show this January its 200-mile range Chevy Bolt EV also due in 2017.

Other players such as Nissan and Tesla Motors have also pledged to bring their own 200-mile EVs to market in the coming years.

During the same press event, Ford officials stated that the company plans to expand EV offerings in other countries such as Taiwan, Korea, and China.

Also revealed is Ford will shift its product development process toward a customer-centric point of view, rather than the vehicle itself.

Ford us investing globally in social science-based research to enable it to better pinpoint how consumers interact with vehicles while gaining insights into cognitive, social, cultural, technological and economic nuances that affect product design.

Ford aims to double its use ethnographic-research based projects during 2016.

“The challenge going forward isn’t who provides the most technology in a vehicle but who best organizes that technology in a way that most excites and delights people,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Product Development. “By observing consumers, we can better understand which features and strengths users truly use and value and create even better experiences for them going forward.”

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.