While Ford staffers busily gave test drives nearby, an eager crowd gathered under the Renewable Energy tent at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR last Sept. 13 to learn about the latest electric vehicle (EV) technology. For nearly an hour, Stephanie Janczak of Ford Motor Company answered audience questions on the workshop’s broad topic: “Everything You Want to Know About Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.” The large crowd at Seven Springs, Pa., eagerly tapped into Janczak’s extensive knowledge — she is Ford’s Manager of Global EVSE Technology and Deployment for Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters.
Many audience members already owned electric vehicles and wanted to know more about recent technological advancements. Among the questions Janczak answered were the following:
- Is the auto industry developing any electric utility vehicles? Janczak says the industry as a whole is working on hybrid pickup trucks and SUVs, and that engineers are trying to balance the cost of utility vehicles with their usability.
- What are the latest improvements to EV drivetrains and motors? Improvements are always being made by the industry, Janczak reports, with the goal being to make EVs more efficient. EV batteries, in particular, are the focus of much attention because batteries need to be smaller, more energy-dense and lower in cost.
- How can an EV driver prolong battery life? Exposure to extreme heat and cold will stress an EV battery. Janczak says plugging in your vehicle will help mitigate the effects of extreme temperatures. Also, she recommends the My Ford Mobile app to help lengthen the life of your car’s battery by learning better EV driving habits. Ford also is working on battery reuse — an old battery that no longer effectively powers an EV may still be used as a home energy resource.
- Does solar charging of batteries show promise? Solar is a great renewable energy source that the auto industry is exploring. (MOTHER EARTH NEWS Publisher Bryan Welch drives an electric car powered by photovoltaic panels.) Ford currently is involved in a demo project to cover the roof of its C-MAX with solar cells; the problem, Janczak says, is overcoming cloudy days. Ford has also been partnering with Georgia Tech on ways of concentrating the sun’s rays to effectively power EVs. Ford and DTE Energy recently announced that they’ll be working together to build Michigan’s largest solar array carport, providing 30 charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn.
Following the question-and-answer session, Janczak presented a $2,000 check to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture as part of Ford’s Community Green Grant program (pictured at right).
Seven Springs FAIR visitors could test-drive any or all of three electric technologies offered by Ford through its Power of Choice initiative. Ford currently has five EVs on the market, including the C-MAX Energi, the Fusion Energi, and the Fusion Hybrid. Ford Motor Company was a title sponsor of the 2014 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She’s an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn’t like. You can find her on Google+.