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CES: Ford introduces smartphone app for electric Focus

With the introduction of its electric car, Ford is releasing a smartphone app to help drivers cope with range issues.

MyFord Mobile
The MyFord Mobile app uses MapQuest to find charging stations. Ford

LAS VEGAS--The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf both have associated smartphone apps to help their tech-savvy owners cope with range issues, and now Ford announces a similar app, called MyFord Mobile, for its upcoming electric Focus. The app offers features ranging from remote door unlock to trip planning to a system of achievements that can be posted to social networking sites.

To help electric Focus owners save money, MyFord Mobile uses a system from Microsoft to determine the best charging times. Instead of the owner scheduling a charge from midnight to 6 a.m., for example, this feature asks the owner when the car will be needed. It then determines the best charging time based on the window it has been given. When it comes up with a charging time, it will inform the owner. It can also alert the owner to problems, such as not having plugged in the car.

MyFord Mobile uses MapQuest to find charging stations, and will look at the car's remaining range to indicate which charging stations are within range. Similarly, a trip planning feature lets owners input multiple destinations, then adjust the trip based on which of those destinations the car can actually reach.

Typical telematics features in MyFord Mobile include remote door unlock and a locator feature. The locator shows the owner's and the car's location on a map. The app will also suggest remotely turning on the heat while the car is plugged in if it happens to be cold out.

The app gets fun with its driving behavior monitoring. It rates drivers on a scale from Zen to Zippy depending on whether they drive economically or aggressively. There will be a variety of achievements drivers can unlock, such as saving their first ton of CO2 or saving their first $1,000 of gasoline. These achievements can be automatically posted to the driver's Facebook page based on preferences.

Another interesting feature builds on Ford's MyKey technology, which customizes the car's settings based on who is driving it. For the electric Focus, the car will use its driving style monitoring and adjust its projected range based on whether the current driver is known to be heavy-footed or more economical.

Ford will make MyFord Mobile available on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and will even include a Web site optimized for phone browsers, so a smartphone is not necessary.