Ford is using geofencing to switch vans to electric power in city centres
The new technology will be installed on zero emissions-capable Transit models from autumn 2020
We're all very familiar with the ever-advancement of low and ultra-low emissions zones in our city centres. London has been especially pioneering in the advancement of this ever since it introduced the £8 a day congestion charge and introduced the wider-reaching Low Emission Zone that covers the entirety of the city of London as well as many of the inner suburbs. With more and more towns and cities planning to adopt similar low and ultra-low emissions areas where people have to essentially pay to pollute, there are more and more arguments coming that only vehicles that don't pollute at all should be allowed into those areas. Whilst that's a good idea in theory, it could be quite difficult to police in practice.
This is where Ford comes in. From autumn 2020, Ford will be equipping new Transit models that are zero emissions-capable (the Transit Custom Hybrid and Tourneo Custom Hybrid) with a system that'll automatically switch the van to running only on electricity in ultra-low emissions zones. This system uses geofencing technology and can also cut power from the engine when the van is running next to schools, playgrounds or other noise-sensitive locations. Ford will offer the system to Transit owners to retro-fit it to existing vehicles as well as installing it as standard on the new vehicles that'll roll off the production line this autumn.
Ford's adoption of geofencing technology follows general concerns about the impact of increasing van traffic due to various changes in consumer habits, which include more and more people getting their shopping delivered to their door. There are a lot of worries that increased van traffic on our roads could lead to more congestion and with that a rise in pollution. According to figures published by the Department for Transport, light commercial vehicles (a category which includes delivery vans such as the Transit) travelled 50.4 billion miles on British roads in a year up to the end of March. That's contributed to an increase of 24% of light commercial vehicle traffic in Britain over a decade, four times the average rise for all types of vehicles including private cars. Levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from light commercial vehicles have also gone up by 43% from 2007 to 2017 to a total of 99,300 tonnes a year, whilst the NOx for all other types of vehicles including cars, buses and HGVs have been in a sharp decline over the same timescale.
This innovative use of geofencing could also save Ford's Transit vans from being excluded from city centres under new "freight consolidation schemes" that have been proposed by the Department for Transport. These plans would mean that polluting vehicles would not be allowed to travel into city centres; goods would have to be dropped at depots outside of the ultra-low emissions zones and then be taken into those areas by other non-polluting vehicles.
Whilst it remains to be seen whether Ford's geofencing tech will help to make city centres less polluted, if it's something that becomes a success in the two zero emissions-capable Transit models that are currently available I wouldn't be surprised if other manufacturers come to Ford asking for a slice of the tech!