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Jeep Renegade
Credit: FCA Group


FCA Trials System That Converts PHEVs Into EVs When Driving In City Centers

FCA is testing a system that will automatically recognize when a plug-in hybrid vehicle is inside an EV-only zone and shut down the internal combustion engine.

Some cities, especially in Europe and the UK, ban cars with infernal combustion engines from driving in designated areas. FCA, which is way behind the 8-ball when it comes to getting electric cars on the road, is relying on plug-in hybrid versions of existing models such as the Jeep Renegade to meet tightening European Union emissions rules. But how to let drivers use their cars in sections of cities where gasoline and diesel engines are banned?

Jeep Renegade

Jeep Renegade. Image credit: FCA Group

That’s easy. FCA says it is working on a system for its PHEV cars that will recognize when they are operating in a restricted zone and automatically lock out the engine, turning them into battery-only cars until such time as they exit the designated zone.

According to Reuters, FCA has begun testing its system in Turin, Italy, where FIAT has been manufacturing motor vehicles since 1906. The project is known as the Turin Geofencing Lab and it is being undertaken in cooperation with the city and GTT, the public transportation authority.

Onboard sensors are able to recognize when a car enters a restricted travel zone (geofencing implies GPS is involved) and prevents the car from operating as anything but a fully electric vehicle. Once a car is in EV mode, the driver will be able to take advantage of any preferential parking and charging options available to other EVs. The system is being tested on the new Jeep Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid, but the trial could be expanded to other FCA PHEV models next year. Plug-in hybrid versions of the Jeep Renegade and Compass are scheduled to go on sale this summer.

Last year, BMW tested a less sophisticated system in Rotterdam last year. It used a smartphone app to reminder drivers to to switch off their combustion engines when passing a virtual boundary into the Dutch city’s “electric-only zone.” Many of our readers turn their noses up at the thought of a plug-in hybrid, but if they can be made to emit zero emissions in crowded city centers, that could be a good thing, couldn’t it?

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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