While four-wheel-drive systems provide more grip for tackling slippery conditions, they do so at the cost of higher fuel consumption. All-wheel-drive, on the other hand, provides similar traction advantages with a reduced fuel penalty. The new Ford Kuga Hybrid takes things a bit further with AWD disconnect technology, which uses artificial intelligence to switch off the Kuga’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system in favorable driving conditions for even greater fuel efficiency, and can reconnect when extra grip is needed.
While drivers can face slippery conditions year-round, Intelligent All-Wheel Drive offers a particular benefit during winter months when rain, snow, and ice regularly make road surfaces more challenging.
As drivers across Europe prepare for seasonal getaways and road-trips where allowed, AWD disconnect could help them keep a more secure footing on the road while delivering a fuel savings of approximately 6.5 percent, according to Ford data, by switching to front-wheel drive when appropriate.
“All-wheel drive isn’t just for heading off-road – the extra traction can make journeys smoother, safer, and less stressful for drivers, particularly in wintry conditions,” said Glen Goold, Kuga chief program engineer. “We designed our new Ford Kuga Hybrid to help drivers save on fuel costs, and the artificial intelligence of AWD disconnect means they can do exactly that while still getting all the benefits of Intelligent All-Wheel Drive.”
Kuga Hybrid’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system continually monitors which wheels have the best traction on the road surface using information from sensors around the vehicle.
Power from the gas-electric full hybrid powertrain is seamlessly distributed between the front and rear wheels for smooth progress and responsive cornering, with adjustments taking less than 20 milliseconds. In situations where the front wheels have no traction, the system can even send 100 percent of power to the rear wheels.
The sophisticated AWD disconnect feature uses a dedicated electronic brain and “fuzzy logic” algorithm to determine whether power to the rear wheels can be disconnected completely in the existing circumstances – for example, when cruising in warm and dry conditions. This temporarily makes the Ford Kuga Hybrid front-wheel drive for even better fuel efficiency.
AWD disconnect is always ready to reconnect power to the rear wheel if it detects that Intelligent All-Wheel Drive is, or soon could be, needed. AWD disconnect monitors information from systems including traction control and anti-lock brakes to determine wheel spin and slip, windscreen wiper activation, and outside temperature to determine weather conditions and can detect if the Kuga Hybrid is towing a trailer, to help it reach a decision in just 10 milliseconds.
“‘Fuzzy logic’ refers to the algorithm, which can take into account all sorts of variables before making a decision, just as you or I might do when deciding what to wear based on the weather forecast, the time of year, looking outside, and where we’re going,” said Scott Beiring, Ford driveline applications supervisor. “For Kuga, that means Intelligent All-Wheel Drive won’t engage just because the windscreen wipers are on. The algorithm takes into account information from a number of sensors before deciding whether or not to engage, but does so much faster than any human could.”