Ford is partnering up with Zipcar to deploy 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Ford Explorers for rental on U.S. college campuses.  (Source: Kelvin Ma, Bloomberg News)

The Ford Evos Concept
Company looks to remain on the cutting edge of in-car technology and grow its brand

It was a busy week for Ford Motor Company (F) at the IFA 2012 technology show in Berlin, Germany.  The company late Wednesday made two major announcements public.

I. Ford Targets College Rental Market With Zipcar Deal

The first announcement dealt with a new deal with Zipcar, Inc. (ZIP), the world's leading car sharing network.  If you're unfamiliar with the concept of car sharing, it's a business model that first appeared in urban areas where people without cars will rent one for short amounts of time.  This differs a bit from the traditional car rental model, which focuses on rentals by number of days, not number of hours.

Back to the deal, Ford is teaming up with Zipcar to become the primary supplier of rental vehicles to locations in the company's University program.  The deal begins this week with Ford shipping 2012 Ford Focus and the 2012 Ford Escape vehicles to these locations.  Ford says it plans to add 650 vehicles to Zipcar's fleet this academic year, and up to 1,000 over the life of the deal.

Zipcar currently has a bit over 8,000 vehicles so that's approximately a 10-12 percent increase from current levels.

II. Meet the Evos

In addition to the Zipcar news, Ford was showing off a slick new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) concept sports sedan dubbed the "Evos".  The car was unveiled at the nearby Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung 2011 (IAA), better known by its English name -- the Frankfurt Auto Show.

The Evos showcases some of Ford's developing "smart mode" hybrid electric vehicle technologies, which predict common routes and combine them with current vehicle information to adjust performance to deliver the best fuel economy.  The vehicle uses the cloud-based Google API, which we covered back in May. It now can assess weather conditions and factor that into its driving decisions.

The car also has a smart health seat that monitors driver physical workload and adjusts in-vehicle services automatically.  For example, if the driver is overly stressed, the car might pre-brake when approaching other vehicles or turn the volume down slightly on the radio to minimize distraction.  Ford showed us this technology at their MyFord Touch health-related event in May.  

One item not previously discussed, though, is that the smart health seat is now capable of sending collected data to the cloud, for predictive adjustments based on driving history.  While this sounds a bit scary from a privacy perspective, it could provide a more pleasant driving experience for willing customers.

To top off the cloud-driven experience, the car streams music and news into the car based on what you watch/listen to in your home.  Cloud-based software identifies your tastes and adjusts the in-car stream accordingly.

For example, if you always CNN, it will play similar news station -- or even grab podcasts directly from CNN.  Or maybe you like Fox News -- it would send you that instead.  Or maybe you think American news in general is too partisan and you like to get an international perspective -- it might stream you some sweet BBC News love.

The vehicle itself is pretty slick.  In the front (though not so much in the back) it looks somewhat similar in styling to the SLS electric vehicle super-car showed off by Daimer AG's (ETR:DAI) Mercedes-Benz.  And that's not a bad thing.

It sports four gull-wing doors.  The cockpit looks quite distinctive, taking Ford's infotainment systems and extending them with a futuristic look.

As with all concepts, there's always a shred of hope that it could one day see production, albeit in a somewhat altered form.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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