Posted by: carboncreditsusa | December 30, 2008

“Hybrid Vehicle” Update: Ford’s Fusion And Mercury Milan Add “SmartGuage” And “EcoGuide” Instrumentation To Maximize Driving Efficiency

For the 2010 model year, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan add an all-new hybrid model using an upgraded version of that currently used in the Escape and Mariner hybrids.

“The main question hybrid drivers had was, ‘How do I know I’m getting the most out of my hybrid,'” said Jeff Greenberg, Ford senior technical leader. “We needed to create a system that better communicates with drivers and gives them the tools to maximize fuel efficiency. That’s what SmartGauge with EcoGuide does.”

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Both models offer drivers a way to be more connected to the hybrid driving experience thanks to Ford’s “SmartGauge” with “EcoGuide,” a unique instrument cluster execution that acts as a coach, engaging drivers real-time to help them achieve maximum fuel economy.

The system features two, high-resolution, full-color LCD screens on either side of the speedometer that can be configured to show different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels, average and instant miles-per-gallon.

A tutorial mode built into the display helps the driver learn about the instrument cluster and the hybrid in a clever way that does not overwhelm non-technical users. Technical enthusiasts will be more interested in the detailed gauges that help them learn to become more efficient drivers. Drivers choose one of four data screens to display progressive levels of information: Inform, Enlighten, Engage and Empower.

The “Inform” level simply displays fuel level and battery charge status. “Enlighten” adds electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer. “Engage” adds engine output power and battery output power. “Empower” adds power to wheels and accessory power consumption.

All levels can show instant fuel economy, fuel economy history, odometer, engine coolant temperature, what gear the car is in and trip data (trip fuel economy, time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty).

Ford collaborated with IDEO and Smart Design; two world leaders in helping consumers connect with technology, to develop the instrument cluster. The challenge was to properly integrate the driver with the cluster’s science and technology.

“The main question hybrid drivers had was, ‘How do I know I’m getting the most out of my hybrid,'” said Jeff Greenberg, Ford senior technical leader. “We needed to create a system that better communicates with drivers and gives them the tools to maximize fuel efficiency. That’s what SmartGauge with EcoGuide does.”

At the core of the instrument cluster’s design was an understanding that the hybrid experience evolves and deepens over time as does the technology needed to reflect that.

The four levels of information can be customized to fit each driver’s needs or situation. If cruising on the highway, for instance, only basic information may be desired. Once a driver moves off the highway into a city, additional information to optimize fuel economy may be desired and can be easily accessed.

A shutdown screen reviews important information from the latest trip, including fuel economy performance and comparative data from previous days.

Extensive customer research was done to make sure the instrument cluster was as driver-friendly as possible. As engineers refined the system, test drivers confirmed that drivers could make informed decisions without being distracted or overwhelmed.

“When you’re driving, you have a second or so to look at your display,” Greenberg said. “A dense display isn’t going to work. SmartGauge is designed to minimize distraction caused by multiple displays. We did a lot of work to eliminate extraneous movement and create a smooth, fluid display. The instantaneous fuel economy gauge, for example, can be shown or hidden at each of the EcoGuide levels to suit the needs of individual drivers.”

The Fusion and Milan hybrids are capable of up to 47 mph in pure electric mode. The city driving range is expected to be more than 700 miles on a single tank of gas. Bragging rights are assured.

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