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Ford Introducing New Instrument Cluster on Fusion and Milan Hybrids to Coach Drivers on Optimizing Performance

Smartgaugeengage
The SmartGauge instrument cluster in “Engage” configuration. Click to enlarge.

Ford is introducing a new instrument cluster—SmartGauge with EcoGuide—on its upcoming Fusion and Milan hybrids to help drivers maximize their fuel efficiency. Ford collaborated with IDEO and Smart Design to develop the new cluster.

SmartGauge with EcoGuide uses two, high-resolution, full-color liquid crystal display (LCD) screens on either side of the analog speedometer that can be configured to show different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels, average and instant miles-per-gallon. Growing leaves and vines can track and “reward” the driver’s efficiency.

Smartgaugeempower
The SmartGauge instrument cluster in full “Empower” configuration. Click to enlarge.

Drivers can choose one of four data screens to choose the information level displayed during their drives:

  • Inform: 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, engine pull-up threshold 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). The engine coolant temperature indicator turns green when engine conditions are warm enough to allow engine pull-down.

At the core of the instrument cluster’s design was an understanding that the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) experience evolves and deepens over time and 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.

Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed in two ways—either as a traditional chart or using an innovative display that shows “growing leaves and vines” on the right side of the cluster. The more efficient a customer is, the more lush and beautiful the leaves and vines, creating a visual reward for the driver’s efforts.

Additionally, the real-time system feedback allows drivers to assess or modify their driving habits to achieve maximum fuel economy. A shutdown screen reviews important information from the latest trip, including fuel economy performance and comparative data from previous days.

Prototype testing was done in Ford’s Virtual Text Track Experiment (VIRTTEX) simulator, the industry’s largest driver distraction laboratory operated by an automaker. Test drivers were able to safely interact with the new technology as engineers gathered data and helped refine SmartGauge, aiding drivers in making informed decisions without being distracting or overwhelming.

When you’re driving, you have a second or so to look at your display. A dense display isn’t going to work. SmartGauge with EcoGuide 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.

—Jeff Greenberg, Ford senior technical leader

The Fusion and Milan hybrids will share a new powertrain with the Escape and Mariner hybrids that combines a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine with a series-parallel transaxle. While the basic layout and packaging of the powertrain and related components remains for the most part unchanged from the 2005-2008 Escape component architecture, many of those components have been redesigned for improved efficiency. (Earlier post.)

The next-generation hybrid system applied in the Fusion, for example, is targeted to provide a more than 60% improvement in city cycle fuel economy over a non-hybrid I4 engine, and a more than 80% improvement over a V6 on the city cycle.

The Fusion and Milan Hybrids will be built at Ford’s Hermosillo (Mexico) Stamping and Assembly Plant and are due to arrive in dealer showrooms in the first quarter of 2009. With their introduction, Ford expects to double its annual hybrid volume and be the largest domestic producer of full hybrid vehicles in North America.

Comments

What is the power cost of this dash? Looks "fancy" but using LCDs with backlighting is not the most efficient way to go...more cost efficient than OLEDs (at this time). Of course I don't think anyone has put OLED displays to the level of ruggedness required for cars but we are using them in airplanes.

ziv

Not bad, getting city mileage up to 28 means the average driver (12,000 miles year) uses about 428 gallons, since city and hwy are pretty similar for this hybrid. I get 20/26 for a combined 22 with my car so I use about 545 gallons a year. A high mileage hybrid would get me more on re-sale over the standard model, so even if I don't make my money back in gas savings, I might still come out ahead when I sell the car 5 or 6 years down the road.
Still gonna hold out for a Chevy Volt, though, if GM is around to build it.
No plug, no sale.

Multi-modal Commuter Dude

This is cool. I really appreciate the passive reward aspect of the growing vine and leaves. This would work to teach my wife eco-driving.
For instance, she eschews numeric data which I present her; "Honey, if we slow down by five miles per hour, we would be reducing our coefficient of drag by 10%" does't even make a dent.
BUT, if I were to say, "Oh, no! Honey, slow down; the leaves are wilting!" I am sure she would slam on the brakes hard enough to trigger the ABS.
Think about it...

Multi-modal Commuter Dude

P.S. I realize that slamming on the brakes is not exacly eco-driving, but you get what I mean:
Different individuals learn differently, and perception is reality.

Sasparilla

This means Ford, which is only producing 25,000 Escape platform hybrids a year (far less than demand) will only produce 25,000 Fusion platform hybrids a year (guaranteed far less than demand again). While that's 25k more hybrids than last year...they could have been selling far more for the last several years and future years...which is depressing considering the losses they're taking now.

Spector

They can tweak the dash however they want, and it does look interesting but who buys a car based on the dash?

Let's just get moving on this already Ford! Sheesh! It's now how many years since you introduced the Escape Hybrid?

How many of these hybrid sedans are even scheduled for production in 2009? This has just been dragging out so long....

Engineer-Poet

Now imagine what Ford could be selling today if they'd continued with PNGV and brought the Prodigy to market.

Nate H.

I dunno, call me "Debbie Downer" here, but the layout of these gauges look very crammed and quite...cheap.

It screams "video game."

Nate H.
Dover, Ohio

HarveyD

Didn't Ford purchased rights from Toyota to use/produce up to 100 000 synergy drive units?

Would that explain the limited 25K units/year?

arnold

Does it come with a watering can?

Fred B

Ford here is taking a progressive step by empowering the driver to increase fuel economy. You can build the most fuel efficient car in the world and it wont live up to its potential without a conscious effort towards good driving practices. This driving "coach" is a innovative and consumer friendly way to achieve high MPG.

DS

This is laughable. Anyone who wants a hybrid is already motivated to drive high-mileage. I'm getting 33mpg average with my 2000 Focus with an automatic tranny.
This should be a mandatory on all cars.

Kristoff

Coaching drivers to drive economically by making them aware of their fuel consumption is sensible.
When riding as a passenger with other drivers I am perturbed by how wasteful their driving habits are, but they seem to be unaware of their bad driving.

One essential feature not mentioned would be the option to store data by driver. This would enable families to track the skills of drivers in the family.
Likewise, this feature on hire cars would enable hirers to compare their performance with others who drove the same car.

Also, at servicing Ford should accumulate data from each car and update the car with data for all cars of the same model.
The display could then display the driver's position in a league table.
Ford could supply (new & used) car buyers with information on the real life economy of the I4 hybrids compared to the V6 model with similar performance.

Engineer-Poet

Some rental trucks have an accelerator pedal that pushes back if you try to go too fast.  Maybe we need this for cars if you try to accelerate wastefully.

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