Ford is boosting the on-road fuel economy performance of its 2013 model year hybrid vehicles in the US and Canada. Starting in August, the company will make calibration updates for owners at dealerships designed to improve on-road fuel economy of the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. New 2014 models will have the updated settings from the factory.
Ford had attracted criticism (and lawsuits, see below) around the end of 2012 for the large discrepancy between real-world fuel economy results for the C-MAX hybrid and its EPA fuel economy ratings—47 mpg (5.0 l/100km) city, highway and combined—earlier highlighted in detail by Consumer Reports. (Earlier post.)
At the time, Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development, said that Ford stood by its fuel economy ratings as determined by the current testing protocols, but that the performance attributes of the vehicles as designed leads to more sprited driving. Combining a “lead foot” with environmental factors can lead to the wide swings in fuel economy results, he said. (Earlier post.)
The discrepancies resulted in a number of class action lawsuits alleging Ford overstated the fuel efficiency of its hybrids. In June, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated 15 such putative class action lawsuits. The multidistrict litigation (MDL) is being handled by US District Judge Kenneth M. Karas. The Ford Hybrid Fuel Economy Class Action Lawsuit case is In re: Ford Fusion and C-Max Fuel Economy Litigation, MDL Nº 2450, in the US Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation.
Calibration updates to Ford hybrid vehicles include control system enhancements for a variety of driving conditions on the highway, during short trips and while using the climate control system. Enhancements include:
Increasing the maximum pure electric speed to 85 mph from 62 mph, allowing increased use of electric-only mode on the highway.
Optimizing the use of Active Grille Shutters to reduce aerodynamic drag under more driving and temperature conditions including cold weather, during air conditioner use and when the engine coolant temperature is higher.
Reducing the electric fan speed as a function of coolant temperature to minimize the fan’s energy consumption.
Shortening engine warm-up time by up to 50 percent to enable electric-only driving and engine shutdown at stops sooner after cold starts.
Optimizing the climate control system to minimize use of the air conditioning compressor and reduce the energy used in cold weather operation.
Just as individual mileage can vary based on driving styles and environmental conditions, we expect fuel economy improvements will differ from customer to customer depending on individual driving habits. Customers should see the most improvement at highway speeds, during air conditioner use and operation in colder climates.—Raj Nair
The updates will not affect the EPA ratings.