Ford gives hybrids green gauges

Ford shows off the instrument clusters in its 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid.

Ford SmartGauge
Ford's SmartGauge lets you view a variety of fuel economy information. Ford

Earlier we reported on the 2010 Ford Fusion , with photos of the model update. Today we have news of the hybrid version of the Fusion and the 2010 Mercury Milan, due to hit dealers in the first quarter of 2009. Both cars get a new generation of the full hybrid system currently used in the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid. Ford isn't giving out many details about this new hybrid system beyond the fact that it will get 5 mpg more than the Toyota Camry Hybrid. However, Ford has shown off the instrument cluster for the cars, a new concept in helping driver's learn about their cars and achieve maximum fuel economy.

We've long been fascinated by the power flow animations in current hybrid cars, which show when power is coming from the electric motor of gas engine. Ford takes this idea a step further, placing LCDs on either side of the speedometer. Similar to concept cars we've seen at many car shows, the LCDs can be configured to show different kinds of information. Ford breaks the different standard displays down like this:

  • 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

Ford SmartGauge
The leaves on the right get greener when you get better mileage. Ford

These LCDs can show a variety of different gauges, such as instant fuel economy, economy over time, battery charge rates, along with conventional gauges such as engine speed and tank level. A special green gauge shows an image of leaves that get greener if you achieve better fuel economy. It sounds somewhat goofy, but after having used the instant fuel economy gauge in the Honda Fit to achieve more than 40 mpg, I think Ford is on to something here. And the Fusion and Milan Hybrids will have the coolest looking instrument clusters available.

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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