The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid was awarded the “Most Environmentally Progressive Car of the Year” by “blogazine” Earth, Wind & Power (EWP) at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. This award is in addition to its other recent accolades, including Car and Driver’s “10Best” cars for 2010 and the Motor Trend 2010 Car of the Year Award. The car also got the highest customer satisfaction rating of any Ford vehicle, ever.
So…what is so awesome about the Fusion? Fuel economy. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city. Ford reports that this is “70 percent better than comparable non-hybrid models and 8 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”
The Fusion also has a unique “eco-gauge” digital dashboard designed to teach drivers how to increase energy efficiency by following cues that leverage the car’s features. For example, through strategic braking and steady acceleration, drivers can increase the amount of electricity used from regenerative braking. When drivers maximize their eco-performance, a digital tree on the readout grows leaves.
When I took the Fusion for a test drive in NYC last April, I found the “Eco-Gauge” driving experience challenging and fun. In the few short blocks of mid-afternoon stop-and-go traffic, I learned how to drive more efficiently and delighted in watching the leaves blossom on my tree. But it’s not all bells and whistles: my driving coach, Praveen Cherian (Ford’s leader of Hybrid Programs), told me that he has been able to increase overall fuel economy to about 70 mpg when maximizing energy efficiency in this way.
What I think is most distinctive about this vehicle is the interactive learning experience between the vehicle and driver. Although many Prius drivers (and other electric vehicle owners) have figured out ways to enhance the energy efficiency of their cars through strategic driving, this is the first time that an automaker has created a digital dashboard display specifically for this purpose.
Changing driver behavior is critical for achieving ecological and energy security aims. Kudos to Ford for incorporating this feature into its new line of electric vehicle models.
Shannon Arvizu is a Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Sociology at Columbia University. Her work looks at the strategies of hybrid organizations in influencing industry-wide practices in the U.S. automotive field. You can find her on www.misselectric.com and www.thecleandeal.com.