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As much as 75 percent of drivers in the U.S. want to see in-dash MPG gauges, according to a survey from the Consumer Federation of America. At that rate, it appears some degree of “hypermiling,” — the practice of changing driving behavior and in some cases making tech mods to vehicles in order to eke out ultra-high MPGs — holds at least some allure for the mainstream. Tonight at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, Mich., Ford Motor (s F) Chairman Bill Ford announced a new tool that could help the automaker capitalize on that interest.
Ford announced Thursday that the navigation system in vehicles with MyFord Touch (basically an interface that provides easy access and controls in the dash for Ford’s onboard communication system, Sync) will let drivers select a route that prioritizes not only distance or time, but also efficiency — avoiding congested freeways and stop-and-go traffic while maximizing more open roadways likely to allow a constant, efficient rate of speed. In addition, Ford said a new tool will provide feedback to drivers about how their driving behavior affects real-time and cumulative fuel economy. Drivers will be able to view average miles per gallon over the past 5, 10 or 30 minutes.
Hypermiling has gained the most traction among hybrid drivers — notably those behind the wheel of a Prius, one of the first models to prominently display fuel economy data in the dash. And Ford previously developed an instrument cluster dubbed “SmartGauge with EcoGuide” for a pair of hybrid models that, as Grist put it recently, tells “the driver (nicely) whether to ditch the lead foot or keep the good times rollin’.” But as part of MyFord Touch, the new tool will appear in regular gas-powered vehicles, too, starting with select models in the 2011 model year and later extending across all new Lincoln vehicles.
Ford says the efficient routing tool can boost fuel economy by up to 15 percent. We’d like to see much bigger gains. But this type of tech — like the smartphone apps designed to arm drivers with similar data about real-time and cumulative fuel economy, or GreenRoad’s system for the commercial fleet market — represents a tool that’s relatively easy to implement. In combination with other technologies, it could help to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country since 1990.
Photos courtesy of Ford