Information is power, right? More precisely, based on an interview last week with Mike Tinskey, Ford’s Director of Global Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure, information is both what buyers of the brand’s Energi plug-in hybrids want to feel empowered, and what they need to get the best efficiency out of their vehicles.

With the Ford Fusion Energi or Ford C-Max Energi, you get a so-called EcoGuide gauge cluster that, Ford says, offers you the level of information you want. As part of a special version of MyFord Touch and its customizable displays, you get two small screens to the left and right of an analog speedometer. On the right, you can access all the normal brief display screens for climate, audio, or navigation, for instance, but you can also see yourself earning Efficiency Leaves.

On the left is where it gets a little more complex, potentially. There, you can select between themed Inform, Enlighten, Engage, or Empower display modes, see energy use or fuel history, or get a customized ‘MyView’ bar-graph display related to your recent driving.

From techies to minimalists, some very different expectations

According to Tinskey, there was no easy answer in addressing what they saw buyers wanting and needing, without offering several very different displays. “We did a lot of focus groups, and we asked customers what they wanted to see, and there was a full spectrum,” he said.

“We do recognize there are the techies, the simplists, and so each screen is sort of targeted to that,” explained Tinskey. who pointed out that you can turn the screen completely off, too. “And we really did try to use the words ‘engage’ and ‘empower’ to reach particular customer bases.”

Tinskey pointed to Engage as the most information-rich mode, as it shows how you’re driving, what sources you’re driving on (electric or gasoline), and what your consumption is, with somewhat interactive displays.

“So as we’re driving you can see there’s an outer bar and an inner bar,” he explained. “The outer bar will actually show you how much power and torque is coming from the gasoline engine and the inner bar will show you the equivalent for the electric drive system.”

Adaptive behaviors, connected to each driver

These displays have adaptive behaviors and are actually connected to the key fob, Tinskey pointed out, so if you have a spouse or significant other, it would show each of you the same battery level but different statistics based on your driving styles.

After every stop, an EcoCoach display pops up, gauging braking style. A score of ‘100-percent energy recovered’ means that the system used only regenerative braking (no brake pads) to stop the vehicle. Meanwhile, the vertical bar with the ‘floating’ indicator, present in some screens, is showing how efficient you’re being relative to your profile average.

Tinskey said that the team set this all up in a way so as to minimize distraction. “Anything that’s very dynamic isn’t shown here—we don’t want people to be focused on power flow but to keep their eyes on the road—and even the braking coach only comes on when you come to a stop,” he said.

Ford: Displays are serving their intended purpose

Based on the data Ford is collecting so far through its MyFord Mobile smartphone app, Ford is already seeing owners getting better efficiency out of their vehicles over time, Tinskey noted.

“And the efficiency that our drivers are getting over time—in terms of miles per gallon equivalent—I expect to keep going up over time because of these coaches.”


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