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Ford Stakes Its Claim in Hybrid Segment with Fusion

Posted on May 23, 2009
Filed Under Ford Fusion, Test Drive | Leave a Comment

ford-fusionBack when Ford only cared about the big profits available in monster SUVs and pickup trucks, Toyota began rolling out gas-electric hybrids and built a reputation as the Earth-friendly car maker. Now with more than a million Toyota Prius models sold, Ford is getting serious about its hybrids with an advanced second-generation powertrain.

Knowing that Toyota basically owns the segment today, Ford has to come up with some technology demonstrations (i.e. publicity stunts) to show what their hybrids can do. Last week, a team of specially trained drivers went to see how far they could go on a single tank of gas in a 2010 v.

They drove all around Washington, D.C. until the tank ran dry — after a little more than 69 hours, they had covered 1,445.7 miles (about 2,300 km) averaging an amazing 81.5 mpg (about 2.88 litres/100 km). These were specially trained drivers, but the Fusion Hybrid was a stock model right off the showroom floor. The drivers, called hypermilers, were expert at gradual acceleration and smooth stops and averaged a little over 30 km/h for the whole trip, but this hybrid can do 75 km/h in pure electric mode.

The point was made and Ford now claims the Fusion Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient mid-size car in North America. Expect a similar stunt from Toyota soon. Jim Buvalic is a hybrid transmission systems engineer at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich., who worked on the development of the Fusion Hybrid.

Vaughan: As an engineer how do you go after the problem of going farther on less fuel?

Buvalic: It’s a total systems approach that we take.

We look at the power losses throughout the vehicle and we determine how to eliminate those losses. We’re after any losses that don’t propel the vehicle.

We measure parasitic losses — it could be aerodynamics, it could be engine losses like pumping losses — the Atkinson engine helps eliminate pumping losses.

There’s rolling resistance, there’s braking, there’s heating and air conditioning.

You have to go after all of it.

Where do you get the biggest return?

Regenerative braking, of course.

The regenerative brakes are actually the element that gives us by far the biggest boost in fuel economy out of all the functions. Regenerative brakes, percentage-wise, gives us the most.

But there’s strategy in the transmission, there’s strategy in the engine. That’s the most fascinating part.

The vehicle systems controls and calibrators are at the end of the process and they make the final adjustments to optimize everything.

It’s all software, calibration and code.

Why didn’t you make this hybrid a plug-in?

That’s coming in 2012.

I know that in the aftermarket there are people doing it now in California. But that would give a very limited range.

You don’t seem to like the idea of someone messing with your hybrid.

I think the coolest thing in our hybrid is the calibration that happens at the highest level and being able to take all the inputs, all the levers that are available and try to maximize them for fuel economy.

That’s the coolest thing. The calibrators who do that work are phenomenal and do a great job.

The hypermilers can get amazing fuel economy out of this hybrid, but who wants to drive all day at 30 km/h. So you’ve put these amazingly complex LCD screens on the dash that measure all sorts of different things to coach the average driver to be more efficient. Is this information overload?

No, because it has four different settings to give you the level of information that you want to use.

Well, the simplest one seems to be that thing that grows leaves — a vibrant efficiency forest, whatever that is. If you’re putting up more green leaves, you’re driving more efficiently.

Yeah, my eight-year-old son criticizes my driving from the back seat if I’m not showing enough green leaves.

But he prefers to see the bar graphs and the actual numbers.

The curse of being an engineer’s son.

Well, his mother’s an engineer, too. She’s a calibrator.

SOURCE: Globe Auto

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