When the gasoline-electric hybrid versions of the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan arrive in dealers early in 2009 they'll be sporting more than just the restyle that will be seen on their conventional siblings. Instrumentation in both will include Ford's new SmartGauge with EcoGuide interactive displays. Gil Portalatin, hybrid applications manager, says these new multimode readouts give customers direct feedback to help make the most of their hybrids by acting as a real-time "coach" and engaging drivers in ways that will help them achieve maximum fuel economy. To optimize both the functionality and user-friendliness of the SmartGauge setup, Ford's internal design team collaborated with IDEO and Smart Design, two firms with proven expertise in creating effective, high-tech interfaces. In addition to consumer evaluations, prototype versions on the SmartGuage system were tested in Ford's Virtual Text Track Experiment (VIRTTEX) simulator, the industry's largest driver distraction laboratory operated by an automaker, prior to final design approval.
Flanking the traditional analog speedometer in the main instrument cluster, SmartGauge's colorful LCD digital readouts supplement basic data with comprehensive information regarding fuel and battery power levels as well as average and instantaneous mileage stats. As an added flourish, long-term mileage can be displayed either as a tabular readout or as a graphic that shows a series of "growing leaves and vines" that become more lush and attractive as the average fuel economy figure rises. Drivers can select from four different variations on the SmartGauge theme. "Inform" displays fuel level and battery charge status; "Enlighten" adds an EV mode indicator and tachometer; "Engage" overlays engine and battery output power readings; and "Empower" adds power to the wheels, engine pull-up threshold and accessory power consumption readings. While the SmartGauge with EcoGuide displays will be exclusive to the 2010 Ford Focus and Mercury Milan Hybrids, expect to see this package or a similar variation on other Ford Motor Company hybrids in the future.