Ford to make software tweaks to improve mpg of its hybrids

Article by Anita Panait, on July 18, 2013

Ford Motor Co. will implement some software tweaks to improve the fuel economy of its 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. The tweaks will be available to around 77,000 owners of the 2013 model hybrids. Ford will implement the tweaks for 2014 model hybrids at its plant.

The Fusion and C-Max hybrids had promised to deliver a combined 47 mpg, but tests by Consumer Reports magazine in 2012 showed that they failed to meet their published fuel efficiency numbers. The city and highway driving tests showed that the Fusion only achieved 39 mpg and while the C-Max averaged 37 mpg.

The changes, however, will not affect Ford's mpg labels. Raj Nair, Ford product development chief, said in a statement that the tweaks will provide customers with improved “on-road fuel economy satisfaction.” C.J. O'Donnell, Ford manager of electrified vehicle marketing, said that they have already notified dealers of the tweaks, which they would implement themselves.

The software tweak could take around half a day to perform, according to Ford officials. Nair said the involved hardware will undergo no alterations. Dealerships will start performing the software tweaks later this month, with customers set to receive notification letters from Ford.

According to Nair, the degree of improvement will differ depending on driving habits and other factors. He said that customers should see the most improvement “at highway speeds, during air conditioner use and operation in colder climates."

He said the tweaks will raise the electric-only speed of the hybrids from 62 mph to 85 mph, thereby allowing increased use of electric-only mode on the highway. The tweaks also modified the active grille shutters to reduce aerodynamic drag under a wider variety of driving and temperature conditions.

The tweaks likewise cut the speed of the electric fan to trim energy consumption as well as shortened engine warm-up time by up to 50 percent to allow electric-only driving. The tweak also modified the climate-control system to minimize use of the air conditioning compressor and cut energy use during cold weather. [source: Ford]

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