DEARBORN, MI – Pushing a vehicle to the limit takes on a new meaning in the new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, thanks to Ford's SmartGauge with EcoGuide — an innovative new instrument cluster that provides real-time information to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency.

The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids join the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids. With the addition of the two new hybrid sedans, Ford will double its annual hybrid volume and be the largest domestic producer of full hybrid vehicles in North America. The Fusion and Milan Hybrids will be built at Ford's Hermosillo (Mexico) Stamping and Assembly Plant and will arrive in dealer showrooms in the first quarter of 2009.

Ford collaborated with technology providers IDEO and Smart Design to develop the instrument cluster. Job One was properly integrating the driver with the cluster's science and technology.

"The main question hybrid drivers had was, 'How do I know I'm getting the most out of my hybrid?'" said Jeff Greenberg, Ford senior technical leader. "We needed to create a system that better communicates with drivers and gives them the tools to maximize fuel efficiency. That's what SmartGauge with EcoGuide does."

The driver is immediately engaged by the SmartGauge displays, on either side of the center-mounted analog speedometer, with a special greeting that combines illumination and graphics. EcoGuide then uses a multi-layered approach to coach the driver to maximum fuel efficiency. A tutorial mode built into the display helps the driver learn about the instrument cluster and the hybrid in a whimsical way that does not overpower.

For instance, drivers can choose one of four data screens to choose the information level displayed during their drives:

  • Inform: Fuel level and battery charge status.
  • Enlighten: Adds electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer.
  • Engage: Adds engine output power and battery output power.
  • Empower: Adds power to wheels, engine pull-up threshold and accessory power consumption.

All levels can show instant fuel economy, fuel economy history, odometer, engine coolant temperature, what gear the car is in, and trip data (trip fuel economy, time-elapsed fuel economy, and miles to empty). The engine coolant temperature indicator turns green when engine conditions are warm enough to allow engine pull-down.

At the core of the instrument cluster's design was an understanding that the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) experience evolves and deepens over time and the technology needed to reflect that. The four levels of information can be customized to fit each driver's needs or situation. If cruising on the highway, for instance, only basic information may be desired. Once a driver moves off the highway into a city, additional information to optimize fuel economy may be desired and can be easily accessed.

Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed in two ways – either as a traditional chart or using an innovative display that shows "growing leaves and vines" on the right side of the cluster. The more efficient a customer is, the more lush and beautiful the leaves and vines, creating a visual reward for the driver's efforts.

Additionally, the real-time system feedback allows drivers to assess or modify their driving habits to achieve maximum fuel economy. A shutdown screen reviews important information from the latest trip, including fuel economy performance and comparative data from previous days.

Also, the addition of the 6F35 six-speed transmission to the 2010 Ford Fusion's powertrain lineup helps the vehicle deliver double-digit fuel efficiencies. All three of the 2010 Fusion's engine offerings — the 2.5L I-4, the 3.0L V-6, and the 3.5L V-6 — are mated to six-speed transmissions. The six-speed marriage is a first for Fusion I-4 models, replacing an outgoing five-speed gearbox, which remains the gearbox similar to those still offered by segment volume leaders Toyota and Honda.

The increased gear span offered by the advanced six-speed transmission allows the Fusion's powertrains to operate at more optimum levels. A higher first gear, for example, delivers more torque when accelerating from a stop while the deeper overdrive gear enables a vehicle's engine to use less energy at highway cruising speeds, saving fuel. As a result, Fusion customers will gain a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency on the 2.5L and at least six-percent improvement on the V-6 powertrains.

By the end of 2012, nearly 100 percent of Ford's North American transmissions will be advanced six-speed gearboxes, building on Ford's sustainability strategy to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new vehicles by 2020.

Ford plans to double capacity of four-cylinder engines to more than 1 million units by 2011 in North America. In addition to supporting small car production, the move also will raise Ford's I-4 installation rate for Fusion to be more in line with the industry average of approximately 80 percent, and it will increase the I-4 installations for Escape to more than 50 percent.