Hybrid Drivers, and Makers, Exchange Info at Hybridfest


The first stop for today’s car shopper is the web, where you can find a plethora of websites, blogs, and community forums for every automotive genre and sub-genre. That’s certainly true for consumers looking for cutting-edge eco-friendly cars. But there’s nothing like getting up close and personal with the vehicles, their owners, and the companies that produce the machines. That’s the inspiration for Hybridfest Green Drive Expo, kicking off its fourth annual event this weekend in Madison, Wisc.

“Consumers can be misled by misinformation about hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles,” said Eric Powers, founder and manager of the event. “But at Green Drive Expo, they can talk to companies and individuals and feel confident that they are getting honest answers.” HybridFest is one of the country’s largest gatherings of green car owners, who use the event as a chance to learn about new models, custom modifications, and most of all maximizing mileage.

Two-Way Communication

Ford and Toyota, top sponsors of the event, will be showing off their hybrid wares, but the carmakers’ support of and participation in the event has less to do with selling—and more to do with listening. Praveen Cherian, Ford hybrid team leader, told HybridCars.com that he’s there to learn “what hybrid drivers like and don’t like about their cars.” He said that customer input was critical to the development of the new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Customers specifically told Ford that they wanted more “EV mode.” In other words, drivers want a hybrid car that shuts off the engine more often and at higher speeds—and for a smoother transition between engine-on and engine-off modes. “So we designed our system to shut off at speeds as high as 47 miles per hour,” said Cherian. “The Fusion Hybrid has a lot more engine-off time than the competition. We put in a lot of calibrations for smoother transitions and to increase real-world mileage without the customer having to do anything.”

Cherian will make a presentation on Saturday, July 18, at 11 am, about how new controls, battery chemistry and regenerative braking helped the Fusion Hybrid achieve an EPA rating of 41 mpg in the city. Other event activities include an owners’ showcase and free test-drives. Free public admission to Green Drive Expo 2009 is included with the purchase of a Dane County Fair ticket, which also includes free parking.

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  • sean t

    Good, they are all ears.
    Hope GM is there too.

  • Jim D

    WHO are GM?
    If its general motors…they have a policy on hybrid cars..THEY TALK THEM DOWN!!!

  • RKRB

    We attended a Hybrid Owners’ Conference just a few months after we bought our Escape Hybrid, and it was an excellent opportunity. Ford brought several drivers, two engineers, a product consultant, and several people from the design bureau to meet with local owners. We learned a great deal about the basic design, special driving techniques, and product development, and were quite impressed with Ford’s knowledge and level of commitment. It was not just for “gearheads” and hybrid fanatics, and I would highly recommend attending one of these conferences (or a similar conference) to any hybrid owner.

  • why ford

    If the fusion engine shuts down at 47miles per hour why does it only get 41mgp?

  • Tim DH

    It gets 41mpg because the only way the battery gets charged is from regen braking and the engine when it is running and if the battery is low. I don’t know for a fact but I don’t think the Fusion can go very far on EV mode. Maybe like 5 miles if the battery is fully charged? So for all practical purpose the Fusion is still a gas car with electric assist but at least it has a bigger battery and electric motor than the others so in the near future I could see plug in hybrids that can at least go 15 to 30 miles on electric only. For some a car like this would not burn gas at all unless you took a long trip.

    I would love a Fusion if it had a higher capacity battery that could be plugged in at night. For now we have a Honda Accord Hybrid and wow what a car. We bought it used for 15K and we get 35 mpg in the summer with the AC on and about 32 mpg in the winter. A 5 passenger vehicle that accelerates quickly, looks good and gets great mileage.

  • Tony

    @ sean t: GM was not at Hybridfest. They were not at last year’s ‘fest either. In fact, last year they canceled at the very last minute sticking the Hybridfest with last-minute changes to thousands of printed materials. They never paid the down-payment for the square-footage they were going to use and Hybridfest was unable to rent that space with such short notice. I know the ‘fest organizer and the whole thing is done on a shoe-string budget. He’s made it very clear that if GM ever decides to participate again it’ll be cash up front. In my opinion, the utter absence of the company spending so much to hype the Volt is very telling on their commitment.

    @ why ford: The Fusion Hybrid is an excellent car. It’s EPA rated at 41 but several of us test drove it for well over 60. I achieved 72.9 mpg. I think its curb weight is something like 3,400 pounds so it’s a heavy car. It’s as nice as many luxury sedans I’ve driven. And most importantly, the dash really does help teach the driver how to improve their driving techniques. My hopes are that people considering a standard 25 – 30 mpg vehicle would consider the Fusion Hybrid. They would realize a 30 – 70% reduction in gasoline consumption which is a great first step.