Instrumental Change

August 28, 2007

Nissan Fuel Economy Display

For many hybrid owners, re-learning to drive is a key part of owning a hybrid. Driving at the speed limit on the highway, accelerating and braking more gradually, and coasting as much as possible are all techniques that can push a hybrid’s high mileage even higher. In fact, the same changes in driving style can improve the gas mileage of any vehicle, even if it’s not a hybrid. But hybrids offer an important fuel economy tool that many vehicles do not: instruments that constantly remind drivers how much gasoline they are using.

Nissan recently announced its plans to include fuel economy displays in all of its vehicles. Part of the company’s larger “Nissan Green Program 2010” environmental effort, the displays are aimed at encouraging buyers of Nissan vehicles to adopt more ecologically-conscious driving habits. Nissan expects drivers of the display-equipped cars and trucks to gradually improve their driving over time, yielding an average 10% boost in fuel economy. In the United States, the first cars to include the new displays are the Nissan Altima and Infiniti G35.

Fuel economy displays are hardly sophisticated technology, nor are they a new idea. Since the gas crises of the 1970s, numerous cars and trucks have offered fuel economy information to the driver, although the gas mileage numbers were often buried deep in a multi-function display or trip computer. What makes Nissan’s plans distinct is that the fuel economy information will be front-and-center in all of its vehicles. This strategy has some risk: drivers of Nissan’s full-size pickups and SUVs may not appreciate being reminded that their vehicles get 12 MPG (or less) in city driving, and their satisfaction with the vehicles could suffer as a result.

Ultimately, time will tell whether fuel economy instrumentation really leads to more efficient driving, or whether frustrated drivers simply ignore the new displays and continue their present habits. But Nissan deserves some credit: providing the tools to increase awareness of gasoline use is a positive first step toward changing behavior.


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  • Al

    I hope that red bar you showed is not the actual indicator Nissan intends to have, If it is, don’t get your hopes up about drivers changing their behavior. A bar that essentially shows more red as you get better fuel economy is not exactly intuitive and having enumerations every 20mpg is not very useful either. However, perhaps both of these bad design choices are intentional; if I am driving a Titan getting 12mpg, I won’t be pestered by a big red bar reminding me that I drop to 8mpg every time I floor it away from a light and I won’t really notice that when I light foot it, the big beast would still only improve to 16mpg; both of these facts would be delightfully obscured by just being a little red blip fluttering around there somewhere in that nebulous zone under 20mpg… Come on Nissan, anyone that can make a car as pretty as the Infiniti G30 surely understands design well enough to make a better mpg gauge.

  • Andreas

    I recently bought a 2008 VW Rabbit TDI here in Germany. It has a mgg or l/100km gauge hidden in the multifunction display. It shows digital numbers. and its really ugly if you floor the pedal after a red light stop to see the car consume 49.9l/100km and while approching the red light its really only 0.0 l/100km. So you want to approach often that way and not to push the pedal to hard because you see it very clearly what it means to the gas (or Diesel) in the tank.

    YES such a gauge will change the driving habbit of anyone who thinks about the impact dirving makes.

  • Dave Cascino

    It should have both a real time mpg display and an average mpg (perhaps off in the corner). That way you can see how your current driving is effecting gas consumption but also know your overall ‘score’.

  • Stefan

    Whether a cars get 8 mpg or 40 mpg, having an mpg indicator is better, at least, than having no indicator. I used to think the faster you drive the more gas you consume. Not according to the EPA. If you drive 10 mph, a typical car will consume more gas than driving at 40 mph because you need to overcome gravity. Then again, there’s the highest mpg at the highest constant speed which means that 80 mph is less efficient than 50 mph. So, environments, you need to determine where your speed of your Prius at your most efficient.

    I also find that as newer cars get more horsepower, they seem to have a higher efficiency speed. That’s because of fuel injection, turbocharger, etc. HIGHER SPEED DOES NOT ALWAYS LEAD TO LESS MPG.

  • Greg

    If you could input the price you just paid per gallon and have a display show the running cost you would could watch your dollar per mile impact.

  • langjie

    if they put the same system in as my NAH, then the next screen will display average MPG (mine is at 38.8 right now)

    but having the real time gauge is very nice to have

  • Armand

    Wow…what a concept Nissan. Instead of making a POS gas guzzler like the G35 and the SUV uglier than sin, make more efficient cars.

    The Sentra/SE-R is a good start…CVT. But you can do MUCH MUCH more.