MPG Displays Becoming Rich Media Experiences

Many of today’s hybrid drivers keep a close eye on the fuel economy reading on the dashboard. Instantaneous MPG readings provide essential feedback about the effects of toes tapping on the accelerator, extended stretches of coasting, and easing on the brakes.
But the new generation of fuel efficiency dashboard displays takes hybrid geekiness to a new level—turning drivers into game players on wheels.

The Japanese version of the new Honda Insight will use a color meter—think mood ring for MPG—that displays a green color when fuel-efficient driving is being achieved, a blue-green color for relatively fuel-efficient driving, and a blue color when fuel economy is thrown out the window during bursts of acceleration or when slamming on the brakes.

Honda Ambient Meter
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Fuel economy feedback in the Japanese version of the new Honda Insight.

Another part of the Honda Insight screen has green leaves growing over time as fuel efficiency improves. Again, this will only be found in the Japanese version for now. However, Ford’s “SmartGuage with EcoGuide,” to be used in the new Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid due out in Spring 2009, uses a similar visual “organic” metaphor: growing vines to indicate optimal driving behavior. Ford takes it a step further by providing four levels of information that can be customized to fit each driver’s situation. For example, if you are cruising on the highway, only basic information may be displayed. But if you move from highway to city driving, additional information to optimize fuel economy can be accessed on the dashboard—or by voice.

Jeff Greenberg, senior technical leader at Ford, provides a demo of the “SmartGuage with EcoGuide” features.

Honda’s system—called Ecological Drive Assist System (EDAS)—allows drivers to see fuel economy for the past three trips. When combined with Honda’s InterNavi System, the display can offer suggestions for improving efficiency based on a driver history. Nissan’s telematic program, CARWINGS, was one of the first to plan for advanced systems to provide driver feedback regarding fuel efficiency. In August 2007, Nissan announced that all future new models will be equipped with a fuel efficiency gauge to give drivers more information on how their driving style directly relates to fuel economy. The company predicts it could “lead to an average 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.” The gauge provides the driver with both instant fuel-efficiency and average efficiency readings.

Toyota was not far behind, when in January 2008, it promised to install hybrid-like fuel indicators on many vehicles—hybrid or not. “We’re making this move because we’ve found that when hybrid drivers use their hybrid vehicle system indicators, their driving habits change as the system provides feedback on efficiency. And as driving habits change, drivers could experience estimated improvements of from 5 percent to 10 percent in fuel economy.” Toyota plans to include “Eco Driving Indicators” on next-generation Toyota, Lexus and Scion models, but has not yet released photos or drawings.

As the competition heats up to produce the must useful and slickest MPG display, carmakers will need to determine just how much information can be crammed into one dashboard—when after all, drivers should mostly have their eyes on the road. “When you’re driving, you have a second or so to look at your display,” said Jeff Greenberg, senior technical leader at Ford. “A dense display isn’t going to work. SmartGauge with EcoGuide is designed to minimize distraction.”


  • Todd C.

    Hopefully these eco-dashboards will strongly encourage folks to stay out of the lane of faster moving traffic. OK to drive slow, but go with the flow.
    I see it every day: holier than thou slowpoke drivers who’ve taken it upon themselves to block the rest of us from driving any faster than they are.
    It should also include a cell-phone use timer/sensor that reminds you to keep the calls short and keep attention on the road. Hang up and drive!

  • mdensch

    Yes, if you are driving under the speed limit, by all means, stay to the right.

    However, if you are driving AT the speed limit, feel free to use the left lane and block speeders from wasting fuel and endangering the lives of everyone else on the road.

  • Todd C.

    OK, thanks Barney Fife, but before you deputize yourself, you should clear your strategy with someone in Law Enforcement. Find out if they want anyone doing that. I’ll be very curious to hear what they tell you.

  • WompaStompa

    I agree mdensch, to a point. I drive at the speed limit, only creeping above on downhill stretches where I’m at 100+ MPG. I have no problem making the speed demons pass me, but I try to stay out of the left lane. People need to slow down, but I’m not going to sacrifice my car/life to prove a point to these assholes.

    That being said, if I’m doing 60 MPH in a 60 MPH zone and I come across someone going 55, I’m going to pass them in the left lane, and I’m not going to speed to do it. The awipes can wait the 10 seconds it takes me to get around grandpa. And we’ll all still get to the stop light at the end of the off ramp at the exact same time.

  • Electric Bike Guy

    It would be nice to see these on regular cars. I think just giving people a real time display on fuel consumption would prompt them to drive more efficiently, hybrid or no.

  • Adrian

    Putting speedsters and slowpokes on the road aside,

    I believe as time goes on, these type of instruments will most likely become standard in the vehicles to arrive… even the non-hybrid cars. Any additional info for the driver readily available, Im all for. But, like the article comments, keep distractions to a minumim, so that, of course, you spend most of your time driving.

    Thinking back to when I had an OLD 85′ toyota Tercel, with a fuel gauge broken… having to rely on the trip-o-meter to when to refuel before my gas tank ran out… THAT was the past, THIS is towards a better Future!!

    -Adrian.

  • RKRB

    Maybe it would help to require a big, well-lit fuel mileage indicator screen on the back of everybody’s car so we could see how the OTHER guy is doing with their fuel economy! Ha, ha, where is the government when we need it?

  • Chris C.

    Ford’s “senior technical leader” doesn’t know what a histogram is. Hint: it’s not a “history graph”.

  • vtf150

    Whatever hapened to the good old vacum gauge? It’s been working for me for me since ’76 and my grandpa before me! Learn to read one and you will truly know how your engine is running and you can maximize your fuel economy. Artificial green leaves and adhesive available at the local craft store – better yet, recycle those yard raked leaves from this Fall!

    some info below:
    http://www.secondchancegarage.com/public/186.cfm
    http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/vacuum-gauge-368.html

  • Charles

    This all sounds neat, unless you’ve driven a 2004 or newer Prius. We’ve had gauges like these for years.

    And if “growing leaves into a vine” is the “neatest new feature of the vehicles” then the future is not bright for American car makers.

  • cj

    Good idea vtf150. I’ve installed a vacuum guage on every vehicle I’ve owned since the sixties. They’re cheap and easy to read. Half of my leaves go into the compost pile and the other half are rototilled into the garden every fall. The neighbors now bring theirs over to donate to the cause.

    Bad idea mdensch. Road rage was invented for control freaks like you. If you want to save lives and gas, do us all a favor and just stay home. No matter how fast you’re going in the passing lane, if vehicles are stacking up behind you, you’re in the wrong lane.

  • AP

    mdensch, regardless of how fast you’re going, blocking people (other than a reasonable time for passing) is called “obstructing traffic,” and is just as illegal as speeding – and just as dangerous.

    If you want to convince others to slow down, don’t be a jerk, campaign for a higher fuel tax.

  • tapra1

    a blue-green color for relatively fuel-efficient driving, and a blue color when fuel economy is thrown out the window during bursts of acceleration or when slamming on the brakes.Latest Tech News

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