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.