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Ford Tweaking Hybrid Controls To Boost MPG, Hiring More Hybrid Engineers

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C-Max Energi cutaway (Ford photo)

C-Max Energi cutaway (Ford photo)

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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DEARBORN (WWJ) – Ford Motor Co. announced Tuesday that it would change the control settings of some of its hybrid vehicles beginning next month in an attempt to boost fuel economy.

Ford said the changes were designed to boost MPG, especially at highway speed and in cold weather driving conditions.

According to media reports, some Ford hybrid drivers are complaining they aren’t getting the 47 mpg promised on the sticker.

Starting in August, the company will make calibration updates designed to improve on-road fuel economy for owners of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

“We are committed to continuously improving the fuel economy of our vehicles,” said Raj Nair, group vice president for global product development. “We believe these actions will provide our customers enhanced on-road fuel economy satisfaction.”

Calibration updates to Ford hybrid vehicles include control system enhancements for a variety of driving conditions on the highway, during short trips and while using the climate control system.

Enhancements designed to improve customer satisfaction include:
• Increasing the maximum pure electric speed to 85 mph from 62 mph, allowing increased use of electric-only mode on the highway
• Optimizing the use of Active Grille Shutters to reduce aerodynamic drag under more driving and temperature conditions including cold weather, during air conditioner use and when the engine coolant temperature is higher
• Reducing the electric fan speed as a function of coolant temperature to minimize the fan’s energy consumption
• Shortening engine warm-up time by up to 50 percent to enable electric-only driving and engine shutdown at stops sooner after cold starts
• Optimizing the climate control system to minimize use of the air conditioning compressor and reduce the energy used in cold weather operation

“Just as individual mileage can vary based on driving styles and environmental conditions, we expect fuel economy improvements will differ from customer to customer depending on individual driving habits,” said Nair. “Customers should see the most improvement at highway speeds, during air conditioner use and operation in colder climates.”

Despite the complaints and the coming adjustments, Ford said its share of the electrified vehicle market in the United States quadrupled during the first half of 2013 vs. the first half of 2012, rising from 4 percent to 16 percent.

The automaker said the gain is supporting its nearly 1-point increase in overall U.S. market share, the biggest gain of any full-line automaker.

Ford also announced it is expanding electrification engineering jobs by nearly 50 percent and investing $50 million in electrified vehicle development centers.

Ford says its electrified vehicle sales are helping drive sales growth along the coasts, including the largest retail share increase in California of any brand this year and strong growth in California and Texas. The Ford brand also achieved the fastest retail share growth of any automotive brand on the coasts, up almost 2.5 percentage points compared with 2008, based on Ford’s analysis of Polk retail registration data.

The top trade-in for new Ford C-Max Hybrid is the Toyota Prius, which has seen a 5 percent drop in sales, as Toyota’s overall share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market is down 8 points.

“Strong consumer acceptance of Ford hybrids shows that our plan to lead in fuel economy across our lineup is working,” Nair said. “Our commitment to deliver great fuel economy in our cars, utilities and trucks is a key reason we are seeing strong growth in coastal markets and with import buyers.”

Ford reported electrified vehicle sales of 46,197 units through June – more than 400 percent higher than the same period a year ago. Ford C-Max Hybrid and Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid are helping drive this growth.

Lincoln MKZ also is bringing new customers into the showroom. Strong demand has led Lincoln to increase the production mix of MKZ Hybrid to 40 percent of MKZ production, up from 20 percent.

Another success is in what Ford calls the “super segment” – small cars, midsize sedans and small utilities that have fueled 42 percent of the company’s overall growth since 2008. Ford’s small cars, including Fiesta, Focus and C-Max, totaled 35,851 sales last month, a 39 percent increase over last year and the company’s best June small car sales in 13 years.

Ford Fusion has seen record sales for the first half of the year, and Escape continues to be the best-selling utility in America, posting record sales the last five months.

Overall, Ford is on track to be the best-selling brand of utility vehicles for three straight years. Ford F-Series has been America’s best-selling pickup for 36 straight years; it sold more than 367,000 trucks during the first half of the year – a 22 percent increase over last year.

This year, Ford also will expand its electrification engineering team by nearly 50 percent, growing to 500 salaried employees. Further, the company is investing an additional $50 million in electrified product development and testing centers in Dearborn.

Ford will double electrification battery-testing capabilities by the end of the year, to a total of 160 individual battery-test cells, helping to speed hybrid and electric vehicle development by as much as 25 percent.

More at http://www.ford.com/new-hybrids-evs/.

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