Ford ramps up hybrid effort

Ford is seeing good movement in the U.S. electrified car market, particularly in the performance of its more hybrid focused vehicles.

This news comes as word also breaks the U.S. automaker will be offering a software update to increase “real-world fuel economy and better align with the gas mileage advertised on the window sticker,” according to news agency Reuters.

While Toyota continues to dominate in the green vehicle market with the Prius hybrid family, its rival Ford, as we’ve previously reported, continues to nip at the Japanese automaker’s heels. Ford said on Tuesday its

share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market is up 12 share points to nearly 16 percent, while Toyota’s share is down 8 share points, and more customers are trading in their Priuses for the new Ford C-MAX Hybrid.

What this translates into specifically for Ford is recorded green vehicle sales of 46,197 units through June, which is more than 400 percent higher than the same period a year ago. The C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid are said to be leading the way on this at a time when both Toyota Prius U.S. sales have declined five percent and 64 percent of C-MAX Hybrid buyers came from non-Ford brands last month. The top trade in car for those hopping into one of these Ford hybrids? A Prius.

Ford C-Max hybrids being built at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. (image via Ford)

As the company continues to see growth in this car segment, it is also moving to address what Reuters reports are a wide range of fuel economy performance issues reported by hybrid drivers. These issues, which have resulted in lawsuits, result in actual real world fuel efficiency not matching that of what’s said by Ford to be what the vehicles are capable of.

What’s described as “calibration updates” by Ford to “improve on-road fuel economy for owners of the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid” will be issued starting next month free of charge. These updates will do a wide array of things to reportedly help address a range of conditions impacting economy. They 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,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development,in a statement, “we expect fuel economy improvements will differ from customer to customer depending on individual driving habits. Customers should see the most improvement at highway speeds, during air conditioner use and operation in colder climates.”

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling