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How Hybrid System Indicators Work


How to Hypermile Using Hybrid System Indicators
Many hybrid system indicators can coach or guide drivers on fuel efficient habits.
Many hybrid system indicators can coach or guide drivers on fuel efficient habits.
Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Most hybrid system indicators on the market give the usual information, like miles per gallon and battery life. But are there intuitive and innovative ways to present the data?

On top of just giving drivers important data, many hybrid system indicators use special graphics and bright visualizations to convey a car's green features. These high quality displays are typically digital readers at the very least, but more intricate and high-tech ones are using liquid crystal display (LCD) technology to graphically illustrate the vehicle's performance. Ford's SmartGauge, for example, which it features on its Ford Fusion Hybrid, has a large speedometer in the center of its instrument cluster, but it's surrounded with bright, customizable LCD displays that give battery and fuel levels, miles per gallon and other valuable data. Depending on how efficiently you're driving, a computer-generated illustration of a leafy vine changes to reflect how "green" the car is at the moment. If you drive recklessly, like if you lean a little too heavily on the gas pedal, the leaves wither and die. If you focus more on efficient driving tactics, such as a light foot on the accelerator pedal, for instance, the leaves will grow and flourish.

This leads us to another feature of many hybrid system indicators, specifically one meant to help the owner. Depending on the system, drivers may also receive hypermiling tips from the instrument cluster, or advice on more efficient driving techniques. For instance, one of the easiest practices you, as a driver, can alter is how quickly you accelerate or decelerate -- the harder you press on the pedals, whether it's to move forward or to brake, the less efficient you're driving. Some systems will even let you know when you're accelerating or braking too hard by notifying you when you're doing it. Of course, they'll also let you know when you're driving at maximum efficiency, too.

Other major devices include Toyota's Hybrid System Indicator for the Prius, a central instrument display with a digital speedometer, fuel gauge, shift-level indicator and odometer reading, along with an LCD multi-information display panel that lets drivers know energy and fuel consumption, inside and outside temperatures and audio levels.

Honda makes use of a new feature called Eco Assist, which provides the driver with instantaneous feedback. In addition, at the end of each drive, the computer gives an "eco score" to the driver. This score indicates how efficient that particular trip was. The system keeps track of how the driver progresses and even awards various levels of eco status.

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