Ford, and other automakers selling hybrid electric vehicles, may need to place a warning label near the city/highway miles per gallon label on the car's window sticker: "WARNING: Your average fuel economy will be determined by your driving conditions, including speed traveled on highways and how you apply your braking."
Right now, what consumers see is the EPA rating for city, highway and combined mileage. Automotive News reporter Larry Vellequette has had a disappointing experience since buying his 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, which has an official combined EPA rating of 47 miles per gallon. The problem? He's only been getting a little bit over 37 mpg.
He's owned the car less than a month, but has put on 1,000 miles so far. To learn more about what's going on, he visited John Davis, chief engineer for the C-Max, Focus and Fiesta. Davis did a ride and drive with Vellequette, who offered him a few tips on improving the fuel consumption. His first verdict for what was tweaking the mileage: speeding.
More than 96 miles of Vellequette's 120-mile daily commute are on a six-lane interstate in southeast Michigan with a speed limit of 70 mpg and traffic that's usually going faster. Once you go over 62 mpg in the C-Max, Davis said, the electric drive isn't assisting and the gasoline engine takes over. The good news is that once the C-Max is broken in, it will be delivering one-two percent better mileage, Davis said.
The coaching helped Vellequette change his driving habits a bit, including accelerating more evenly, using the cruise control more and practicing slow extended braking so that the regenerative braking system recaptures more energy. He'll be watching carefully to see where the mileage is going. He's also been asking other C-Max owners what their experiences have been like. Some say the car has yet to come close to the promised mpg, while others told him they've exceeded that number. Anyone out there have their own experience to share?