By on July 17, 2013

fordcmax47mpg

Some buyers of Ford’s gas/electric hybrids have expressed disappointment the their 2013 Ford C-Max, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ hybrids have not returned those cars’ EPA rated fuel economy. Some have even sued.

 

Ford heavily advertised it when the Fusion hybrid earned an EPA rating of 47 MPG, the same as the  C-Max hybrid, but Consumer Reports said in their own real-world testing the hybrid Fusion delivered 39 MPG and the hybrid C-Max even less than that, 37 MPG. The Fusion based MKZ hybrid is rated at 45 MPG. Now Ford has announced that it’s going to offer owners a free software upgrade that the car company says should improve fuel economy in the real world. Ford claims that the upgrade has nothing to do with lawsuits but rather it’s part of normal product development. Ford will be upgrading 2014 models at the factory. The 77,000 owners of the of the 2013 models affected will be getting letters later this month, telling them to make appointments at their dealer. Ford says that upgrading the software will take half a day.

 

fusion-hybrid-window-sticker

Some of the software changes are:

  • The cars will automatically stay in electric-only mode to 85 MPH, up from 62 MPH currently
  • Active grille shutters will now close in cold weather or when the A/C is running to warm or cool the interior quicker, this will allow electric mode to kick in sooner.
  • Fan speed will be reduced. Less electric load means better fuel economy.
  • The cars will now reach operating temperature in half the time, allowing the stop-start feature to work sooner. People in colder climates will appreciate this.

Ford also announced that it is adding another 250 salaried engineers for it’s electrification team, doubling its size as the company sees what it says it increasing demand for hybrids and plug in cars. It will also be investing $50 million in its product development center by the end of this year on equipment for what it says is improved battery testing.

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55 Comments on “Ford To Upgrade C-Max, Fusion, MKZ Hybrids’ Software For Better Real-World Fuel Economy...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Something is very fishy-stinky here. You can bet Ford tried desperately to make the label read 50 MPG before launch. Ford is just “discovering” these improvements now?

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      They know better. They were the leaders in in statistical analysis back in the eighties. Sometimes it seems that marketeers hold more sway than engineers at Ford’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      What stinks here is that the original programming was optimized for the EPA test cycle, and they hoped that nobody would notice or care.

      It may be that customers who buy other Ford products don’t care if the real world MPG is off by 10%, but hybrid owners both notice and care.

      The C-Max shows every evidence of being the first a bona-fide competitor to the Prius, except that they missed the mark on the most important number to the hybrid buyer: the observed MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      papaj1

      Minor correction; the C-Max will not “automatically” stay in EV mode up to 85 MPH.If the battery is in a low state of charge the car will switch over to ICE regardless of how fast or slow you are going. These are great little cars, too bad everyone seems so fixated on the 47/47/47 issue.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “Ford claims that the upgrade has nothing to do with lawsuits but rather it’s part of normal product development”

    Yep. You bet.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Regarding the shutters and fan speed: How does one enhance the efficiency of an A/C system by reducing airflow to the condenser? I won’t even ask about long term survival since it’s clear that Ford doesn’t care as long as it lives through the warranty.

    “When the A/C is running to cool or heat” – is the compressor used as a heat pump? Is this as a substitute for traditional heat from engine coolant?

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      The shutters are more for keeping birds out of the engine, which slimes the drive belts, and decreases mileage. It’s all in the EPA Mileage Test Criteria.

      • 0 avatar
        Type57SC

        ? What are you talking about. The shutters are to block airflow and reduce drag at highway speeds.

        Ford is probably also going to use them to trap air in during warmup to speed the initial warmup a little bit.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Definitely for birds, not airflow.

          /sarcasm

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          Yes, when first launched in the Focus, they said they would close whenever the engine did not need the extra cooling load, including at start-up and in cold weather. They would serve both as an aerodynamic improvement and an insulator. The shutters were even specifically added to cars sold in cold-weather states for that reason.

          Ford knew all this stuff before these hybrids were released. That makes me think if they are changing the programming now, they are actually pushing the limits & squeezing their safety factors–much like a cooling fan that doesn’t run as much.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Hee-hee.

        The bird-induced drivebelt slimage on the EPA tests is based off starlings, though, which are far less viscous than the average bird. EPA test fails again.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          No other choice. They’re the only species they haven’t put on the endangered list.

        • 0 avatar
          toplessFC3Sman

          So what is the air-speed viscousity of an un-laden starling? African or European? I’m not sure the US government would want to use either of those, instead prefering to breed their own species of ‘Murican starlings for drivebelt testing.

    • 0 avatar
      JD321

      The shutters are there to stop the NSA from seeing condensation on your A/C radiator and reporting you to Al Gore.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It seems to me that Ford knew exactly how dismal these figures were (how could they not?) and chose to get the cars into consumers’ hands anyway, with the baited high MPGs…after which they planned to release their software update. I’ll be surprised if all of that actually gets the MPGs up to their advertised numbers, though.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      You could say the exact same thing about MFT, and I think it would be equally true.

    • 0 avatar
      TARPON70

      Hybid mileage varies significantly based upon the driving patterns of the user. Ford was surprised by the demographics of many of the buyers. I was told that consumers could expect real world averages a bit under 40 MPG. The C-Max is also unusual in that its efficiency is highly dependent on the miles travelled in electric drive mode. My opinion is that its size, power, weight, ride and quiet cabin relative to competitors has attracted drivers more prone to using the vehicle at high speeds and on longer trips. Most of the changes seem to help these consumers.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I can’t complain too much because our C-Max is getting around 42 MPG since we purchased it in October. Most of the complaints seem to be focused around the lack of fuel economy at highway speeds. My wife started a job last month where she only drives 15 miles round trip, with no freeway driving. When it is warm out, she will get 60+ MPG during her commute. That’s the wheelhouse of the hybrid though.

    There are two things they are addressing that I am very happy about:

    1) The cold weather start. In order for the hybrid to be effective it needs to be in EV mode while traveling at slow speeds. When I drove the C-Max in the winter, the battery system didn’t warm up until I was already on the freeway. I wish I could plug the battery system in, just to stay warm in the winter as I have a detached, unheated garage.

    2) Top EV speed 85. We have been taking our Focus on longer trips because the difference in MPG isn’t that great while driving 80 MPH. I typically see 34 MPG in the Focus and 36-37 MPG with the C-Max on 3-4 hour trips. We plan on keeping the C-Max longer, so I perfer to put miles on the Focus. If the top EV speed is now 85, I can put cruise control on at 78 MPH and work in and out of EV mode. This should significantly raise the real world MPG.

    I’ll detail the real world differences once Ford updates my car.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      Bottom line, you should see way better than 36-37 on highways in a hybrid. It has always been an internet myth that hybrids had poor highway mileage. Many Prius drives see better mileage on highways than around town due to frequent short in-town trips that can seriously cut fuel efficiency.

      Another interesting thing about your post: You admittedly want to drive 78mph. I think Ford is trying to intimate that their drivers expect to drive more “normally” than Prius drivers. Does that mean Prius drivers are comfortable at 68mph and can get 50 mpg highway? While all those experiencing poor FE in their C-Maxes are doing so because they drive the “normal” speeds of 78 mph? Just a thought.

      I look forward to hearing your future experiences, as I do of anyone with the Ford hybrids. I really do like them, but I would have liked them more if Ford had just been honest with the mpgs. So let’s see how the real world treats yours (especially at 78mph!)

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I know that the Prius does great on the freeway. The combination of my driving habits and the weight of the C-Max make for a much worse fuel economy combo than a hypermiler in a Prius. The C-Max relies on the higher EV speeds for fuel economy. I probably should slow down to save money. I have a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      White Rabbit

      It would appear that many of the comments here come from none Ford Hybrid owners. Had my C-Max since 10/12. Best car I have every had.
      In Florida I get 42-44 in town and speed with 40 speed limit. By playing with the computer I got as high as 59 on 5 mile trips. The car is quick, handles and is silent. OK, some real world stuff. The engine does shut off at 75 when going down an over pass with the instant mileage maxing out at 60. You can see the mileage drop to 22 while going up the overpass side.

      The 85 mph battery limit will mean little other than momentary power needs when in cruise control on the highway. The battery isn’t large enough to run on battery mode for longer than perhaps 10 minutes. The car NEEDS you to brake to regenerate the battery. The engine will just about only keep whatever charge you have when you hit 75/65 or whatever. Maybe the new software will let the engine re-charge the battery at high speed. Also the car will not run on battery at all if the battery is less than about 30-25% charged. It saves that energy for starts from a standing start until the car reaches about 8 miles an hour. That first 10 miles an hour is a killer on gas mileage. The instant torque off the line from the electric motor helps give the car fast starts which can chirp the front wheels.

      Using the cruise control on the highway is crucial. It yields about 39-42mpg at 70. But again, passing and hills kill that. Tempting with all that extra power compared to a Prius. BTW, the car is almost silent (depending on road surface) to 75, very unlike a Prius which feels and sounds like a buckboard in comparison. Have spent a lot of time in a friend’s Prius. No comparison. Not fun to drive, loud, and almost life threatening on entrance ramps.

    • 0 avatar
      melo

      I bought my c-max in may since I bought the car everytime I fuel up I get that total miles I drove in a full tank and I do the Math and I’ll be getting close to 600 miles on full tank and my mpg is.
      from 44 to 49 miles per gallon I travel back and forth to work round trip 50 miles day .
      I see a lot of people complained fuel mileage but I don’t have Any
      complaints and now they’re going to upgrade the computer which the car will go up to 85 miles per hour on electric that’s real good news for me that means I will be getting better then what I am getting now

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    So this means, as the C-Max commercials suggest, you can feel even more smug about yourself and save more of “earth’s blood”

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I just think its a better vehicle for most people than the Escape. The NVH and drive are much better. The positive difference in fuel economy over small CUVs is just a bonus.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    I don’t think the Prius hits very high numbers in high speed highway cruising either.. The EPA test is just not accurate at 85mph.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      If 85mph is your idea of regular highway speeds, the Prius won’t get the EPA mileage. Nor will any other vehicle.

      The EPA test cycle is 62MPH and below. Highway speed limits in most of country are 65MPH.

      Yeah, highway speeds in The West are higher. That doesn’t mean you have to go that fast – several big trucking companies seem to tell their drivers to drive slower to save money on fuel out there. You can do the same. Or not. It takes more energy and cash to go faster. It’s no different with the Prius, even though it uses less fuel than any other vehicle on the road when doing the jobs a small passenger car is supposed to be able to do — including driving sustained high speeds. It’s just that no vehicle will get the EPA numbers at that speed.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      In almost all cases (maybe Texas or Montana are exceptions?) you shouldn’t be cruising regularly at 85mph. But at reasonable highway speeds between 65-70, the Prius is amazingly efficient and can still easily top 50mpg consistently. The myth of poor hybrid highway mileage needs to go away.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Montana speed limits were only 70 the last time I drove through there which admittedly has been a number of years ago. Utah was the first state to have a speed limit higher than 75mph. They had test sections with an 80mph speed limit have made most of those areas permanent and have added new test areas. But yeah 70 mph is the most common highest speed limit in the US.

  • avatar
    JMII

    If you driving at 85 MPH then clearly fuel economy is not your primary concern.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It does give you room for EV mode to work at 70 MPH while going up a grade on the freeway or at 50 MPH going up a hill.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        EV mode will not have the power to be the sole propulsion to go up a grade at 70. It will however allow the engine to shut off while going down that grade at up to 85 once you crest the top. One of the things I don’t like about my Wife’s 2010 Fusion Hybrid is the fact that the engine is always on if it is going faster than 47 MPG. There are many situations around here where if it would shut off the engine at a higher speed it could do better than it does. Not that I’m complaining as it’s long term MPG is just over 40 MPG despite a lot of freeway use mixed in there.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    If you go to Fuelly you’ll see that as the cars are breaking in and people are learning how to drive them there are quite a few that are getting around that EPA number. Of course there are also those that still seem to be stuck in the mid to high 30′s. As mentioned how you drive, particularly how fast you drive, has a huge effect on the MPG. The EPA “hwy” test does not in any way come close to representing the average freeway speeds of today.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Bull.

      Look up the Ford Escape Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid from 2010-2012. Ford had absolutely no problem hitting the EPA targets then…

      Ae you telling us that 2010-2012 fusion drivers drive that much differently than 2013+ drivers?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        There is no Bull the numbers that people are posting there now are better than they were when the cars had just been released. You are correct that the drivers of 2010-12 Fusion et al do seem to mostly meet their EPA ratings. Personally in everyday driving our 2010 beats the estimates usually getting between 40 and 41 in mixed driving. On long freeway trips going 75mph or so and/or going through mountain passes it falls a little short, at 34-5 MPG.

        It is not an EPA “target” it is a rating and the fact is that by law they have to post the numbers derived from performing the tests as specified and there are very strict specifications. Even if they knew that it wouldn’t make those numbers in the real world it would be illegal to post numbers that differed from those obtained from performing the test.

        Of course that doesn’t mean that they didn’t “teach to the test”.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Man Ford is dishonest.

    We can only hope now that their appliances come somewhat close to their advertised mileage. Because they are a long way off the mark.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Is it possible that Ford had a plan to use programming specific to gaming the EPA test early, and then release a flash that gets better real world mileage, once people started complaining? Because I am given to understand that the EPA test is not really representative, and that hybrids and automatics that shift really early do better.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You could be right, but I wonder if they have the option of modifying cars from their EPA and CARB certified configuration.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Technically if they make changes to the programming they are supposed to test and make sure it still meet at least the emissions portion. There have been cases where mfgs have been busted for issuing new calibrations that didn’t meet emissions requirements.

        I don’t remember the exact years but there was a case where GM had to pay fines because they changed the programing of some Cadillac to provide a smoother idle when the AC was on and that resulted in the cars failing the CO standards. Honda was also busted when the programming that made it to production had been “re-optimized” to provide better real world MPG at the expense of higher emissions.

        The caught those through their program of monitoring the results of state emissions testing results. Both to see if they meet the standards and to see if there is any pattern of cars with higher than average failure rates. I know they made VW do a recall because such a high percentage of vehicles failed by excessive margins.

        I’m sure there have been more cases of both finding new calibrations that didn’t meet what they were originally certified as and unusually high failure rates.

        • 0 avatar
          Conslaw

          The retesting requirement is probably why Ford is waiting until the beginning of the 2014 model year to release the new programming on new cars. Probably the new programming is certified on the 2014 models and approved for hardware-identical 2013 models.

          As a C-Max owner, I see this genrally as a good thing, but I have some wariness about battery lifecycle costs due to reducing safety factors, especially as it relates to 85 MPH electric operation.

          One thing I’ve learned is from 60-65 MPH, you are better off if you have the car in cruise control and change the throttle through the cruise control system. It runs fine using the gas pedal, but you get worse mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I’m sure they will update the 2013s that are still on the lots when the update becomes available. As you said they are still probably doing final testing, both for emissions certification and general drivablity. As it stands there are only a few more weeks of 2013 production left, the required PCMs have already been built and are sitting at the factory, in transit or packaged and awaiting shipment at the facility they are produced at. They probably don’t have the equipment set up to reprogram at the factory w/o messing up production scheduling. Meanwhile all the dealerships are set up to reflash the PCM. So cost wise it probably is a wash or cheaper to do any remaining 2013s at the dealer either before or after the sale.

  • avatar
    redliner

    There are two ways of looking at this:

    1) Evil, evile Ford and it’s lying cheating ways!
    or
    2) Wow, consumers complained and Ford worked on an upgrade for these people. How thoughtful.

    The truth is probably somewhere in he middle, but even if the Ford Fusion is only getting low 40s for MPG, that is still competitive with other market offerings.

    I only hope that this “improvement” does not come at the expense of long term durability.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Ford just thought that the window sticker was all that matters. Probably because their regular customers don’t watch their MPGs.

      This is better than the Malibu Hybrid debacle, where GM thought that nobody looks at the window sticker. They put a weak hybrid system in the Malibu that added one MPG to the window sticker and big “hybrid” stickers to the car and told us that it was as good as the Prius. Instead of coming running to GM, hybrid buyers laughed them off the block.

      Meanwhile, Toyota has sold 3 million Prii, despite a funny name and the car looking like a streamlined pregnant roller skate. Because they made the right product for the segment.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        But the segment could be bigger, with more designs.

        For instance, a hybrid minivan would be awesome, as much for improved MPGs as for running HVAC and/or providing power for gizmos while parked.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I was hoping for a Grand C-Max hybrid. Or diesel. I wouldn’t complain either way.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Well using the traction battery to provide HVAC when parked does improve MPG and is one of the things I like about our hybrid. When I sitting in the parking lot waiting for the wife who just has to run in “for a second” and that second turns into 10 min it is nice to have cold AC w/o the engine running the entire time. Typically if it is just maintaining, the temps are in the 80′s and I start with a battery at the normal 50% SOC it will take 6~8 min of running the AC before the engine starts and then about 2 min of running will bring the battery up to a ~55% SOC, the engine will shut off and the cycle repeats as required.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Yes, Ford both lied and cheated. Thankfully they were caught (after being the tattle tale on Hyundai lol…karma)

      Fords hybrids prior to 2012 had no problem hitting the advertised mileage. So Ford either just pencil whipped he 2013+ figures while havering not changed a hing mechanically, or they gamed he system. I actually think both.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        They did make a lot of changes, a 2.0 replaced the 2.5 the transmission was changed so that the range MG could handle higher speeds so that the engine isn’t required to be on if the vehicle speed is higher than 47 MPH. Those changes should have made them do better though they obviously haven’t. I highly doubt that they lied or cheated but it certainly appears they “taught to the test”.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    How can anyone sue over gas mileage? “Your mileage may vary” ranks up there with “Don’t try this at home” as the most famous of disclaimers.

    But then, tobacco companies get sued even though the label on every cigarette pack basically says “Smoke this and you die”.

  • avatar
    marc

    If it’s so easy to just increase mpg’swith a software flash, then in hundreds of thousands of testing hours, Ford would have figured the problem out. Nope, they made the choices they did at the time to get the mileage they did to game the EPA system. I’m sure this software patch will work. So why wasn’t it standard to begin with? Are their software teams smarter now? I’d venture that the software flash will spark a trade-off somehwere else. Remember when Honda “fixed” its Civic hybrid batteries? How well did that work out? Performance, smoothness, battery life, in cabin quality–something will suffer for this “update.”

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There won’t be a trade off unless you attach the car to a dyno and run the EPA emissions and consumption cycle by the letter. That’s one of the biggest problems with CAFE.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        and they won’t have to do that until the car is “all-new” again, meaning this little fix will save them some face, without anything that can actually be measured. Well played, Ford.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Ford’s clusterfuck mentality toward customers means our family will not buy Ford automobiles.
    Ford needs to upgrade customer confidence in a tangible manner.

  • avatar
    papaj1

    We own a C-MAX SE. Around town we routinely get 50-55 MPG, running mostly on EV. Atlanta freeways require you to run at least 75 or get run over by a truck, and at freeway speeds mileage drops to about 37.

    Now that the C-Max can use EV power up to 85 vs the previous 62 MPH limit I suspect highway mileage will improve. This mod will allow the ICE to shut down for a few minutes, turn back on to recharge the battery, shut down again, etc.

    I do wonder if Ford has done any testing to see real-world mileage improvement.


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