In a world that seems bent on taking away all responsibilities from the individual, Ford Motor Company conducted a PR/fund-raising event in Washington, D.C. that proves how important individual choice is.
For example, if an attentive driver wants to, he or she can exceed the EPA estimated mileage for their vehicle. Just like graduating from school with good grades, resisting the temptation to steal, or not punching out your annoying relative at the family's annual summer BBQ, improving your vehicle's mileage is a choice.
Under the title of The Fusion Hybrid 1,000-Mile Challenge, a team of seven drivers circumnavigated a route through Mount Vernon, VA and the nation's capitol. The team started their drive on a Saturday morning and drove 69 straight hours, encountering three bouts with rush hour traffic. The route included faster speeds attained on the George Washington Parkway plus surface-street driving that included approximately 30 traffic signals. On average, speeds were around 29 mph with drivers obeying local speed limits.
The bone stock 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid averaged an astonishing 81.5 mpg. By the time its fuel tank ran dry, it had traveled 1,445.7 miles. This performance is nearly double the Fusion's 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway EPA ratings. One weekend afternoon segment of the drive yielded over 88 mpg, while the lowest was recorded at night during a thunderstorm (about 70 mpg).
Achieving this type of mileage didn't come without sacrifice. Daytime temperatures were in the 90 range, but the ventilation system remained off to reduce the electrical load. An interior breeze was generated by narrowly opening the driver's front and passenger-side rear windows. The Fusion's radio was also silent, again to reduce the car's consumption of electrons.
According to one driver Gil Portalatin, whose official title is Ford Hybrid Propulsion System Applications Manager, getting good mileage out of any vehicle goes well beyond maintenance basics like making sure your tires are aired up. Gil believes that the driver is the key to great mileage. (Drivers control the car, not the other way around.) Portalatin and six other drivers utilized driving specific techniques to achieve their hypermiling numbers, and we've listed some of them below.
We first met Portalatin-a twenty-five year veteran at Ford-in Los Angeles when testing the 2010 Fusion Hybrid late in 2009. In a fuel-economy competition against the media, Gil (an engineer by trade) effortlessly triumphed by racking up economy numbers that significantly bested the journalists and EPA estimates. On some runs, Gil's Fusion returned nearly 47 mpg over hilly areas just outside Los Angeles. We immediately wanted to know Gil's fuel economy secrets.