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Friday
Jan012010

Winter killing MPG

Well, winter is here in Philadelphia and its killing my mileage.  I'm hovering right around 29-30 mpg in the 32 degree weather we've been having recently.  It wouldn't be so bad if I drove longer distances but I rarely go more than 7 miles or so and often less.  It takes several miles of running the engine to get it warm, then the engine must continue to turn on occasionally because it cools down quickly in the cold weather, especially if I've got the cabin heater on.

I'm still getting twice the MPG that my Audi would have gotten in this weather, and I'm still loving the car. The front wheel drive is not as great/fun in the snow as the Audi Quattro, but its not too bad either.

Oh, and Happy New Year!!

Monday
Nov022009

Fall weather MPG update

It's getting tougher and tougher to maintain 40+ mpg in the colder fall weather here in PA.

I just filled up today.  The last time I filled up was Sep 29 - 5 weeks ago!  For this tank the mpg guage read 40.4 mpg.  It started at 42 mpg and went steadily down as the weather got colder.  It just takes longer for the engine to heat up and my work is only about 7 miles from home.

The guage is still reading high.  My calculated mpg based on gallons used is 38.14 which is 5.6% less than the guage reading of 40.4.

Since shortly after I got the car, my average mpg according to the long term guage is 40.7 and the calculated mpg is 39.14 - a difference of -3.8%.

I'm still loving the car!

Friday
Sep112009

Improving the MPG bar graph

The FFH has a bar graph that you can display in the dash that shows MPG over a 10, 20, or 60 minute period.  There are 10 bars so each bar is the average mpg over a period of 1, 2, or 6 minutes:Each bar shows mpg over a 6 minute period

During a recent 600 mile trip to Maine I realized that this gauge is not as useful as it could be.  It frequently happens that there is a bar that has a very low mpg next to a bar with very high mpg.  Imagine the bar graph is set for 10 minutes (so each bar shows mpg during a minute) and the time period for a bar is just beginning.  You happen to be gliding the car in EV mode 50 feet to a stop at a traffic light.  Say this takes 15 seconds.  Then you wait at the light for 45 seconds.  The bar appears and its over 60 mpg because you were in EV mode or stopped for the whole minute.  Yeah!  Then you accelerate from the light and head up a hill for a minute, going 1/2 mile.  The next bar comes up and the mileage is dismal - 20 mpg.  Looking at the bars, you think that's ok - after all, you have one 60 mpg bar next to the 20 mpg bar, the average of those two must be pretty good!

But its not, you only went 50 feet during the first bar's time period.  Since mpg is calculated by dividing miles traveled by gallons used, the overall mpg of those 2 minutes is 20.15 mpg.  The appearance of the bars suggests that you should weight each bar equally, but you should not.

I would love to have the option to display a bar graph based on MPG per mile traveled, rather than per minute traveled.  That would be much more useful.  Each bar would indicate the mpg over a given distance, say 1, 2, or 5 miles.  Each bar would be directly comparable.  You could look at the graph and visually get an idea of your recent mpg by looking at the bar heights.  You would also be able to directly map the bar heights to mileage along your route - eg a low bar might indicate an uphill climb on your commute.

Monday
Sep072009

Windshield wipers failure

On my way back from vacation in Maine last week it rained for the first 5 hours of the trip.  I really enjoyed using the Sirius weather radar to track my progress towards getting out of the rain.

Unfortunately I seem to have a problem with my windshield wipers.  After they've been on intermittent wipe for awhile they will suddenly stop working completely.  Restarting the car does not help.  I spent an hour at the New Hampshire liquor store waiting for them to start!  Finally I gave up and went into the liquor store to buy more wine.  They started up when I returned to the car with drinks ;-)

I called the Ford customer care but the best they were able to do was offer a tow to a nearby dealer.  As this was Saturday at 4:30 pm, and they could not look at the car until Monday, needless to say I declined.

I mapped out a route with the weather radar that led me west to get out of the rain sooner, but fortunately I discovered that leaving the wipers on non-intermittent wiping seemed to keep them working and I made it through.

I'll probably wait until my 5000 mile checkup to get this looked at, now that I know how to work around it.

Friday
Sep042009

Update on Sony Stereo settings

In Sony Sound Overload I reported on my experience with the Sony premium audio system in the FFH.  I recommended some settings for the system that I felt improved the sound.  Since then I've had considerably more experience with the sound of the Sony and I've tweaked the settings that I use.

In the previous post I recommended that the treble be set at "-1" to reduce listening fatigue.  I've since decided that I like the treble at its default setting of "0".  I don't often listen at loud volumes and I like the more extended response.

I also recommended to set the Fader at "-1" to pull the stereo image to the rear a bit because it seemed too forward, and didn't envelope the listener.  Since then I've noticed that with the fader at "-1" the stereo image is not as solid and I prefer the fader at "0", even though the sound is slightly less enveloping.

I've left the bass at "-2" as its really too much at "0" although initially it sounds impressive!

So, my new recommendations for the Sony are:

"Stereo" mode - for a solid sound stage

Fader at "0" - for most stable stereo imaging

Treble at "0" - for decent treble response (if you often listen over 1/2 volume or so you may want to set this to "-1" to reduce fatigue)

Bass at "-2" - reduces the Sony's tendency for overblown, distorted bass while maintaining good deep bass

Volume at "3/4" or less - too much volume and its tiring to listen to for any length of time

Wednesday
Sep022009

Butt Warmer

Recently I've used the seat heater on days where the temps are falling into the 50's here in PA.  I was worried that it would take a lot of electric power to run the seat heaters but I'm happy to report that they don't measurably affect the accessories draw power level at all!  They do quite a nice job of heating your butt and lower back too.

Monday
Aug312009

Red alert

In Empty promise I wrote about the FFH low fuel indicator coming on when there were more than 3 gallons still left in the tank.

On my recent 600 mile trip to Maine, I managed the whole trip without stopping for gas.  When I arrived, the miles to empty was 0 and the fuel gauge was in the red:I filled the tank and it took 15.8 gallons, meaning I still had 1.7 gallons left in the "empty" tank - at least 60 miles worth of gas.

Coming home, I pushed it further.  I drove another 35 miles or so after the gauge turned red.  When I refilled it took 16.8 gallons - good for another 25+ miles.

It looks to me like the fuel gauge might go 1 or 2 blips lower, but I didn't want to run out of gas finding out.  Ford obviously is very conservative with regards to the empty indicator - my guess is they must really not want you to run out of gas and stress the battery trying to reach a gas station.

My mileage on this highway trip was low - 37+ mpg.  I had a bicycle strapped on the back which just killed the aerodynamics!

Friday
Aug212009

New MPG record

Today I set a new "round trip" mpg record.  I'm up in Winter Harbor, Maine on vacation and the roads here have low speed limits (25-45 mph) without much traffic and not one stoplight.  There are some hills but there are also good stretches of road without much grade.

At home my best mileage for a round trip, 17 mile drive is about 56 mpg.  I picked that route to maximize flat stretches of road.  It does have one stretch where the speed limit is 55 so the engine comes on and I lose mpgs there.  Also I drive that route at night to minimize traffic and the car's lights ultimately steal some mpg because the battery has to be charged more often.

Today, on a 16.1 mile drive around Schoodic Point, I managed 63.6 mpg!  I'm quite pleased with that. My battery state of charge was initially about 60% and was at about 35% when I completed the loop, so I will pay for that later in reduced mpg.

I used the "pulse and glide" technique, whereby you accelerate using the engine to your top speed, then let off the accelerator and go into EV mode for as long as you can until you are going too slow.  This minimizes the time the engine is on and gets you better mileage than simply using moderate throttle pressure to maintain the same average speed.

Perhaps my car has broken in more since I drove the 600 miles up to Maine, and is getting the reputed better mileage after several thousand miles (I'm at about 2400 miles now); more likely the roads are just more conducive to good mpg here.

Wednesday
Aug122009

Empty promise

Today was the first time my "low fuel" indicator came on.  The fuel tank indicator was just above the "E" line.  The miles to empty reading was 46 miles.  I thought I better fill up.

Surprisingly the car took only 14.356 gallons.  The FFH's tank holds 17.5 gallons - that doesn't seem like a low fuel condition to me.  I could easily have gone over 100 more miles!

I'm guessing you don't run out of fuel until the fuel tank indicator goes all the way to the bottom of the yellow area.

My average mpg over the last 1440 miles is 41.01 based on actual gallons purchased, and 42.6 according to the car.

Monday
Aug102009

Air conditioning sucks

I have not been using A/C much in my FFH, preferring to use the driving without air technique to save on mpg.  However today was very hot and humid in the Philadelphia area. I decided to use A/C on my way home from work.

Now, on Friday last week I set a new record for the ride home from work (which is mostly uphill, about 7 miles) of 45.5 without A/C.  My battery started that trip at a high state of charge, which helps because more electric power is available to assist the internal combustion engine.

Today, with temperatures in the 95-100 degree range and high humidity, I set my A/C on 76 for the drive home.  The A/C is driven from the electric engine.  It uses quite a lot of power according to the FFH's "accessories" power gauge, especially while first cooling the car.  I quickly realized how much impact this would have on the trip home as I passed several milestones at low mpg figures.  Typically its fairly easy for me to get 38 or so mpg.  Today, I got 25.4 mpg!  Admittedly, I did not drive as carefully for mpg as I sometimes do; and the battery started at about 40% charge (and never got above about 50% during the trip due to the A/C power draw).

A/C can really suck mpgs out of the FFH, especially on short trips where its on max for much of the trip during the initial cool-down period.