The One

Build your own FFH
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Entries by Bill Wood (78)


MPG Update

Today I filled up the tank.  For consistency I went to the same pump I used last time.  The car took 9.826 gallons (with no "top off"); the tank mileage was 434.6 miles, leading to an average of 44.23 mpg.

The car's MPG reading, which I had reset before this tank, was 45.2 mpg; it seems to be reading a little high (2% in this case and 6% high last time).

Driving conditions were approximately 45% highway (55-65 mph), and 55% suburban, rolling-to-hilly terrain. I generally left A/C off but not always.

Not bad for a car whose EPA rating is 41 city / 36 highway!  :-)


A bit of "customer delight" part 2

The other day I washed the windshield of my FFH - depress the end of the windshield wiper stalk and it cleans the windshield using some washer fluid and a few wipes of the wiper blades. 

On every other car I've used, the wipers wipe for a few seconds and then stop.  Invariably some washer fluid drips down the windshield and you have to briefly start then stop the wipers to remove the fluid.

On the FFH, after the wipers have wiped the windshield clean, they pause for a few seconds and then wipe one more time.  Very nice job Ford!


Ordered a flip key!

In my post on the 2010 Prius vs Ford Fusion Hybrid, I complained about the key that comes with the FFH - I missed my old Audi folding flip-style key. The FFH key can make holes in your pocket, and the buttons are not intuitive to use in the dark.

Fortunately "cue" commented and described a flip key that you can buy from eBay for $59.98 (with shipping).  The key comes uncut, so you must get your dealer or a hardware store to cut it for you.  It also comes with instructions to program it for the car using your existing two keys from Ford.  I can't wait!

Ford's key on the left, flip-style key on the right.


Driving for maximum mpg - worth the trouble?

I've been trying to eek out some great gas mileage from the FFH and having some success (at 45 mpg on my second tank), but it requires a lot of concentration and sometimes painfully slow driving.  I began thinking about what I was really saving per year.  The table below provides some answers, based on driving 10,000 miles per year, a gas tank size of 17.5 gallons, and gas price at $2.70/gal.


Let's say I can average 45 mpg by driving really carefully, vs 35 mpg by driving normally.  What will it cost me to drive normally?  I would use an additional 64 gallons per year, require 3 more fillups over the year, and it would cost $171.43 more.

That's a nice little savings, but contrast that with the savings I got by trading in my 1998 Audi A6 - my mileage went from 16 (call it 15) mpg to, at worst, 35 mpg.  That's 381 fewer gallons, 22 less trips to the gas station, and a savings of $1028.57 per year!

The chart on the right shows how rapidly the importance of MPG declines once you get beyond 30 mpg or so.  The chart shows gallons used per 100 miles (on the left) versus mpg (on the bottom).  You get the biggest gain when boosting mpg from 10 to 15 mpg. To get that same improvement again (3.3 gal saved per 100 miles) you need to go from 15 to 30 mpg.  Going from 30 to 50 mpg you only save an additional 1.33 gallons per 100 miles.

Maybe its not so important to eek out the very last few mpg... except when its challenging and fun.


2010 Prius vs Ford Fusion Hybrid

I've been very nervous about looking at the 2010 Prius.  I was originally going to get the new Prius until I heard about the FFH and the $3400 tax credit.  I ordered the FFH sight unseen on March 31 (last day to qualify for $3400) because of the great reviews and having seen a 2009 Fusion.  Of course I went out and test drove the 2010 as soon as my dealer got one in case I didn't like it and wanted to cancel my order.

I was nervous however about the 2010 Prius - its gotten great reviews and if you're a gas mileage junkie (which FFH owners are to some extent) you can't beat it.  What if I liked it better?  Better not to even look at it, even though I had sat in the 2009 Prius and liked it less than the FFH.  The 2010 Prius was substantially improved according to every review, and the pictures on the web looked very nice!

Today I drove by the Toyota dealer, then sucked it up, did a U-turn, and went in.  They had one on the lot but it was out for a test drive.  A lady at the front desk told me how much she loves her 2008 Prius.  I was getting nervous!

The Prius came back and I went to sit in it.  I didn't drive it because I didn't want to pretend I was in the market.  It was blue with white leather, no moonroof but it had the JBL stereo and Nav.  Price after delivery charge of $750 was $28,550 - more than I paid for my FFH ($30,120) when you consider I have the moonroof and a $3400 tax credit!  I doubt you can get a new Prius for much under MSRP these days.

My first impression was that the Prius felt cheap.  I can't put my finger on it but the quality feel of the FFH was missing.  It smelled plasticky, not leathery.

At first I couldn't figure out where to put the key - its a plastic rectangle with some buttons on it.  Then I realized you don't put it anywhere - the Prius senses the key's presence and you can turn the car on with the key in your pocket.  Pretty cool.  No pointy metal key to wear holes in your pocket like the FFH key.

The center console, which is like a bridge from the dash to the armrest, makes you feel closed in and like there is less space.  I did like the way you could rest your arm on the armrest and easily reach your coffee cup.  The door panels have an even smaller pocket for holding stuff than the FFH. 

The dash graphics (speed, mpg, etc) are very simple looking and in the center of the console, not in front of the driver.  I guess this saves money when the car has to be configured with the steering wheel on the right.  One cool thing was when you touch a steering wheel button it lights up on the center console and shows a graphic of where you are touching the button. The FFH instrument panel is higher resolution, nicer looking, configurable for different levels of "geek factor", and more traditionally placed.

As you probably know by now, I am a fan of good audio.  Well, the 2010 Prius has the same fairly crappy JBL system it had in the 2009 version.  The sound image is too far forward.  Because its a hatchback, there is no rear deck to put speakers in.  The treble is not extended even though there are dedicated tweeters up front as in the FFH Sony system.  The bass is ok but not as deep as the Sony.  Overall, the FFH Sony surrounds you with powerful, clear, and bass-rich music while the JBL in the Prius sounds like eveything is coming from the front and doesn't have the same depth, power, and range.

A real deal-killer for me - there is no USB port.  I've read that this is coming in the fall timeframe but its unclear how it will be retrofitted to existing Priuses.

A couple of other points.  The headrest is not as comfortable as the FFH's.  It feels like your head is resting on a ridge instead of a flat surface.  The nav system is DVD-based.  Not sure if this is a negative but it seems sort of retro - my guess is this is the same nav that Toyota has been using for awhile now.  I'm pretty sure the climate control is not dual-zone as in the FFH.

Last but not least, the lines of the FFH look much classier than the Prius.

So there you have it - my impressions after spending about 20 minutes in the 2010 Prius.  As I walked away a family was looking at the Prius and the husband was telling the salesman that he was either going to buy the Honda Insight or the Prius in the next two days.  I had to laugh at the transparent attempt to pressure the salesman as I don't think they will have trouble selling the Prius - it has a great reputation and great gas mileage.  I approached my FFH half worried that a Toyota salesman would have keyed it.  As I got in I was delighted by the upscale, solid, "real car" feel of my FFH compared to the 2010 Prius.


FFH vs 2010 Prius

I changed the name of this blog post and accidentally made existing links to it invalid, so I've created this short post to guide you to the correct post here:


Creepy old lady be gone!

I don't know if its the new route I took to work today or the new technique I'm using but I got 57.3 mpg on the way in, just hitting 50 mpg on the current tank of gas (which I started yesterday).

The new work route has more back roads and is probably not quite as hilly, although its hard to say for sure.  Since its not as well travelled I can go at my own pace more often and not bother anybody.

The new technique may or may not be helping.  When the internal combustion engine (ICE) first comes on there is a burst of power from the electric engine to make the transition to the ICE smooth.  If you also accelerate as the ICE comes on, that burst of electric help is prolonged for a while; I'm still experimenting with how long I can make it last.  It seems to be dependent on sustaining and increasing the acceleration.  This is nice because you get a boost of power with both engines helping and (I'm hoping) less gas used because the electric is on too.  This would be ideal because if this technique works you could accelerate smartly when necessary instead of creeping along like an old lady trying to keep the revs down.  It may use too much battery power to be sustainable.  Time will tell.

I'm still using the Engage display so I can see the relative power contributions of the electric and ICE.


MPG Report

Today I hit a new record mpg on my way to work of 54.4 mpg.  The way home won't be as kind; I generally average 36-37 mpg because of the hill from King of Prussia to Route 30.  They don't call it "Great Valley" for nothing!

I'm driving with the Engage display which shows engine power as its distributed between the electric and internal combustion engine (ICE).  I like this guage because I can clearly see the contribution of the electric engine to the torque being generated.  Sometimes I'll see the electric engine add power for a moment, even when I'm on the highway.  Its interesting to watch and learn how I might drive more efficiently by taking advantage of those brief power injections from the electric engine.

I had been driving with the Empower display which allows you to easily gauge how much throttle you can apply before the ICE comes on, so you can remain in EV (electric vehicle) mode longer. In Empower mode you can really ride the edge of EV mode to ICE turning on quite closely.  But I find the Engage display a bit more informative and I am learning how to judge the EV threshold using it.  I'm not sure its best for mileage to eek every drop out of the limit of EV mode anyway.  Doing so discharges the battery when it may be more efficient overall to turn on the ICE for a moment and get a surge of power.

On this tank of gas I've gone 315 miles at 40.2 mpg.  I think I can easily hit 41 mpg if I don't take too many short trips, which reduces gas mileage because the ICE has to come on to warm up when you start the car.  Overall I still only have about 490 or so miles on the car after just over two weeks owning it.


Fun with Bluetooth

Warning! This is a geeky post!

One of my requirements for a new car was being able to stream stereo audio (and make phone calls) over Bluetooth from my Blackberry Pearl to the car audio system.

This isn't hard to do in the FFH if your phone supports it.  You just connect the phone to MS Sync per the instructions and select "BTST" as your Media source in MS Sync.  Then any music or podcast you play on your phone will be heard over the car's speakers in stereo:

BlackBerry Pearl streaming music to MS Sync

MS Sync allows you to hook up more than one Bluetooth device. These devices can be connected at the same time if they are performing different functions. The different Bluetooth functions are called "profiles".  There are profiles for hands-free phone headset (eg a Jabra headset), stereo audio, remote control of a media player, dial-up networking, and others.

Last night I had fun hooking up my Samsung NC10 netbook via stereo Bluetooth to MS Sync so I could stream Internet music from My phone served as the internet connection for the NC10. I was able to use the BlackBerry as a phone too over MS Sync.

For last night's experiment, the Bluetooth connections went like this:

  1. The BlackBerry was connected to MS Sync for hands-free headset functions - making and receiving phone calls
  2. The BlackBerry was connected to the NC10 to serve as a dial-up modem to connect the NC10 to the Internet over Verizon's EVDO data plan
  3. The NC10 was connected to MS Sync to act as a media player and stream audio from the internet

Getting this to work was a bit of a challenge. I have Windows 7 on my NC10 and the native Bluetooth drivers for Windows don't include the ability to stream audio.  So first I had to locate some drivers from Broadcom for the NC10 and install them. 

Now I had all the connectivity I needed but the BlackBerry wouldn't connect the NC10 to the Internet - it kept failing at the last step. Also, the BlackBerry and the NC10 both wanted to connect to MS Sync to stream audio, and the BlackBerry also wanted to connect to the NC10 to stream audio over it.  A real mess!  Depending on which device was turned on when, I'd get a smorgasbord of connections, none of which was what I wanted.  What I needed was a way to specify which connections were allowed between which devices.

Luckily Windows 7 provides this capability when you bring up the properties for a Bluetooth-connected device.  You can select or de-select which BT services are active between the computer and the device.  I set the BlackBerry to NC10 connection to allow dial-up networking only:Click to enlarge



I set the NC10 to MS Sync connection to allow for stereo audio connections but not hands-free headset phone connections:Click to enlarge



Now everything works perfectly.  I get in the car with my phone and it pairs with MS Sync for handsfree headset and stereo audio.  I turn the NC10 on and go to MS Sync Bluetooth settings and tell it to connect to the NC10, over-riding the stereo audio pairing of my phone:

Telling MS Sync to connect to my Samsung NC10 (WOODB000-PC)

I tell the laptop to use the phone to connect to the Internet:

Samsung NC10 connecting to Internet via Bluetooth connection to BlackBerry Pearl

Finally, I go to, and voila!  Bluetooth heaven!

A Bluetooth Concerto - NC10 using BlackBerry to connect to Internet and streaming music from to MS Sync

This all works much better than you would expect.  If you make a phone call from the BlackBerry the Internet connection is dropped, the call audio is routed through MS Sync, then when you hang up the Internet connection is re-established and the music starts to play again.

I warned you this post was geeky...


Tips for good gas mileage

I've got some experience under my belt now with driving the FFH for good gas mileage.  I haven't been able to achieve the phenomenal 84+ mpg that Wayne Gerdes and Ford did in driving 1440+ miles on one tank, but I've been able to average a respectable 41 mpg or so over the last 6 days / 175 miles, which means I still have 3/4 of a tank left.  Here are some tips/techniques I've developed for achieving good mileage without going to extremes.

  1. Go downhill.  I get better mileage on the way to work (51 mpg) than on the way home (36 mpg). Today, I stopped for coffee on the way to work and from the coffee shop (near my house) to work I got 71 mpg.
  2. Avoid hills.  You can get much more consistent results and achieve longer pulse and glides (see below) when its flat and open.
  3. Avoid highways.  The engine turns on at 47 mph and gas mileage goes down.
  4. Go on the highway.  Too much stop-and-go traffic, or hilly back roads, reduces mileage so the highway can be a better choice.
  5. Drive like an old lady.  You must try and stay in electric (EV) mode whenever possible, which means pulling away from stops slowly, coasting whenever possible, and braking slowly to allow for regen.
  6. Drive like a race car driver.  Take corners fast so you don't lose as much speed coming out of the turn.  The FFH handles nicely around corners.
  7. Creep along slowly.  When you're in a parking lot or driving up your driveway, take it slow and don't get out of EV mode.  Let the car slow down topping a hill if it means you can stay in EV mode.
  8. Drive as fast as possible.  When you've got a good hill to build up speed and a good run-out at the end or another hill, build up some speed on the way down so you can coast as far as possible.
  9. Keep it in "Drive".  When you've built up too much speed, you can scrub off some speed productively by braking lightly enough to activate regen without actually using the brakes.
  10. Put it in "Neutral".  If you've got a decent stretch of road to coast on, you'll get more distance if you slip the transmission into neutral, but you won't get any brake regen.  You can put the FFH back into "Drive" at any time without hurting the transmission.
  11. Pulse and glide.  Select a speed range (eg 30 - 45) and accelerate slowly up to 45 then coast down to 30 (with or without going into neutral - see above) and repeat.
  12. Feather the gas pedal.  Let it off a little just to get back to EV mode. Keep your speed up as high as you can without getting out of EV mode.
  13. Use the Empower gauge - you can see at a glance how close you are to turning on the gas engine.
  14. Turn off the A/C.  I have noticed a difference with A/C on or off in how easy it is to stay in EV mode.  You can also turn it on but leave the fan on low.
  15. Be patient.  It takes discipline not to revert to old habits.  But be sensitive to the cars behind you too and don't force them to get good mpgs ;-)

With these techniques you can improve gas mileage.  But it takes concentration and can be frustrating.  At times I just want to step on it and get moving!