DETROIT – More details and more specific feedback in cars will change how we drive. When we know what to do, and when we’re provided enough information to make better decisions, we will respond by driving safer, smarter, and more economically.
The problem, of course, is that we sometimes lack enough information. For the person who constantly jams down on the accelerator, maybe he or she doesn’t realize quite how that impacts their fuel economy. Racing up to stoplights and braking suddenly is also not the smartest way to drive, but most cars don’t warn you about that.
In a recent test of the redesigned 2020 Ford Escape SE Hybrid, I really liked a new feature called the Brake Coach. Many hybrids provide some feedback about braking and acceleration and offer a real-time graph showing how your driving impacts fuel economy. Yet, Brake Coach shows you a real-time percentage indicator of how effectively you are braking.
Here’s how it works. As I was driving, the Escape would analyze how long and how hard I was pushing down on the brake. I learned over time to push lighter and hold down longer, which increases the amount of regenerative braking that occurs.
This means the Escape can generate more electric power when you brake, but if you race up to a stop sign, you won’t add as much power. Ford changed the interface from the last time I’ve seen this indicator and it is now more obvious and on by default so you can see the results in a big, bold display.
In practical terms, the car was teaching me how to drive. In several test runs, I noticed how I could brake longer and reach 100 percent – and, in a few cases, I didn’t quite brake properly and only received a return of about 80 percent or less. The fact that this all occurs in real-time without having to inspect a complicated display is helpful. You brake, and the Escape tells you how you did.
In previous tests, I recall seeing a gauge that had a circle and a percentage — it was more colorful and clean in some ways, but I prefer the simple percentage amount. That’s the goal anyway — to learn how to brake in a hybrid more effectively.