Hybrid Fuel Efficiency Suffers From Cold Weather 'Flaw'

Best guesstimate by Ford indicates that fuel economy drops 10 percent when drivers use the front defroster or max AC, but a 'real world' test saw drops as much as 40 percent in winter driving conditions, author contends.

Published: 28-Mar-2005

There's a loophole in how most hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles work, and countless gallons of gasoline are draining out of them.

Running the front defroster increases their fuel consumption drastically, as I discovered while driving three of them during Detroit's typically cold winter. Setting the air-conditioning on maximum cool has the same effect, so the problem is not limited to Northern regions.

None of the automakers admits knowing how much this increases the hybrids' fuel consumption, but one estimate is that drivers use the defroster or max the air-conditioner 10 percent of the time behind the wheel each year. advertisement 
The Ford Escape SUV, Honda Accord and Toyota Prius hybrids all fell far short of the fuel economy figures the companies advertise.


Playing catch-up a decade late, the world's auto giants now find that they have to lease or buy technology from Toyota.

Spc. Jeffrey Hamme and Staff Sgt. Michelangelo Merksamer of HHC, 1/506th Infantry, point out features of the Hybrid Electric Humvee at the AUSA Annual Meeting earlier this month. The two Soldiers participated in a Military Utility Assessment of the prototype vehicle last month at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Ford's 'Hybrid Patrol,' a 10-city initiative this fall that aims to show hybrid drivers how to drive for best fuel economy. EV World photo of Bill and Lisa Hammond on way to first Ford Patrol event in Detroit during stop-over in Omaha.


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