If you think you ended the back-seat driver problem when you stopped taking passengers in your car (or was that just me?), think again. These days, your car might be able to back seat drive itself. Several automakers feature displays in their hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars that will help drivers determine if they are reaching their full ecological potential.
The Chevrolet Volt has two information displays – one behind the steering wheel and one in the center stack – that provide a multitude of different ways to track the Volt’s efficiency. Drivers can manage their charge times and methods, view charge levels, learn how far they’ve traveled on battery power versus gasoline, and even receive helpful “efficiency tips,” like suggestions about climate control and acceleration style. The Volt will even rate your efficiency for each trip by giving you one score for driving style and another for climate setting.
Ford hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs), including the Lincoln MKZ and the Ford C-Max and Fusion, have an in-dash display called Ford SmartGauge with EcoGuide to incentivize conservative driving. The “efficiency leaves” display is a continuous monitor of your driving style. The more leaves and vines you see, the more efficiently you’re driving. If the leaves start to disappear, you're not reaching your efficiency potential. Ford hybrids and EVs also say “thank you” for driving an efficient vehicle when you turn the car off.
Honda Eco Assist, available in Honda’s sedans, coupes, and Civic, CR-V, and Insight hybrids, has a display that adds leaves to a row of small plants as your driving efficiency increases. It also offers gentle reminders about proper efficient acceleration style: if you’re accelerating efficiently, the lights around the speedometer will be green. If you’re not, the lights will be blue. Eco Assist also has a green “econ” button on the dash which, when pressed, will reduce the car’s power output and adjust climate control for optimum efficiency. Sounds fun, right?
The all-electric Nissan Leaf, not to be left out of the fun, has an Eco Indicator display that builds a little forest of trees in the dashboard when you drive efficiently. When certain levels of eco friendliness are met, the segments of a large tree start to appear in the eco indicator. Once a tree is complete, a small tree appears next to the display and the large tree starts over from the beginning. Scrupulous drivers can earn up to three small trees and one large one during a single drive, so dream big, green drivers!
Toyota’s Entune services includes a phone app for plug-in hybrid owners called Eco Dashboard, which allows users to track average fuel economy over time, win awards, and compare their fuel efficiency scores with those of other Eco Dashboard users. It also has a feature that allows users to share their scores on social media. Just don’t blame Toyota if your friends grow weary of your eco bragging.