Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Think Green, Think Hypermiling: Because "How we do things" matters too

In these times we live in, we are often consumed by the pursuit of material tangibles because quite frankly the social incentives are so relentless and pervasive. Some would add that in the end, we, as well as our personal and collective goals are best described by what we seek: be it a better job, a better house, a better car, world peace, and so on.

What about the "How" component?

Sure, many folks will acknowledge that "How we do something" is very significant too, not only because it affects the quality of these goals, but also because it is has the potential of transforming us as well as the world around us.

It is on this note, that I would like to leave you with a thought and an invitation:
  • As you commute to work during May 30 to June 5 (2010 Commuter Challenge), please think about how's your driving doing? If you are not sure, then how about taking the bus or carpool while benefiting our environment at the same time?

If telecommuting, carpooling, public transportation or riding a bike to work aren't viable options, then may we interest you in Hypermiling as an alternative?

Well, why not?

Our friends at Backbone magazine tried it and they liked the results.

Want way more kilometres out of your tank of gas?

Cheers :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hybrid pains and driver rehabilitiation...

Never better than 10 liters per 100 Km. Really?

A good friend of mine owns a blue 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid and at least until recently, good fuel economy was not something he could report.

As this is a rather common claim by first time hybrid owners, we figured the causal issues could be easily identified and communicated over a brief meeting at a local mall's parking lot. Well, that is usually the approach and the results soon follow. You see, Gary is a "good driver" who has been accident free for the better part of the last 10 years. For someone who drives daily on our streets , that is indeed... commendable.

He also figured, that in purchasing this car he would not only see much better fuel economy than what he usually got out of his previous 2004 non-hybrid Camry, but he would also be within reach of the numbers the community often claims this hybrid can achieve. In retrospect, I felt somewhat guilty since I am one of those community voices that frequently makes that claim.

Barely a year later after the purchase, and despite the extra $2,000 credit he received from the government, he began to wonder if the "extra" cost of going hybrid was really worth it. Unfortunately, our experience tells us that Gary is not alone in thinking this way.

Anyway, this initial meeting went well considering that he did not like everything we had to offer in terms of advice. As I had mentioned, Gary thought of himself as an "extremely good driver" and did not believe that additional changes in driving behavior applied to him. Frankly I could not help notice he was somewhat disappointed with my advice. We left the mall parking lot that evening and I did not hear from Gary until approximately two months later.

When I answered the phone, I expected Gary to unload on me his own story of disillusionment, and how hybrids are nothing more than another empty promise filled with deceitful fine print. To my surprise it did not turn out to be that way. Further adding to my relief, Gary actually sounded quite enthusiastic and boastful of his new abilities ultimately taught to him by... his daughters driving instructor???

Indeed. Gary's older daughter will be getting her driver's license soon and Gary had the good sense to register her in a professional driver instruction program. What is also very refreshing is that this driving school uses hybrid vehicles and as a ride along passenger, Gary observed from the back seat the dynamics of truly safe driving. In training his daughter, the instructor managed to not only deliver on his main objective but also educate her dad in the very principles that he had learned so long ago and since forgotten.

Gary began to apply the instructor's directions and driving advice to his own daily driving and not surprisingly, he started to see good results in his Camry Hybrid. Armed with this new-found incentive he finally decided to adopt some of our earlier recommendations and the final accomplishments pretty much speak for themselves. Gary is now consistently getting fuel economy numbers in the 4.5 to 6.0 L/100km range and also admits feeling like a much safer driver.

As a reinvigorated and rehabilitated driver, Gary forwards the following advice to drivers of Camry Hybrids:
  1. Take it easy. Keep your energy usage low and brake gently
  2. Look ahead and plan your accelerations and stops
  3. Follow the posted speed limit. It's true, you wont arrive any later.
  4. Put the tire air pressure at 42 PSI and never let it get lower
  5. Follow the gauges. Its fun and it really works!!!
  6. Read and learn online
  7. And last and not least... leave driver's Ed to the professionals

Thank you Gary and good luck. We're always excited to see positive change even if it is one person/family at a time. ;)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Squeezing your hybrid for the best "summer time" fuel economy

As the winter wanes, the warmer temperatures return in almost lock-step with higher fuel economy for any vehicle. Your hybrid vehicle is no different as it too, appears to produce better and better numbers as we advance into spring and summer.

But how do you know that you are getting the best your hybrid can offer?

To start, look at the federal fuel efficiency ratings for your vehicle. Whatever that number happens to be, that is now your goal baseline. You may not always be able to achieve it... but then again, you may be yet another good hybrid driver that not only meets the rating but also exceeds it by a good margin.

First, lets consider how well your vehicle is setup. The following checklist will help you achieve an ideal setup:
  1. Clear your trunk/hatch area and make sure that remove anything from the car that does not belong. This not only includes the usual seasonal items, but also items that you do not need to lug around on a daily basis.

  2. Replace your winter tires with your OEM lower rolling resistance tires and do not forget to check the tire pressures. Again, the manufacturer recommended pressures are the minimum safe pressures and the Maximum Tire Pressure rating embossed on the tire’s sidewall represents the ultimate in fuel economy at the expense of the highly subjective ride comfort. Please use our tire pressure formula if you are unsure about what tire pressures to select for your hybrid:

    Tire pressure (front tires) = Maximum Tire Pressure – 2 PSI
    Tire pressure (rear tires) = Maximum Tire Pressure – 4 PSI
    NOTE: Statistically speaking, tire failures (including blow-outs) occur because of under-inflated tires. Under inflated tires heat up a lot faster and will lead to accelerated tire wear and even catastrophic tire failure. In addition to offering improved fuel economy, higher tire pressures will lead to cooler running tires as well as even wear patterns.
  3. Check your hybrid’s air filters and fluids and on the latter, make sure the fluids are maintained in good condition and at safe levels. Also, your engine oil should never be overfilled unless you want your gasoline engine to work extra hard.

  4. Get those windshield sun shades out and make sure they are in good shape so their their coverage may be the best possible.

  5. Operate your air conditioning at least once every week for 10 minutes in order to keep the system lubricated and in good working condition.

Once your vehicle is properly setup, whatever remains is quite easy depending on your willingness to do your part.
Yes, that’s right. Your hybrid vehicle has a great deal of potential but you must be willing to tap it and bring it to fruition. As usual, here are our perennial recommendations for safe and fuel efficient driving:

Drive defensively. Look ahead and try to anticipate the actions of other drivers ahead and around you. Learning to use your hybrid instruments (gauges, displays, graphs, etc) will help you greatly. Avoid feeling intimidated by other aggressive drivers while remaining courteous and fully compliant with the traffic act.

Minimize the use of your brakes by slowing down gently, preferably by leveraging your vehicle’s "glide" features. Please remember that when you are gliding you are neither using gasoline nor electricity to cover the distances you travel. If you use electricity, please make sure you use it to cover the longest distances possible.

Make sure you minimize the use of the cruise control on hilly terrain. The cruise control will make the engine work harder to maintain the speed as you climb the hills and that, is to be avoided at all costs.
Instead disengage the cruise control just before entering a climb and gently apply pressure on the accelerator pedal in order to maintain the best instantaneous fuel economy with minimal loss of speed. Do this while driving in the right most lane without impeding the normal flow of traffic.

Avoid aggressive accelerations and minimize the use of electric power as much as you should seek lowest RPMS when powered by the gas engine. Always remember that the electricity you use comes from the burning of gasoline, so minimize its use or use it wisely.

Let the hot air out first and then use your air conditioning wisely. Setting the climate control to the highest temperature possible and then slowly bringing it down (1 degree per minute) will provide you with the best results in cooling without impacting your fuel economy too much.

Lastly, focus on obeying your local traffic laws particularly with regards to the posted speed limits. If the conditions permit, travel no faster than the posted speed limit and even 5-15 km/h slower if possible. Why is it so important to do this? Because the air resistance to your vehicle quadruples every time you double your speed, so keeping the speeds down is one way to drive safely and, save the most fuel (money) and pollute even less.

If you have any additional recommendations then please include your vehicle, and driving regimen (% urban/ % highway) for reference. Finally drop by CleanMPG to learn how to safely take your fuel economy to higher levels with hypermiling.

Believe me, you will not regret it. ;)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where are the Honda Hybrids? No, really! Where are they?

For many Canadians, the word "hybrid" will evoke the image of a distinctive looking Prius vehicle. Yes, these ubiquitous Toyota hybrids can be found in the streets of many Canadian cities performing the quiet and socially responsible role of people movers, as well as the popular workhorse of many Taxi fleets. And on this note, the Prius has become nothing short of a solid statement about not only the vehicle's reliability, but also its transportation potential and remarkable industry value.

Unfortunately for Honda, having been the first to introduce the "hybrid vehicle" to Canadians drivers did not guarantee the level of success they originally had hoped for. And after almost 10 years, why should Honda - a company with a world class legacy and formidable engineering resources – fail to meet its sales goals?

Maybe because it's not just about engineering?

Still, maybe Honda’s IMA hybrid architecture could have been made more capable, flexible and scalable, particularly when compared to latest Toyota HSD, but even in this area, Honda could have leveraged other opportunities that their IMA architecture has offered from the onset. Instead, Honda chose not to. Why?

The hybrid architecture

As evidenced by many in the hybrid community, the Honda IMA architecture has excellent world class environmental potential that is able to deliver truly astounding fuel economy performance in the hands of an attentive driver.

Yes, Honda hybrids will not deliver the most exceptional performance unless its driver is willing to learn and minimally leverage the finer attributes of the platform. But even when operated by an oblivious driver, the architecture will offer significantly improved fuel savings and lower emissions when compared to its non-hybrid counterparts. On this note, the IMA system has significant merits that cannot be ignored.

Packaging and implementation

The best performing Honda hybrids have always demanded some form of compromise on the part of its driver. Granted, for some the positive attributes of a Honda hybrid greatly outweigh the deficits and the word "compromise" is not always applicable. But in the eyes of the general public, Honda has taken a literal back seat to the much vaunted versatility offered by the Prius. The lack of a rear folding seat and a more constrained trunk capacity in its Civic Hybrids is a notable shortcoming in the eyes of many buyers.
Yes, the newer Honda Insight attempted to remedy this, but it introduced a few other limitations too with lower fuel economy, reduced passenger interior space and lower perceived quality (interior and ride).

Advertising and Product Awareness

To some, a Honda hybrid does not shout the “Look at me, I'm a hybrid” slogan whether parked or in motion and that is a big plus for many. But, its ability to sell in good numbers cannot be enhanced if such stealth is accompanied by minimalistic advertising efforts either.

On this front Honda Canada not only gets a regrettable rating in terms of promoting their hybrid models to Canadians, but they also get knocked down a few more points for not responding to community requests that could strengthen and enhance the visibility of their hybrid product line.

It is as if Honda Canada does not really want to sell any of its hybrids. At all! This is not only perplexing, but also contrary to the company’s long standing claim that it is truly serious about meeting its hybrid production goals.

But, would good advertising help Honda compete with such a shrewd and very able competitor like Toyota?

We are quite certain it would help. Especially when coupled with a lower pricing strategy and/or a more active presence in the community. And on this last ingredient, did I mention that Honda hybrid fans feel orphaned and often demoralized at green automotive shows and events without even the slightest corporate presence in sight?

Also, while the second generation Honda Insight is languishing on the dealer lots, its Honda Civic Hybrids have minimal visibility and must often be ordered in with the usual delays which is unacceptable to a green minded driver who may just as well buy a Prius from a Toyota dealer across the street. To make matters worse, in Canada the Prius is as affordable as the Civic Hybrid and the EX Insight and that is not a recipe for a sales success either.

A few desperate but yet friendly suggestions for Honda Canada:
  • Please, please, please: Lower the second generation Honda Insight prices by at least $1,000 and offer the navigation only as an option in the EX trim. Many would purchase the already well appointed EX if it was not loaded with the NAVI and the price it carries.
  • Offer navigation on the Civic Hybrid as an option, as well as other sorely missing "luxury" features (leather, etc) to match the European flavors. Concerned about the Acura CSX? Don’t be!
    Simply re-badge the European Civic hybrid as the Acura CSX hybrid. As a previous Acura owner, I would certainly buy one for sure.
  • Please advertise and train your dealers to sell the virtues of Honda hybrid vehicles. The last thing you need is for dealers to openly discourage the purchase of Honda hybrid vehicles. Many have done this, and some still continue to do so. Acura dealers are particularly notorious for this.
  • Encourage and support your Honda service technicians to own and drive hybrids. It is quite frustrating for many Honda hybrid owners to have to explain basic operational concepts to these hard working technicians in the hopes of getting problems resolved in a prompt manner.
  • Last and not least, please support your fan base by just being present at events where Honda Hybrids are showcased. Your fan base is out here - in the real world - and they've been calling for you for many years.

Finally, drive safely and don't forget to greet the next Honda hybrid owner you cross paths with. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring is coming... and your winter tires have a reminder for you!

Like many Canadian hybrid owners, you look at Spring as the return of the promised mileage and maybe even the opportunity to catch up on a few tasks around the yard left over from last summer.

But, as yet another winter season approaches the end, more tasks get lined up before you can go about enjoying the upcoming good weather. On this note, we would like to kindly remind our readers to not forget about their winter tires (you do use winter tires don’t you?).

Indeed, as soon as the weather begins to warm up and the temperatures begin to hover in the positive numbers, it is imperative to protect and preserve those expensive winter tires by switching them with your OEM LRR tires. Because of their very nature and construction, winter tires will experience accelerated wear when operated in warmer temperatures and that is something well worth avoiding, not only from a cost perspective but also in terms of their long term winter time effectiveness.

Quite often and regrettably so, some folks will continue to use their winter tires in higher temperatures only to discover that they've incurred more wear in one single month of operation, than they would over the course of two complete winters !!!

So, either mark your calendar or schedule an appointment with your favorite tire shop to have them switched. If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, then make sure you clean up the winter tires (and the wheels) before storing them away. Removing the rocks stuck in the tire threads also helps a great deal.

When storing the winter tires with the winter rims attached, you can choose to stack them inflated. When storing them without the rims, many pros will suggest you keep them vertical. It’s all up to you, but do get those tires switched. ;)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feasting on Toyota's Misfortunes

It is not a good time to be a Toyota corporate representative at all. Walk over to your local Toyota dealer and you’ll likely see a change in tone that was not there before the media blew the lid off the un-intended acceleration issue.

Not too long ago, the once invincible Toyota Corporation had very little preventing it from becoming the top automaker in the world and not even the “engine sludge” debacle of the late 1990’s did much to tarnish its image in the eyes of the industry and the consumer alike.

Yes, Toyota had won the admiration of many and it effectively established the gold standard that other automakers were measured against. Toyota’s rise to the top was neither sudden nor without merit. Over the last decades, the company invested heavily on quality, technology and marketing that all but guaranteed it’s almost bullet proof reputation.

And despite the steady improvements by some of its competition, the industry as a whole is not without high profile recalls and it is only sensible - and self preserving - for other automakers to adopt a measured and restrained position even though they will invariably benefit from Toyota’s hardships.

Take Honda for instance. The company’s management instructed its employees and public relations personnel to not only avoid commenting Toyota’s misfortunes but also avoid predatory public comments.

Yes, Honda sales numbers indicate that the company is benefiting from Toyota’s woes but make no mistake: Honda is keenly aware that they are not immune to similar issues and on this note, neither is any other manufacturer. Unless you are a bottom feeder in this industry, you will refrain from publicly and openly capitalizing on Toyota’s misfortune.

How about consumers, particularly those who are directly affected by these recalls? Well, I break this rather significant universe into two distinct groups: The long time Toyota owners, and those who have only recently purchased their first Toyota.

It is quite possible that Toyota’s long term prospects are not in jeopardy with the first group of owners. These owners have likely purchased two or more Toyota vehicles and have become very loyal to the brand. Perhaps the most loyal Toyota fans are the owners of the company’s most recognized hybrid car, the Prius. If you have any doubts about this, why not check some of the most popular online forums like CleanMPG and PriuChat?

The same cannot be said about the second group of owners. In fact, Toyota has every reason to be very concerned about this second group of owners as well as the pool of potential new owners that are so critical for its continued growth. You see, these owners did not have a chance to develop the brand loyalty of the first group and are hence more likely to cast doubt on Toyota’s much vaunted reputation.

Will Toyota ever recover from the effects of this crippling rash of recalls (floor mats, stuck accelerator pedals, steering issues and alleged software glitches)?

While we certainly hope so, we also hope that the automaker will re-engineer its internal communication processes as well as the mechanisms that admittedly failed the consumers and the brand’s image. This includes improved customer support as well as a return to a greater focus on quality control in all stages of the design and manufacturing processes.

The future remains bright for Toyota and we have no doubt that this crisis is not going to be wasted by the company, the government regulatory agencies or its competitors.

Even the legal industry is a significant beneficiary as it devours the automaker’s margins and reputation in its insatiable appetite for lawsuits.

Even though the maggots also get to feed, consumer and product safety will improve and that my friends, is good for us all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is more frequent driver testing the answer?

Would you be surprised to learn that the greatest threat to safety on our roads is “careless driving and dangerous driving practices”? More so than the traffic conditions and the condition of the vehicles themselves?

Indeed it is, according to a recent national poll.

Further aggravating the seriousness of the situation, many of the poll participants aged 26-44 openly admitted to dangerous driving habits in the course of their hurried and distracted daily driving routine. Also worrisome is that this particular age group is also known for a higher statistical incidence of road rage and extreme aggressive behavior.

While many road safety experts and advocates agree that safety requires three things “Safe cars, safe roads and safe drivers”, the later is often the most elusive and yet, ironically the simplest to address and even control. Or is it?

Looking at the numbers

To be more specific, this poll also found that most drivers believe it is quite safe to exceed the posted speed limit by 5-10 km/h.
  • 71% of the polled drivers speed on a regular basis (surprisingly, seniors were meaningfully represented in this group).
  • Nearly 1 in every 3 men believes it is acceptable to exceed the posted speed limit by 5-10km/h.
  • Many of the polled drivers (59%) also admit they will eat while driving
  • A majority of the drivers with ages between 26 and 44 admitted to having the most dangerous behaviors on the road.
  • 37% of the polled drivers admit to talking on a mobile phone while driving.
  • Amazingly, 14% of the polled drivers also admitted to reading while driving.

To summarize, in this nationwide poll by (Mason-Dixon) approximately 90% of the participants admitted to engaging in one or more of the above violations in the past 6 months and not coincidentally, these very same behaviors are identified by experts as the primary reasons for traffic fatalities on our roads.

What about driver re-testing? Would this help?

Perhaps, and according to most drivers polled: Definitely, yes.

But the vast majority indentified only the very young and the older drivers as needing frequent testing. When asked if everyone should be subjected to regular road testing, most drivers characterized the suggestion as a wasteful and costly undertaking. In fact, many of these respondents described themselves as either “safe” or “very safe” drivers despite having also admitted to being involved in a minor traffic accident in the last 2 years where they were found to be at fault by at least 50%.

Of the many unsafe practices these drivers also admitted to, regular speeding, tailgating at unsafe speeds and lane changes without signaling were among the most common.

Now then, is general mandatory or targeted testing the answer?

Again, unless forced to do so, many drivers would rather avoid a re-test. They often cited their “safe driving record” and cost (personal and societal) as supporting reasons. For many of these drivers, minor infractions and other behavioral “faux-pas” are not the primary causes of the loss of life and loss of property on our roads, even though they concede that these practices could still be the root cause for an accident. According to these folks the problem is always with someone else as reflected by the numbers produced by the same poll:

  • 77 percent of the polled drivers said seniors should be periodically retested
  • 69 percent favored retesting for teens
When overlapping the above statistics with the earlier numbers identifying problematic drivers in ages between 26 and 44, we come to the conclusion that perhaps all drivers should undergo some sort of regular mandatory road testing.

However, any type of mandatory testing is bound to carry a significant operational overhead to be shouldered by the already cash-lean testing centers. Without even factoring other consequences this alone has the potential of being considered the political minefield that many politicians would rather avoid.

After all, it is quite conceivable than many licensed drivers would lose their privilege to drive on the account of a failed test and if these statistics are any indication, we suspect the numbers would be high enough to scare even the most courageous legislator.

What are the chances that we will ever have general mandatory testing? Very slim indeed. The same cannot be said about targeted testing, but then again this option is often the least favorite and the pushback from special interest groups can be quite pronounced.

How about incentivized testing?

This type of testing could be used in the context of reduced insurance premiums and also the prerequisite to recovering from a loss of driving privileges.

In the case of good drivers, a regular road test (say, every 5 years) could make them eligible for an additional discount that will be in effect until either a traffic accident or traffic act violation is filed on that driver’s record.

Incentivized testing could also be used to lower driver license renewal fees and could potentially include other rewards affecting reduced member ship fees in some of the nation’s auto clubs. Some suggest that this type of benefit should also help negotiate lower personal insurance premiums and even lower financing rates.

How about traffic act enforcement?

In the absence of a smart highway system with sophisticated vehicles to use it, the only viable options left to us is to adjust the safety equation with either more or less traffic enforcement. On this front, we have the costly presence of enforcement personnel on our roadways and even the much hated “cash cows” of speed and intersection camera systems.

But does enforcement work? And if it does then why have we not invested on more of this to stem the continued loss of human and material losses.

Could it be because enforcement is an essential component but not the only determinant in promoting safety and compliance with the traffic act?

Indeed, increasing safety on our roads is one of the complex issues of our time, dwarfed only by the multitude of approaches and perspectives on how to increase safety.

As it has been shown in the past, over-using the hand of enforcement would likely result in diminishing returns in safety with extreme rises in cost which also happen to have other consequences and societal costs.

Conversely, reducing the amount of active enforcement while everything else remains unchanged would not only worsen the road safety but also erode the purpose and value of the traffic act and its laws.

Perhaps the answer lies with a combination of approaches that combine some form of testing and enforcement. Adding education and continuous promotion of traffic safety on a variety of mediums and venues could also help as it is being shown by the initiatives adopted by many local governments.

In the meantime what can you and I do to increase safety on our roads?

As some would say “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember.” we believe that the most affordable approach to improving safety on our roads is to "do it by example" as often and frequently as possible.

Safety begins with each of us, and even though it may, at first, be accompanied by a sense of futility, the results can be quite impressive. In other words, driving courteously, defensibly and in compliance with the traffic regulations in your area serves as a living and practical demonstration that you can not only arrive safely to your destination but you will do so efficiently with not only maximum financial benefit to yourself but with sizable environmental benefits to spare.

What can I do to be a better driver?
  1. Leave 5 to 10 minutes earlier before your commute.
  2. Drive at or safely below the speed limit and obey all traffic signs and signals.
  3. DO NOT respond or acknowledge any displays of aggressive, combative or unlawful conduct on the part of other drivers. Allow them to pass and signal your intentions clearly and appropriately.
  4. Observe potentially dangerous situations and give yourself enough room to preempt the safe avoidance of an accident.
  5. When driving, look ahead and plan your decelerations and lane changes. Brake gradually and gently especially if you strive to maintain at least a 2-4 car length buffer between yourself and the vehicle immediately in front of you.
  6. Maintain your vehicle in good operating order. Check your tire pressure and please remember that the manufacturer tire pressure is the minimum safe pressure you should practice. Contrary to the belief of many drivers and others in the industry, tire blow-outs and other catastrophic tire failures are more likely when the tires are operated with an inflation level below the manufacturer recommended value. Although mild over-inflation (pressures above the tire’s maximum rated pressure) is safer than operating your tires under-inflated, we strongly suggest you consider the conditions of your tire (age and prior damage) as well as the climate and roads you drive in.
  7. Finally, adopt any number of basic hypermiling techniques as afforded by the CleanMPG hypermiling toolkit. When in doubt, please ask ;)

Please discuss;

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Understanding your hybrid's NiMH battery pack

As many of us know, our hybrid electric vehicles are equipped with battery packs consisting of chains of battery cells. Depending on the type of manufacturing technology and packaging, these battery cells can either by prismatic or cylindrical and there's much to be said about their management and longevity.

In any case, as your vehicle ages some new found behavior's may become more pronounced and an explanation may be needed in order to avoid undue concern or panic.

To read more, please follow the next link:


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is your driving turning the Prius into a monster?

We have a small but somewhat interesting group of hybrid owners that in addition to trivializing the principle of fuel saving driving techniques, are also bent on promoting the notion of a driving attitude unsurprisingly dubbed "Just Drive It".

According to these folks, "Just drive it" is all a Prius owner needs to know in order to materialize the benefits of the technology, nothing more. In other words, just power up the vehicle and drive it as you would any other car and let the hybrid power train management take care of the rest.

Then again, if it were not for the additional fuel savings and lower emissions potential that these hybrid vehicle's can offer when used properly, perhaps the "Just drive it" principle would have at least one merit to stand on: Never-ending mediocrity.

Why should you hypermile and not "Just Drive it"?

Hypermiling is a fuel saving discipline that is based on a toolkit of basic, intermediate and advanced techniques.
The governing principle is quite simple: While operating within the legal boundaries of the traffic Act, use one or more basic techniques and you'll surely increase your vehicle's fuel economy (and lower its emissions). Use a few more and you'll not only beat the EPA rating for your car but you'll do so by a very wide margin -- made even wider by the updated ratings released in 2008.

In short order, this is just a small sample of what hypermiling can do for you:
  • If you cannot or do not want to buy a fuel efficient hybrid vehicle, then hypermiling can help you improve your current fuel economy by as much as 50% or more. In some cases, the improvement can be quite dramatic and depending on the vehicle, the lower fuel consumption will rival and often better that of any hybrid when driven in less optimal ways. Despite the demonstrated and documented evidence, this is something some Prius owners stubbornly dismiss.
  • If you own a hybrid vehicle, hypermiling will not only greatly enhance the benefits that the underlying technology offers over their non-hybrid counterparts (significantly lower emissions and astounding fuel economy potential), but you'll also open up a whole new dimension of rewarding driving enjoyment that is ultimately beneficial to us all.
  • By using any of the sanctioned CleanMPG hypermiling techniques, a driver will become inherently more aware of his/her surroundings and preempt much of what happens with a driving attitude that is not only safer but also more defensive. In contrast, "Just Drive It" is just that. No encouragement for change in driving habits, meaning that you'll likely continue to drive inefficiently and oblivious to the implications built into the act of driving.
  • Hypermiling will produce measurable benefits in almost every identifiable area, and even more so with almost any hybrid technology currently on the market. Be it HSD or IMA, hypermiling will truly transform these architectures into the environmental powerhouses that they are.
  • For those of us who have tried hypermiling, the alternative is akin to waste and sadly so characteristic of the 20th century ways of thinking. In a world of diminishing resources and limited hybrid vehicle supply, hypermiling and ecodriving are the single most important driver centric activities that can truly leverage the inherent potential of the technology available, today.
  • You purchased a brand new hybrid vehicle and you paid a noticeable premium for the vehicle's content and technology. It is only obvious and in your interest, to fully utilize the benefits of the technology you paid for. Refusing to do so by ignoring the built-in hybrid specific instrumentation is a sure way to erode the financial return on your expenditure. Hypermiling will not only accelerate the rate of return but also accentuate it to unheard of levels.
So there you have it. A simple set of just two options is offered for your consideration and reflection. Along with our collective impact and aided by the constantly evolving automotive technology we can either choose hypermiling as the complementing half of the ideal solution...
...or we can continue to endorse the lesser examples of driving mediocrity as seen on our roads on a daily basis.

For all our sakes, please choose wisely.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The 2010 Prius in-depth review - review video

Even though we're on the final stages of editing the actual in-depth review of the Canadian 2010 Prius, we opted to make the wait less painful by releasing the video review earlier.

At the end of the video you'll also find a summary of the observed fuel economy along with the set of techniques we used for our testing.

However, I will also attempt to answer a couple questions regarding the maximum fuel economy economy we achieved in this car, but before doing so allow me to provide an appropriate context:
- The numbers I will mention are the "displayed fuel economy" and not the actual consumption (hand calculated). Please note that the Prius III tends to overestimate its displayed fuel economy.
- These numbers were recorded on a "per trip segment" and also under somewhat favorable conditions (low speed and light traffic)
- Low speed pulse and glide was often the preferred technique under these scenarios.

Anyway, under the conditions mentioned above, our best fuel economy was recorded at 1.8 L/100km over a ~11+ KM segment... but as some of us know, sustaining these numbers over longer distances is an entirely different matter and may require a bit more work and focus.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A snapshot of this year's HybridFest 2009 (GreenDrive Expo)

Another year and another HybridFest - a yearly event dedicated to alternative fuel vehicles.

Almost ritually, this event takes place in Madison, Wisconsin during the third week of July (July 17-20) and attracts hybrid owners as well as manufacturers from many states and provinces across the continent.

The group photo captured the vehicles that participated in the MPG competition which took place on Friday 17. This MPG competition pits the owners of hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles against a 42km (26 miles) course.

Here are the results for this MPG competition:

Vehicle (Make,Model)
Class/Division L/100KM - MPG US
% Above EPA

Honda Insight (Manual) 1 1.92 l/100km - 122.4 135.4%

Honda Insight (Manual) 1 2.17 l/100km - 108.8 109.2%

Honda Insight (CVT) 1 2.64 l/100km - 89.3 90.0%

Honda Insight (Manual) 1 2.54 l/100km - 92.5 77.9%

Honda Insight (CVT) 1 3.30 l/100km - 71.2 51.5%

Honda Insight (Manual) 1 3.07 l/100km - 76.5 47.1%

Honda Insight (Manual) 1 3.09 l/100km - 75.9 45.9%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 2.73 l/100km - 86.0 87.0%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 2.74 l/100km - 85.7 86.3%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 2.81 l/100km - 83.5 81.5%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 2.92 l/100km - 80.4 74.7%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.00 l/100km - 78.3 70.2%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.05 l/100km - 76.9 67.2%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.28 l/100km - 71.7 55.9%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.38 l/100km - 69.5 51.0%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.54 l/100km - 66.4 44.4%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.69 l/100km - 63.7 38.5%

Toyota Prius Gen 3 2 3.41 l/100km - 68.8 37.6%

Toyota Prius Gen 3 2 3.44 l/100km - 68.2 36.4%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 2 3.86 l/100km - 60.9 32.5%

Honda Civic Hybrid: All 3 3.29 l/100km - 71.5 70.2%

Toyota Prius Gen 1 3 3.93 l/100km - 59.7 45.6%

Honda Civic Hybrid: All 3 3.97 l/100km - 59.2 41.0%

Toyota Camry Hybrid 4 3.71 l/100km - 63.3 86.1%

Toyota Camry Hybrid 4 4.42 l/100km - 53.2 56.5%

Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD 5 5.13 l/100km - 45.8 69.6%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 (PHEV) 6 1.21 l/100km - 195.0 323.9%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 (PHEV) 6 1.42 l/100km - 165.0 258.7%

Toyota Prius Gen 2 (PHEV) 6 2.01 l/100km - 117.0 154.4%

Honda CRX 1991 7 3.61 l/100km - 65.1 141.0%

Volkswagen Golf TDI 2001 (Man) 7 2.70 l/100km - 86.8 128.4%

Honda Civic CX (Man) 7 3.80 l/100km - 61.8 62.6%

Saturn Aura XE 4 Cyl 7 6.79 l/100km - 34.6 33.1%

Among other fun activities and events there were technical discussions and vehicle manufacturer presentations (Ford Fusion hybrid, and others) which took place at the Clarion Hotel. The nearby Alliant Energy Centre was also home to the expo component of this 3 day event, where many players in the fuel efficient automotive field demonstrated their products and services.

As usual, we (CleanMPG) had our opportunity to evangelize the benefits of safe and efficient driving to many of the attendees.

Here's a video covering the "Talk to a hybrid owner" session and also the exhibits at the Expo Centre:


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Optimistic Fuel Consumption Displays - or just another case of "No second chance for first impressions" ?

You finally decided to visit your local dealer in hopes of taking a brand new hybrid for a spin. You get in the car and the salesperson kindly shows you the basics about the vehicle and also clears the MPG-L/100Km trip display and you depart. Along the way, you observe very good fuel economy and the final numbers displayed at the end of the test drive become nothing less than "the cherry on the cake".

you are impressed. And that impression tied in with the unmatched smooth and silent driving experience remains in your mind; tempting and seducing you... at least until a few weeks later at the pump!

OK. Perhaps not all of us purchase a fuel efficient hybrid based solely on the fuel economy numbers we achieve in a first test drive. But, wouldn't many people be tempted to make a purchase decision primarily hinging on this factor alone?

As many of us already know, some hybrids have always been calibrated to slightly overestimate the displayed fuel economy... and now that Honda also appears to have returned to the practice with their 2010 Insight (see our in depth review of the 2010 Insight for details) then why not have it escalate to the next level?

In the case of the new 2010 Prius: How does a 3-7 MPG (US) overestimate sound?
It appears that the discrepancy is larger when highly focused and fuel efficient driving is employed whereas the gap seems lessened when the vehicle is driven in less optimal ways.

How do we determine that "instrumented overestimates" are occurring?

Carefully and patiently top of the tank until you see the fuel level, then reset the trip meter of your choice and drive. At a later date/time, return to your favorite pump and refill to the same level as before and calculate your vehicle's actual fuel consumption by hand. Do this just several times and you will have your confirmation.
NOTE: While topping off an AT-PZEV rated vehicle on a regular basis and in this fashion is not a recommended practice, a few times will certainly not compromise your vehicle's evaporative emissions system.

Wasn't it always like this?

Mostly yes, but still... while some "up or down" deviation is acceptable, this much will inevitably be noticed.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New hybrid added to the home fleet

Even though my wife grew attached to her 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid, she has now accepted her new upcoming car: a 2010 Toyota Prius.

Why the change? Toyota improved the new car on a good collection of issues that lessened her previous Prius experience (a 2007 model), namely the overall human interface and driver accommodations to the point that she now thinks the 2010 Prius is a natural step up from her HCH-II. Of course, winter time performance on a couple of areas is also something that made her 2007 Prius also a little less exciting, but that too was something Toyota did not ignore in the redesign of the 2010 Prius.

So, what was wrong with her current Civic hybrid?
Nothing really. The 2007 Civic is an admirable performer and we are both sorry to see it go. It is a refined, solid, efficient, quiet, smooth, clean and extremely safe and dependable hybrid vehicle... Its just that with the new Prius she will be able to further reduce her fuel consumption (to match mine) without any big changes to her driving routine.

Anyway, I just hope its next owner gives her 2007 HCH a good home that is worthy of its amazing Eco potential.

Her new Prius (a Sandy Beach Metallic) is on its way and it is indeed good to become a Honda and Toyota hybrid household again.

And why not? In my books, these vehicles remain the best performing hybrid vehicles on our market today.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

2010 Toyota Prius - In depth review (coming soon)

Yes, finally !!!!

The updated version of the legendary hybrid vehicle we know and love is finally available to Canadians!

Toyota listened to many of the requests from earlier owners and factored in so many improvements that we're going to have a field day just mentioning the most relevant ones!

As usual, our review will not seek to duplicate what the mainstream automotive media does. Nope, we suspect you want to know the kinds of things that even your Toyota salesperson does not know... and on this note, we have quite a bit of detail in store for you. And how about a comparison between the 2010 Prius and its main competitors from Honda, the 2010 Insight and the existing HCH-II?

Still, if you cannot wait for our assessment of this car's true potential, I humbly suggest you get started by visiting your local dealer and taking one on a test drive. Trust us, you will not regret it.

But, if you decide to wait we promise you'll be far better informed when you finally take that test drive.


Monday, June 8, 2009

The Canadian 2010 Honda Insight EX review is up

I am happy to report that we finally published the much awaited Honda Insight in-depth review.

As you will discover, this is no mere review since we not only explored this car in detail but we also managed to compare it to the Honda's Honda Civic Hybrid, which also happens to share the showroom floor with the 2010 Insight at your local dealer.

NOTE: If you are not interested in what this car can do from a fuel economy and lower emissions perspective then it is likely that this review will not excite you.

As we have said many times before, our focus is safety and ecologically responsible driving. On this note, you will not read about 0-100 km/h numbers or slalom acceleration forces or braking distances. For that we happily refer you to our dependable colleagues in the mainstream press who over the years have done an admirable job on the latter.

Coming up: Canadian 2010 Toyota Prius + Detailed comparison with the 2009 Prius