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. ;)

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