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. ;)

1 comment:

  1. Very good post and very nice blog. I followed your signature form PriusChat! Great idea you're doing here. I'm thankful these days when I see a blog that actually seeks to inform or better its readers in some way.