When you are not getting the fuel economy promised by an automaker or government regulators, where do you turn? Before you start plotting against the manufacturer or mean-tweeting the EPA, the first move is to tighten up your driving style.
Assuming the vehicle is mechanically sound and tire pressure is where it should be, drivers have a big influence on how many miles per gallon you get when an electric motor and gas engine are in play together. Today’s electric vehicles and hybrids offer information on power usage that helps you get more from your fill-up at the gas pump, and a recent test of a Camry Hybrid offered some insight as to what works best in the latest models.
1. Acceleration in ECO mode
Many hybrids have an EV mode where you use mostly battery to power the vehicle. EV mode is great for short trips to the store on level (or downhill) terrain, and you will get peak economy when using it. However, using this mode for a trip when you have to accelerate frequently is a bad idea. You’ll waste battery by accelerating when you could have used it better for cruising, when electricity can bump up economy by several miles per gallon.
Instead, click into ECO mode when you have highway driving or another brisk trip on your radar. This mode stops the battery from draining its energy when you hit the accelerator. A gasoline engine is much better for acceleration, even when you are going to 40 miles per hour, back to a stop, then back to a higher cruising speed.
2. Anticipate stops
Anticipating a stop ahead allows your hybrid’s regenerative braking system to kick in and use the energy to add power to your battery, When you jam on the brakes in a hybrid, the power is sometimes lost. Easing your foot off the pedal when you see brake lights ahead will get more energy back into your system.
As you continue adding power back into the battery during a trip, your fuel economy will continue improving. If you’ve ever driven on Los Angeles freeways, you can see how not to drive during a typical day of congestion. Drivers who change lanes, speed up, then are forced to stop abruptly are wasting battery energy and getting worse economy. The same principle applies to gasoline cars.
3. Smoothness is key
The importance of smoothness when driving a hybrid cannot be stressed enough. Power gauges on the display panel will tell you if your foot is too heavy or just right, but in almost every case it’s too heavy. Getting it right takes some practice and control, but the results are easily seen in your economy gauge.
Keeping an eye on these gauges will take your attention off the road, so be careful when you look, but you’ll see in slow traffic whether you are getting the most out of your gas. In the Toyota Camry Hybrid, for example, there are different sections that show whether you are driving economically, using gas power, or getting charge when your foot is off the accelerator.
We never knew how such small differences in foot pressure could affect economy, but the technology in today’s cars will allows to get better gas mileage with ease. You can save a lot of money and lighten your carbon footprint with a few minor changes in your driving style.