When my beloved Honda Accord with about 170,000 miles on it finally started breaking down from far too frequent trips to the airport, Wendy and I decided it was time walk the talk and replace it with a hybrid. We did some family research on the matter, talked a lot about why we were making this decision, and narrowed our choices (as if there were a slew) to a Civic Hybrid or a Prius. After a few weeks of scanning the inventories of Cars.com and Vehix, we finally found an appealing, little-used Prius about 30 miles away that we picked up just in time for our Thanksgiving drive to see family in Connecticut.
Almost immediately we were addicted to watching the usage display that relays to the second information about gas consumption and average miles per gallon. On our 150 or so mile jaunt up here, we averaged just over 48 miles per gallon, and I found myself thinking hard about what I could do to increase it. The most obvious was to slow the heck down. When we got stuck in traffic for a few miles, our average started moving north. (I’m not sure if I’ll ever get close to the mid-fifties that are advertised.) Over the next couple of days in around town driving, I’ve been learning a great deal from this constant data feed, and I can already feel my driving habits shifting. (I’ll be leaving earlier for the airport today.) Dare I say it, it’s almost like a video game, trying to nudge the numbers higher as we go.
I keep wondering what an effect just a display like that in every car, one much more simple than the Prius has, perhaps just a LCD readout of mpg at any given moment would have on gas consumption from driving. Probably not as much as $4 or $5 for a gallon of gas, I’m sure, which sounds like where we’re headed. But still, I think it would probably have a pretty big impact.
But despite the fact that we can now fill up our car for less than $30 even on an empty tank, the best part is being able to add this to the lengthening list of choices we’ve made to try to lessen our footprint on the Earth, to the pellet stoves and compost bins and low flush toilets and consignment shop clothes and just reduced consumption in general and more. While I’m not convinced that the personal actions of individuals are enough to overcome the general environmental pillage of big companies and big countries (my visit to Shanghai really shook my faith), and while we are in no way close to perfect in these matters, if nothing else I hope it models for my own kids that everything we buy, everything we do at any given moment is a choice that has an effect on things larger than ourselves.
(Photo by BeigeAlert)
Technorati Tags: hybrid, environment, prius, driving
Karl Fisch says
Doubtful you’ll get in the mid-50’s – like all EPA estimates, it’s not real-world. We’ve averaged about 47 mpg lifetime on our 2006 Prius (about 18,000 miles total). Usually around 50+ mpg in the summer and around 45 mpg in the winter.
You can get a whole lot more info at this site – http://john1701a.com/ – if you’re interested. One easy adjustment you can make is to bump up the tire pressure from recommended. The OEM tires are rated up to 44 psi – a lot of folks go to 42/40 or 40/38 (differential of 2 between front and rear pressure) and claim to see improvements of about 1-2 mpg. We’ve run 42/40 (when I remember to check) with no problems, but I haven’t analyzed any mpg changes.
We’ve never owned anything except compact cars (the Prius replaced a 91 CRX and our other car is a 95 Civic), so we’re not exactly car aficianados, but we love the Prius.
Bonnie K says
I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and this could be my first comment. I have been driving my Prius for about since October 2005. I gave up a TT for it, clearly not as drastic a move as someone with a Hummer but I too enjoy watching the fuel display and feel good that I’m doing something for the environment although I’d like do wish I could justify a second car for fun in summer( used TT convertible) Oh well. I love my Prius but I hate taking it to the Toyota dealer and so far, my local mechanic doesn’t want to get involved with servicing a hybrid.
I am a great fan of Al Gore but it doesn’t look like he’s moving to run for the White House and take his environmental leadership where it could move us faster.
For now, I’m Prius at the pump with you. I’m in blue, you?
My brother has had a Prius for almost a year, and when I retire MY Honday Accord (1-2 years) I’m hoping to follow suit and do the exact same investigation you’ve just done. From what I’ve heard, the hybrid actually gets better gas mileage in-town than on the highway, which seems counterintuitive — but since the electrical generation from the braking system contributes to improved mileage, that does make sense. If you’re driving long distances on the highway, you’re not applying your brakes and thus not generating electricity to recharge the batteries.
I could be wrong, and I’m certainly interested in hearing if anyone knows more about it than me!
Paul Rubin says
Hang in there Will. I bought an ’07 Prius the beginning of September and after about 200 miles I began to alter my driving and get a sense for what sort of driving does best (highway is not nearly as good as certain types of more local driving). 6000 miles later here’s a few bits of Prius wisdom.
#1 The external temperature has a great deal to do with the gas mileage. I have some idea as to why but this isn’t the forum. Suffice it to say that I was commuting from NJ to and from Brooklyn daily in September and October and averaged about 52-55mpg and in one instance, did that 45 mile trip and hit 60.0 mpg as I parked. The moment the weather changed I lost about 4-5 mpg consistently making no other changes. So if you’re in the mid to upper 40’s now, you’ll easily break 50 once you get back into I’d say April.
#2 Trips under 10 minutes hurt your mileage severely. Something to do with the time needed to warm up the catalytic converter, etc. A series of 5 minute trips might net you 35mpg hurting your overall average.
#3 There are techniques you can develop and modifications you can make to squeeze out extra mileage but I’m so thrilled going from 20 to 50 with gas prices around $3 and me averaging 30,000 miles a year that I haven’t bothered much. Some good places to start looking include:
You’ll be given suggestions to increase tire pressure to certain numbers, install an engine heater, block off the front grill in cold weather, use pulse and glide and related techniques, etc.
In any case good luck with your Prius and your overall mission.
Liz D. says
Will, I bought my Honda Civic Hybrid about four years ago. The Civic fit my shleppage needs better than the Prius at the time. While I’m fanatical about tire pressure and have changed my driving habits considerably (helloooo, slow lane!) my fairly constant average is about 39 mpg — the main problem is hills. I live in a hilly part of the country. The gains from going downhill do not seem to offset the losses from the very low mpg to maintain a safe speed while going uphill.
driving course says
We’re thinking of getting a Prius for our driving school, to do little bit to improve the environment.
Do you or any other Prius drivers have any thoughts about what it would be like to learn to drive in a Prius…
I had a similar experience with my new (used) vehicle. Mine is not a Prius, my new vehicle is a Silverado Pickup truck. It replaced an S-10 because my children won’t stop growing! Even the youngest didn’t fit in the jump seat anymore. Although I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, it did come equipped with the display that shows speed, distance avg. and instant mpg. You are correct in that it is much like a game to try and get the numbers as high as possible. My best has been an instantaneous 85 mpg while going downhill. It has already changed my driving habits as I search for the speed that gets the best gas mileage and yet still lets me feel like
Mario Andretti. I know my new-ish truck won’t win any awards for “stellar green-ness” but it does fit my needs and has made me more aware of what I can do to get better mileage.
Tom T. says
After reading your blog as well as Karl Fisch’s religiously over the last year I find, it quite ironic that I too recently purchased a hybrid (Honda Civic). To date I love the car but have also found that air temperature and short trips can definitely influence mileage.
Tom Krieglstein says
I had the same thoughts of a video game when my family first got a hybrid. Funny you thought the same thing. I was just wondering what would happen if I reached level two? Would I get some magical armor?
Or how about if it told me how I faired against other owners around the world in terms of gas mileage and gave me a ranking locally, nationally, internationally.
On a semi-similar note, I was shopping for food yesterday and I only brought one tote bag and the lady asked if I wanted to use a paper bag for the rest of the stuff. I told her no because I’m in a competition (mostly with myself) to see how little paper/plastic I can use.
I think it would be interesting if stores could sponsor some kind of customer competition to see who uses the least amount of paper/plastic.
When we downsized 2 years ago from a gas-guzzling Grand Caravan to an ’03 VW Passat wagon, gas not diesel, it came with all the bells and whistles including a gas usage display showing the approx. mileage (km here in Canada) “left in the tank”. This neat algorithm seems to take into account recent driving habits (city or highway, stop-and-gos), outdoor temperature, etc. Bottom line, as you pointed out, our driving habits were quickly the main reason behind good/bad fuel consumption. Lesson learned (read $$$). Even if it’s a gas model, not hybrid or diesel, we still feel we can do our little contribution in reducing carbon emissions… Driving habits are to fuel consumption what slow-food is to fast-food 😉
We’ve had two Prius’ so I know what you are talking about! (Both first generations. Last year we moved up to the hybrid Camry – very sweet also!! Although display only visible by driver.)When we got it, the display “taught” you how to drive more efficiently. We don’t live in a cold environment, so we were getting close to 50 without the air on. (Dropped about 8 with it on.)
Our new Camry rewards you when you drive well – a blue ring around the speedometer and the word “Excellent” come up. Again, we strive for the positive reinforcement!!
I mentioned this blog entry at my instructional technology graduate class today (we were learning about Sentreo clickers and how teachers can/should modify their instruction based on feedback they receive from the students’ clickers).
Turns out one of the students in my grad class – Jack – has a Prius. Several of us went for a little ride during out lunch break to check out the display screen that you talk about and the car in general. We were impressed by the overall design improvements with the car (lots of interior room, huge trunk, great audio system…) and it got us all thinking about realistic data based/real time decision making…
We had a great time thanks for sharing!