Perhaps a psychologist can help me understand this. Why isn’t everyone hypermiling? I don’t mean the extreme sport aspect of hypermiling. I mean the common sense side of hypermiling during your everyday commute? Is it a persistent sense of urgency? Are they perpetually late? Are they just too selfish to impact their way of life? Well folks, hypermiling doesn’t cost you much time, it saves you money, and it actually helps keep you more calm and relaxed in traffic. Heck, it can even be fun.
Your Prius is Worthless by Itself
OK, I’ve turned into a bit of a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle)
biggot purist lately, and the heavy number of Prius hybrids on the road has really started to irritate me. It’s not the cars themselves, but rather their drivers. More specifically, it’s the driving habits of those pilots. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I get the idea that owning a Prius is a way for some people to get their Green Merit Badge and alleviate a little environmental guilt. It’s almost like owning a Prius gives entitles people to keep driving like monsters. I’m going a little overboard here, perhaps, because hybrids draw more attention to drivers that operate them like a 1978 Camaro. To my defense though, I never see Prius drivers even mildly hypermiling.
Prius owners should not stop at ownership in their quest for that Green Merit Badge. They need to understand the embodied energy of that brand new Prius and it’s large battery packs. They need to understand how the drivetrain works. And most importantly, they need to understand how to drive their Prius efficiently.
Understanding a Hybrid’s Benefits
Today’s small hybrids use a drivetrain where the wheels are driven by a combination of the internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motors. The ICE is designed to turn on and off quickly and efficiently, which enables the most obvious advantage of hybrids.
1. The ICE will usually turn off while coasting to a stop and while at that stop.
Unfortunately, most people don’t commute in stop and go traffic, and so they don’t really spend that much time stopped. Consequently, this advantage really doesn’t pay dividends to a lot of drivers. Luckily there’s another major advantage of hybrids.
2. The ICE will usually stay off if you accelerate slowly until you reach a certain speed.
This is where hybrids really shine. If you accelerate smoothly with only moderate pressure on the accelerator pedal, then you’ll cruise along under battery power until you get up to speed. This is important, because an ICE engine has an optimum operational RPM, and they’re not efficient at all while reving through their powerband and shifting gears. So if you can do that acceleration using the battery, then you’ll be saving a lot of fuel.
3. Most hybrids have regenerative braking, so some of your breaking force is used to charge the batteries.
When you use your brakes, some of that energy is used to charge your batteries back up. Unfortunately, a tremendous amount of kinetic energy is lost while braking simply because today’s batteries cannot be efficiently charged at a high rate. It’s simply too much current to be feeding them at once. Therefore, when you press the brake pedal hard, the electric motors will charge the battery a little, but the cars traditional disc brakes will also engage, turning that kinetic energy to heat.
Hypermiling Your Prius
This is the part where you really earn your Green Merit Badge. You can’t just own a Prius, you have to learn to drive it properly. Here are some common sense hypermiling tips.
- DO NOT accelerate away from a stop like you’ve got a HEMI.
- DO NOT wait until the last minute to stop or slow down and then jam your brake pedal.
- DO NOT tailgate as it impedes your ability to coast without rear-ending the car in front.
This next set of suggestions is the flip side to the above.
- DO accelerate slowly.
- DO look far ahead for changing lights or traffic that might cause you slow down, and then start coasting.
- DO try to coast into red lights, giving them a chance to turn green so that you won’t have to stop.
- DO brake lightly and early if you know you’ll need to stop. This will ensure that you get the optimal impact from your regenerative brakes.
Warning: pay attention to traffic around you and especially behind you when you hypermile. Most people don’t drive like this, and so you could really disrupt their poor driving patterns causing them a little road rage or even causing an accident. For instance, if you’re being tailgated by someone beating their kids in the third row backseat of their Suburban, then you probably don’t want to start coasting early for a light that you just saw turn read a half of a mile down the road.
Your Prius is not a Drag Car
I implore you, follow through with your purchase of your Prius and drive it like a Prius. Don’t make the purchase some sort of empty gesture. For more information on hypermiling your Prius, please check out this article on HybridCars.com. They also promote the pulse and glide technique, which I can only recommend if there’s no traffic around. The pulse and glide method is best employed on highways, but I feel it’s more important to minimize speed differentials on highways for the efficiency, safety, and sanity of the other drivers.