Hybrid Driving Techniques to Help You Squeeze a Few More Miles Out of Each Gallon
More than likely if you’re reading this section on our Going Green section, you’re either interested in a hybrid vehicle or you purchased a hybrid vehicle to save money at the pump and have a positive impact on our environment. Most hybrids are off to a pretty good start as far as saving gas is concerned, but owners of underachieving underperforming hybrids become disappointed, frustrated or sometimes upset with their dealer or the manufacturers; the reasoning is that while many other hybrid owners of the same hybrid are able to get wondrous results by putting a little thought, effort and consideration into their driving habits. In essence, the driver is the key to great fuel mileage; the driver controls the hybrid, not the other way around.
What does all this mean? Well in a nutshell, before you rush out and begin driving to see if you can increase your fuel economy, there’s something you should do first—read the owner’s manual. Yes, yes, we know, read the owner’s manual? Boring! We know, but the manufacturer of your hybrid knows the best methods for the best mpg for the hybrid vehicles the produce, top that with the owner’s manual will have a fuel economy driving tips section. To assist you and to expedite your research we have supplied a link to the page in your owner’s manual to which we are referring for the brand of hybrids that we carry.
Accelerating From Stop and Cruising On City Streets
Something that fowls up many hybrid drivers is their excitement to use only battery power, so they drive too slowly from a stop. While it may seem counter-intuitive if you are trying to conserve fuel, it is actually more beneficial to move briskly from rest. That’s because pulling away uses more energy than cruising, and doing so in all-electric movement means you are wasting electricity that can be put to better use while cruising.
Instead, accelerate using the gas engine, and then momentarily lift off the accelerator pedal when the car reaches a speed of around 35-40 mph. This will activate the EV mode—usually indicated by a dashboard light—and at this point you can gently apply pressure to the pedal to keep the vehicle driving all-electric for a considerable distance.
Keeping an Eye on City Traffic and Braking
The best hybrid fuel economy results are achieved when your hybrid vehicle is in electric mode. You can ensure the hybrid battery pack has enough electrons by looking at and reading traffic, then coasting and using gentle braking when you know there is a red light or stop sign ahead. Hybrid vehicles employ regenerative braking systems that capture the car’s kinetic energy when coasting or braking lightly to recharge the battery pack.
Unless you are an aerodynamics engineer, you won’t understand how much more energy it takes to push a car through the air at 75 mph compared to 65 mph, but it’s really huge. In other words, speed matters; so slow down a tidily bit. When you are driving on an incline, it’s OK to lose a few mph. If the incline is really steep, turn the air conditioner off. When you head down the other side, if your hybrid has a transmission position that increases regenerative braking, use it. It will not only slow the vehicle down, but surprisingly it will double or triple the amount of electricity being sent to the hybrid battery.
If your current driving habits include frequent on and off the accelerator, that type of throttle control kills fuel mileage. Instead, use cruise control. A smooth, steady accelerator pressure is more fuel efficient, regardless of the speeds you travel.
Several hybrid cars will operate in electric mode at highway speeds up to 75 mph on fairly flat roads and when traveling downhill. If yours does, after a little practice you will learn when to gently massage the throttle and get the most electric-only driving.
Most hybrid vehicles have an ECO mode button, which should be used often in city driving or once up to speed on the highway. This technology lessens throttle response as well as alters air conditioning and accessory settings so they draw less power.
Some hybrids, though not all, can run in fully electric mode up to a certain speed or under certain conditions. The best use of the EV mode is in parking lots when searching for a parking space or a short in-town trip of two miles or less. Ideally, keeping the batteries above 50-percent charge extends the distance you can run on battery power, saving fuel. Using the EV mode quickly drains the battery.
In the heat of summer, set the air conditioning temperature to the highest setting that keeps you comfortable, and do not use the maximum setting after the cabin has cooled down to the desired temperature.
If your hybrid doesn’t have daytime running lights, avoid using the headlights during sunlit daytime hours. Newer hybrid models are switching to low-energy LEDs, but older models are usually equipped with halogen bulbs that use more current and therefore use more power.
Your Fuel Mileage May Still Vary
Even though these driving techniques and tips will increase your hybrid’s fuel economy, often quite considerably, there will be times when you will experience a decline in fuel mileage. For example, if you drive in a hilly or mountainous terrain, expect fuel economy to drop as much as 5-7 mpg. If you believe you need to get somewhere extremely quickly, well, there goes the fuel economy.