Prius Driving: effortless tips for good gas mileage

From:    Falconworks hybrid service

Falconworks, Intelligent Auto Repair

5603 S Palo Verde Road

Tucson, AZ 85706

It's all in your techinque!   Learning the touch ... the feel ...  of the amazing Toyota hybrid gas/electric car Prius aerodynamic modspays off.  It's fun, and you can still drive it in a very spirited fashion.  Relax... read... a little... and begin to tenderly feel your motive partner's secret needs.  Technician, writer, pilot, and Gen 2 Prius driver, Alan Cowan shares some driving techniques based both in his experience driving, and professionally maintaining Prii.  Prius gas mileage technique is really very simple: just a few steps... with your feet...

Driving Skills:

Without sacrifice to your need for speed, for assertiveness, to get to a bathroom quickly, other comforts, or whatever else you are afraid you will loose, you can easily add between five and ten miles per gallon to the already good gas mileage your Prius gets. 'K, keep your pants on ... for a moment: we have to do a little reading (read: "work") to get where we're going with this ... but really ... only a little.  The Prius, while tailored to look, feel, and behave more-or-less like a non hybrid car, is in fact an entirely different device. A few minor changes in our dance step -- our driving style -- can be easily adopted to get you to hybrid Zen, and let you relax, one with the machine-thing. Since these are skills, and differ from what you are used to in 'normal' cars, a little practice will be required at first, but soon the techniques will become second nature (and you'll have trouble driving your mother's Buick anymore).  This is not about tricks -- no hypermiling  goo-gah .... it is ............... just time to drive with our own particular, sensitive style!

Optimum Conditions:

Unfortunately we can't always control when and where we need to drive, but given our druthers it might help a little to know what the Prius likes and what it doesn't. Here are some general factors that can dramatically affect fuel efficiency.

Care and Feeding:

While these critters are perfectly happy on a diet of regular fuel and 5000 mile services, a few maintenance items should be kept in mind as peculiar and especially important, to your Prius hybrid. Be very skeptical of dealer service. Their pompous know-it-all attitude is a deceptive cover for (profitable) institutionalized ineptitude. Whenever possible use an independent shop which specializes in Toyota hybrids for your service and repair needs. Here a few key maintenance items related directly to good gas mileage.

Features built-in to fake you into thinking it's not electric:

In review, here are the items you use all the time that are unique on your hybrid.  An appreciation of them helps us all to benefit fully from this highly advanced car.  For each of these four items Toyota knew what you'd expect, and feared it might freak you out if it behaved otherwise.  We understand ...

Using your EV Mode button (if fitted):

There are many parameters which need to met for the Prius to be driven in an all-electric state.  The most important of these is that the 'Electric Vehicle Mode' button has been fitted to your car.  Most Prius specialist independent repair shops can do this for you.  Then there are three parameters over which you have control which permit actuation (and many more which only the on-board computers manage):
  1. Vehicle speed must be less than 34mph.
  2. Accellerator must be less than 1/4 throttle.
  3. Battery must be above 50% indicated.
You can select EV Mode at any time, and if it is accepted by the car a single beep will acknowledge.  If it is declined a three-beep error tone will result, and you can try again later.  Once EV Mode has been successfully entered, if the car boots it out later on (like if you speed up too much), you can attempt to re-enter EV Mode:  it will either accept, decline, or completely ignore your request.  No, the button is not broken.  But it will pretend to be for the duration of the "drive cycle", that is: until Ready Mode is exited and re-entered.

EV Mode is only beneficial to gas mileage at the end of a trip (or to take a very short trip, like moving the car out of the garage).  Since it prevents the gas engine from running, it eliminates the possibility of it starting the minute you reach up to hit the Power button to turn the car off, for example ... a time when you would never need it running.  Otherwise the car has no way to know when you're about to park and shut down, but the rest of the time the hybrid control systems manage the electric car aspects of operation far better than we mere mortals can.

I push the EV button when I enter the parking lot, get into the neighborhood on my way home, or about two or three minutes before I get to work.  For repositioning the car it is good too, push the EV button within seven seconds after the Ready light comes on, and (if all parameters are met!) the gas engine won't start, like while you move the car from the garage to street-parking.

Aero modifications:

Aerodynamic mods, like the perfectly contoured fender skirts seen above on my Gen2, are only of benefit for fuel efficiency at continuous speeds above about 60mph.  Many devices are available, and most unquantified by testing.  I assure you that few will pay for themselves during their nomal lifespan.  As example, I find my 75mph freeway mileage with rear fender skirts is 46.9, and 46.7 without.  It'll take a whole lot of highway miles to pay for those puppys.  For most folks' driving, the bone-stock car, driven properly, is the best bet ... even if my Prius is prettier than yours ...

If you'd like a pair, click here to order.

Bottom line:

Most all of us enjoy being touched in a gentle sensual way.   Even those who like it rough are angered by ambush from their partners:  Our Prius feels the same way -- dislikes surprise contact -- and will behave compassionately when approached with warning, respect, and rhythm no matter how hard or fast the action needs to be.  Gentle progressive release is every bit as important as is gentle approach.  I know this ... so do you ...

We have some footwork to learn.  A new dance.  That's really all.

So take off your boots ... do it ... and your pants;  Put on a skirt (or a kilt) ... or not;  turn off the display (Display>Screen Off);  move your seat back by exactly one click;  and enjoy life again.  If you then still aren't 100% satisfied (or are?), or have any car-question in the world, please post to our Facebook tips page ASAP, or drop me an email.

Rev 6 |  15 December 2012

Alan Cowan's opinions -- expressed herein -- are not necessarily the official policy of Falconworks Land Rover/Jaguar/Prius, Happy Hybrid Stores, or similar.  His fun new book, It Came With Oil, about driving cars, auto repair, and repair shops, using British cars as humorous examples, is now available everywhere.

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