Exactly a year ago I declared war on fuel efficiency. Okay, that’s not true but since we’re conditioned to believe meaningful change requires us to declare war on something I thought I’d trot out the lame old metaphor.
Okay, what really happened one year ago is that I sold my BMW X5 and bought a Toyota Prius. Netting it all out, I wound up paying $8,000 to get the Prius which I own outright. Not having a car payment was one thing I wanted to achieve. The other thing I was looking for was lower costs and greater fuel efficiency. I got that in Spades. My X5 took premium fuel (of course, because German engineering is very demanding) so today I’d be paying over $4.00 per gallon. The Prius takes regular gas, which is about $3.65 right now in my neck of the woods.
The Prius is a cool car for lots of reasons, but let’s just focus on fuel use. It has a display that gives you real time information on your fuel consumption, and this is the most ingenious way that it helps deliver fuel savings. As you drive you can see what tendencies will help you lower your fuel consumption (hint: acceleration bad, coasting good). The best fuel efficiency comes when you drive in the city. On the highway I only get 50 miles per gallon. If you don’t try very hard then you won’t get much better than that in the city either.
Yesterday I decided to try hard.
I was driving a 15 mile roundtrip to get my daughter from school, a routine trip. I got 65 miles per gallon, which I thought was pretty good. It didn’t require me to do anything special, except try to keep the car going without accelerating. When it becomes clear I have to slow down then I coast for as long as I can before applying the brakes (the engine does recapture energy from braking too).
Today, I decided to try even harder and managed to get 74 mpg for the same roundtrip I did yesterday. I had to fight the tendency to accelerate because sometimes I could feel the driver behind me getting impatient. I resolved to accelerate only if I could help the driver behind me not get caught in a red light, or otherwise delay him in any way. Fact is, in city driving there are so many red lights (and cars pulling into traffic) that you rarely delay anyone when you drive meticulously. I can’t help it if other people are unreasonably impatient. Yesterday one guy pulled around me and immediately found a new source of impatience ahead. I puttered along behind him the whole way and neither one of us got where we were going any faster or any slower. Maybe impatience is the worst drain on fuel economy.
As I said in the beginning, I like the Prius for lots of reasons besides just fuel efficiency. Everyone who’s ridden in it has commented on the “surprising comfort and roominess.” They always ask, “but isn’t it slow on the highway?” And I always explain no, because the car actually has two energy sources (battery and engine) so it’s got plenty of acceleration—if you don’t mind sacrificing fuel economy.
No one seems to believe me when I say that, which is fine. Most important battles are fought quietly, so I’ll say this in a hushed voice: five 15 mile roundtrips in my BMW would cost me at least $20 in gas, but is less than $5 in my Prius. [Insert war whoop here]