21 Things You Should Know When You Drive a Hybrid
Have you ever compared the EPA-stated mileage with the actual mileage you get with your hybrid?
You may be asking yourself why can’t you get all the way up there to the EPA’s rating? Are you doing something wrong? Is there something you don’t know?
In what follows, we will try to answer some of these questions:
- Firstly, we will discuss the main reasons for the gap between EPA mileage and actual mileage.
- Secondly, we will give you several tips on how to increase your fuel efficiency.
- Lastly, we will provide the most common signs of a failing hybrid battery.
How does EPA measure fuel economy?
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) tests are no longer accurate for current driving conditions. Likely, for some of you this is no longer news.
There are major divergences between real-life driving and the way EPA determines MPG numbers, divergences that drive people crazy.
Let’s dive into some technical details regarding how these tests are performed:
- EPA tests are not made actually on a road. They are, in fact, simulated on a dynamometer, which is spinning the vehicle’s wheels upon placing the vehicle on a stationary platform. The approach hasn’t changed in the last 20 years.
- Even though some stops are incorporated, this manner of testing imparts a certain linearity to the procedure, unlike the daily driving conditions. Not to mention that when driving on residential roads or in stop-and-go traffic the stops are significantly more frequent. Repeated starts from dead stops greatly impact the MPG figures.
- Similar discrepancies are found in the tests that simulate highway driving. These tests, assume a speed of 48 mph when in reality the average speed is more around 70 mph. Furthermore, the test considers the temperature in the car to be constant and at an optimum level, implying the absence of AC or heating.
- For hybrids these tests assume the battery remains at a relatively high State of Charge. This means the load on the internal combustion engine is reduced considerably. In fact, this occurs very seldom in real life.
Obviously day by day fuel consumption can vary a lot. MPG could be affected by many factors that are not always related to the vehicle. It is impossible for a simulated test to include driving style, environmental conditions, road conditions, etc.
We now know how the EPA mileage tests are built. By a stretch of the imagination, it may be more achievable for the Chicago Bears to win the National Football League than for a car to meet those numbers.
However, you can improve your gas mileage and save hundreds of dollars if you follow several tips that, mostly, pertain to your driving style.
10 Tips on how to Improve Gas Mileage
1. The type of transmission is an important factor. Not much you can do here. Your vehicle already comes equipped with the best transmission for the hybrid drivetrain. The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is more fuel-efficient than a traditional automatic.
2. Improve your driving style. Reduce the hard braking. Can you drive a Flintstone mobile? Not likely? Then anticipate the stops as much as possible and begin coasting right before having to apply the brakes. The idea behind this is to try to avoid a complete stop.
How can you do that? Instead of stepping on the brake hard, which causes the speed to drop instantly, press the brake gently but firm, well ahead of the anticipated stop. In this way, the regenerative system recovers over 90% of the energy that would have otherwise been wasted through friction and sends it back into the hybrid battery.
Pay attention to traffic, and if you regularly drive on the same route, try to create patterns. This will help you be a safer driver and will increase your vehicle’s MPG over time.
3. In one of our previous posts, we gave away some tips about how to keep your car operating optimally in extreme weather. A hybrid is most efficient in temperate weather. The use of the AC or the heating system affects MPG. It can drop by as much as 25% in hot climates and the batteries have low charge acceptance in very cold weather.
If you must use the AC (and you certainly should in hot climates, as the cooling of the battery depends tremendously on the cool air inside the cabin) try the recirculating air mode, where the car’s air conditioning system circulates the air within the cabin. In fresh air mode, the AC has to work significantly harder to continually cool the air from outside, and it will affect the mileage. Since the air within the car is already cooled in recirculation mode, the AC has to work less.
The efficiency of AC systems gradually deteriorates due to dirty filters. This could affect fuel efficiency by up to 20%. Regular maintenance prevents this.
Contradictory to what one might think, driving with windows down will increase the wind resistance, and in fact, it’s not the best solution to provide the battery fan with cool air. Different tests showed that below 55 mph, you may open the windows and leave the AC off. At 60 mph or higher, close the windows and use air conditioning instead. By doing this you will burn less fuel.
More modern systems use electric fans to draw additional air through the radiator when extra cooling is required.
4. The lighter the car the better MPG efficiency. Removing any unnecessary items/junk from your cargo area will definitely help. This could improve fuel efficiency by around 5% in the city and around 15% on highways.
5. Tire pressure, it’s another factor. The wrong pressure could affect fuel economy up to 3%. The proper tire pressure is stated on the chassis, inside of the driver’s door. Don’t forget that the front tires should have 2psi more than the rear tires. Keep your Tire-Pressure-Monitoring-System (TPMS) in working order. The road conditions – paved vs gravel, smooth vs potholes, dry vs wet, etc. should be factored here.
6. Speed is another factor. The optimum speed for a Toyota Prius is around 55 mph. At speeds higher than 60 mph the wind resistance increases resulting in the need for more engine power and consequently taking a toll on fuel efficiency. Beyond 70 mph the MPG really drops. Using cruise control while on long highway trips definitely helps.
7. Brisk Acceleration, like speed, is another cause of low MPG. Reduce the jackrabbit starts and accelerate slowly when the light turns green.
Prius cuts off the gasoline consumption and switches in charging mode when you take your foot off the accelerator. If you see an approaching stop sign or a red traffic light, lift your foot off the gas pedal well ahead of time and gently coast or gradually push the brake to the point where you need to stop. In this way, you boost MPG efficiency by more than 50%.
The best way to operate a hybrid car for maximum gas efficiency is called accelerate-and-glide. This means accelerating and bringing your car up to the desired speed and then lifting your foot off the accelerator and allowing the gained momentum to carry you over. As the speed diminishes, gently tap on the accelerator to bring it back up. The hybrid car will attempt to use the battery to regain the momentum and will only use the gas engine if the battery can’t supply enough energy to replenish the lost momentum or if the acceleration is too abrupt.
Another tip is to take your foot off the gas when going downhill. In this way, you can harvest the potential energy of moving down the slope and send it back into the battery for use at a later time (when on flat terrain or moving uphill).
8. Short trips are the worst for gas mileage. Before the engine and the catalytic converter warm-up, the fuel efficiency is very low. It’s around half of what it should be.
Longer drives at moderate speed are the optimum choice.
If you end up being stuck in stop-and-go traffic and you notice that you drive under 25mph, make use of the EV button which forces the vehicle to run in full electric mode. The battery will get depleted, but the internal combustion engine will recharge it and the cycle can be repeated.
9. Fuel type, synthetic oil, alignment are other factors you need to take into account for a fuel-efficient car.
10. Make Right Turns Only! It’s proved by FedEx that it works. Even if that means going a couple of blocks around it reduces loiter time—or idling while waiting for traffic to clear— it saves gas.
Use an app that keeps track of your MPG and the money spent on gasoline. Use it every time you fill-up the tank.
Some of the more popular apps for gas mileage logging are Fuelly, FillUp, Drivvo, Fuelio, etc. Pay attention to the numbers and try to better your driving habits.
For a side-by-side MPG comparison among cars use this link.
Fuel consumption is in direct correlation with air pollution. Choose a car with better gas mileage!
Graph from https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/climate.shtml
A hybrid car provides better gas mileage and contributes less pollution than a gas-only vehicle. However, a hybrid car is only as efficient as its high voltage battery. For optimum operation, the hybrid car requires regular maintenance of its gasoline engine and occasionally of its hybrid battery.
A poorly maintained gasoline engine will end up experiencing (among other problems) random cylinder misfire which, in turn, will force the vehicle to place more strain on the car’s battery, wearing it out prematurely. A dirty throttle body or mass airflow sensor will create poor engine power conditions which will also lead to extensive battery wear and tear.
However, no battery lives forever. As hard as one may try, the battery will eventually die. It is important for hybrid car owners to know and understand the signs of a failing battery.
What are the signs of a failing hybrid battery?
- A steady decrease in fuel economy. The easiest to spot is a steady decrease in fuel economy to the point where the MPG is quite similar (if not worse) to that of a non-hybrid car. It seems the gasoline engine is almost always on.
- Significant fluctuations in the state of charge while driving could be another sign. This is reflected in a sharp increase/decrease in the battery bars.
- The internal combustion system runs more than it should. It kicks in at the slightest push on the gas pedal.
- Erratic Engine Behavior – If your ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) appears to be running erratically, it could be another indication of a battery problem. The engine operating for longer than normal, or cutting in and stopping randomly, are things you need to have checked out. Several issues could cause the problem, but it is most likely to be a sign of a dying battery.
- The hybrid battery’s cooling fan turning on often, being quite loud and staying on.
- Clunky Driving Conditions – A bad or dying battery may affect your vehicle’s driving conditions. It may feel clunky or similar to a bad transmission.
- When the time comes for you to replace the hybrid battery we suggest that you call us to make an appointment at our Chicago Shop.
We definitely do not encourage you to install the battery yourself if you do not possess knowledge of working with electricity or do not have the proper equipment. The battery contains dangerous voltage and severe injury or death is possible if the battery is mishandled.
- At Volts Chicago, we do our best to take care of the high voltage battery which is the heart of your hybrid car.
- Our offer includes new and remanufactured high-quality hybrid battery packs at less than 50% off the dealer price. We stand by our 3-year warranty, and in the event of a problem, we will make it right or refund your money. Guaranteed.
- At Volts Chicago we care for the environment and on that note, our hybrid battery replacement process ends with recycling the faulty cells.For more information about our services or if you have any other related questions, please stop by at our Chicago location. Or choose one of the options from below: