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Old 10-23-2012, 10:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
MetroMPG
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Have you ever given 1-on-1 ecodriving instruction? (Here's how I did it.)

To a willing participant? (Grumbling from the back seat / passenger seat doesn't count! )

I used to teach in-car defensive driving many moons ago. It was a part-time job to help pay for school. One of the 15 lesson plans supposedly focused on fuel-efficient driving techniques. (I say "supposedly" because if the driver was still having a hard time with the basics like successfully turning corners, well the instructor wasn't going to be spending a lot of time talking about preserving momentum and the finer points of "driving without brakes".)

But that was ages ago, and the overwhelming majority of the kids going through the course didn't really seem to care about saving fuel anyway. (Not unexpected, really, since most weren't paying the bills!)

I tells ya, though: it sure is nice teaching someone who is genuinely interested in the subject, and I did that today for the first time in forever.

The student:

A retired newspaper reporter who was at an ecodriving seminar I gave to a local environmental group about a year ago. She was doing this out of personal interest though, not for a reporting gig.

She's actually a guinea pig for the rest of the group.

The car:

(And by that I mean her car...)



2004 Toyota Echo (Yaris) sedan, 1.5L, automatic
EPA city / highway: 28 / 36 MPG (US)
Compare Side-by-Side

The route:

~15-minute long city loop that included lots of turns & traffic lights

The execution:

I asked her to bring the car fully warmed up. I plugged in the ScanGauge, set the engine displacement & reset the trip meters.

And... we're off!

Lap #1: She drives to establish a baseline, with no coaching at all (which was harder to do than you might think - since we were talking around the subject of fuel economy for most of the drive and I had to bite my tongue from giving her pointers along the way). I make an effort to keep a good conversation going so she doesn't subconsciously start to focus on driving "nicely".

Lap #1 results: pretty decent! 30.8 mpg (all US gallons). She's already 3.8 MPG over the city EPA rating - 14%! But there are a few obvious bad habits that can be tuned up.

Intermission: Tire pressure check! Placard is 32 all around, max sidewall is 44. They weren't horrible - ranging between 24 & 36 PSI. I split the difference and set them all to 38, warm.

Lap #2: I drive the route, and explain what I'm doing. I don't do anything fancy or scary - no howling tires through high-g turns, and the engine stays on the entire time, though I shift to N for long lights. Just plenty of anticipation, planning, "driving without brakes" & timing the traffic lights. Results: 37.2 mpg - 33% over the EPA rating.

Lap #3: She takes the wheel again and I coach her along. Results: 34 mpg - 21% over EPA.



She really seemed to enjoy it - thinks her husband will want to try it too.

The high point -- when the light bulb seriously went on and a big smile plastered itself across her face -- was coaching her toward a very stale red light. 4 lane road, 2 lanes each direction. There was a line of 4 cars stopped in our lane (left), and only one car stopped in the right. We had already been coasting for a while, and I suggested a lane change to the right would give us more coasting distance and the light would probably change before she needed to brake at all. Sure enough, it worked perfectly and we ended up gliding past a gaggle of stopped cars that had sped away from us at the previous light. Classic.

Post game discussion:

Reviewed the main points. Reviewed the numbers: showed her that even though she was already probably an above average ecodriver, reducing fuel use another 10% was easy, and 20% was within reach. Suggested she get an MPG gauge to keep her motivated. She took notes, but I also emailed her a "report card" afterward.

We also spent 30 seconds discussing highway tactics: dead simple - slow the eff down.

The whole session took an hour and 10 minutes.

I'll probably do more of these with other members of the environmental group, maybe once every week or two.

----

UPDATE: more sessions & results ...



As of mid-November, I've documented 4 more sessions: You can find the summaries of ...
  • Session 2 (in a 2009 Honda Fit 5-speed) in post #30;
  • Session 3 (in a 2007 Toyota Camry hybrid) in post #41;
  • Session 4 (in a 2009 Honda Civic LX) in post #45.
  • Session 5 (in a 1997 BMW 328i Sport) in post #48

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__________________
Latest mods test: 15 mods = 15% MPG improvement: A-B test, 2007 Honda Civic 1.8L, 5-speed
Ecodriving test:
Manual vs. automatic transmission MPG showdown: Nissan Micra 1.6L



EcoModder
has launched a forum for the efficient new Mitsubishi Mirage
www.MetroMPG.com - fuel efficiency info for Geo Metro owners
www.ForkenSwift.com - electric car conversion on a beer budget
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