EcoDriving with Pro Formance at the LA Auto Show

by Benjamin Jones on November 27, 2008

Here on EcoModder we have talked about the EcoDrivingUSA program and some of Pro Formance’s results with Ford before, but I finally got a chance to go through Pro Formance’s ecodriving program. There was a lot of preaching to the choir, but I was interested to see how they approached teaching ecodriving to the average person, and not just the average person who is already interested in improving fuel economy.

The Car

Because I was second in line for the round of test drives I was in, I had to settle for the Audi A3 TDI station wagon. I don’t want to sound like I’m down on the car, since it was a very nice ride, but for several reasons I really wanted to drive the Mini Cooper (I’d never driven one, it had a stick shift, etc). Because of my disappointment I made it my goal to surpass the Mini Cooper in fuel economy in the test.

The A3 TDI is a very luxurious car, but it’s definitely not the biggest fuel sipper around. The diesel engine helps a lot, but the automatic transmission and general size of the car makes it a difficult choice for high mileage (though that doesn’t mean you can improve it).

The Drive

We went out for a drive through some very congested LA streets, which were not good at all for fuel economy. Though the test drive was only a couple of miles in each direction, my instructor had time to go through many of the standard techniques like smooth acceleration, the importance of anticipating future events, and also the importance of keeping your car well maintained.

In keeping with these tips, and not wanting to annoy my instructor, I toned down my own ecodriving and tried to do my best simply by anticipating stops and avoiding mashing the gas pedal at any cost. Doing this I managed to eke out 39 mpg from the station wagon, slightly edging out the Mini Cooper, which only pulled in 38.4 mpg.

Surely, I could have done better using neutral and having a fuel economy gauge, but I wanted to see what mileage would be like for a more typical driver in a car like the A3 TDI just using the Pro Formance tips, and I was very happy to see that near 40 mpg numbers could be returned, even in heavy traffic.


After the ride I got a chance to talk shop with some of the Pro Formance guys and learned that many of them practice more involved ecodriving techniques and are interesting in some of the ecomods that are fairly common. I was really impressed with their work and their mission, and hope that they can expand their operation to get in touch with more drivers.

Also, I learned that from their study on ecodriving with Ford, they realized a few things about the way different groups of people drive. For example, men and younger people tended to show a greater improvement with ecodriving, primarily because they were more aggressive in their driving techniques before taking the Pro Formance class. At the same time, everyone in the study still managed to improve their mileage, even the old ladies!

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