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MetroMPG 10-23-2012 10:04 PM

Have you ever given 1-on-1 ecodriving instruction? (Here's how I did it.)
2 Attachment(s)
To a willing participant? (Grumbling from the back seat / passenger seat doesn't count! :D)

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

2000neon 10-23-2012 10:41 PM

I don't have the patience to teach, ;). Good for you though! It says a lot about your driving when you can jump in a new, unfamiliar car and get 33% over EPA right off the bat!

MetroMPG 10-23-2012 10:54 PM

I think just about anybody here could have done it. It's not rocket surgery! (Also, local roads, so I'm familiar with the traffic lights, patterns, etc.)

As I said, it was pretty mild ecodriving, too. 40%+ would have been pretty easy if I'd been killing the engine.

She actually did ask about shutting off the engine at long stop lights. I said that in my car, the engine is off most of the time I'm stopped. I didn't push it though - comes across as pretty extreme to a normal driver.

HydroJim 10-23-2012 10:59 PM

Awesome! I've started teaching my mom, but it's hard to break 25 years of driving habits. She seems to get 28 mpg combined in her 2008 Jeep Patriot with the CVT. I believe the EPA is 24 combined, but it's hard to read the chart because she has 4WD, but it is normally off. I've been trying to convince her to get a smaller car, but for whatever reason, she doesn't seem to want to budge. Funny thing is my ford focus has just as much cargo room as the patriot and with snow tires probably handles comparably in the snow. Women. :confused:

MetroMPG 10-23-2012 11:10 PM

Hey - show your mom the picture I made for her. :) (2wd model though...)

HydroJim 10-23-2012 11:27 PM

she already drives pretty slow on the highway because the speed limits used to be 55 around here and she still feels 65 is unsafe, so luckily she saves a lot of gas there

The worst thing is that she does a lot of city driving and she's too afraid to use the autostick to force lower engine RPM's. I've tried explaining that the computer does most of the work, but I don't try to push the subject.

niky 10-24-2012 03:09 AM

Never taught one-on-one. Did teach to a small group, and inside the car, only one was really attentive. Pretty good result. Our car got better economy than the one with the other coach. They made the mistake of going too slow, hence their car kept kicking into 5th gear.


Yeah, we were pretty much limited to mild pulse-and-glide, engine-off at stoplights and hill-momentum stuff. Contractual obligations prevented me from preaching coasting in neutral or EOC...

MetroMPG 10-24-2012 09:30 AM


Originally Posted by niky (Post 335865)
They made the mistake of going too slow, hence their car kept kicking into 5th gear.

That's interesting - I had the same experience yesterday and learned about the "going too slowly" mistake. That was unexpected!

Because I was emphasizing not rushing in to situations where she would be forced to brake, she started over-thinking things - sometimes driving a bit too slowly, or beginning to coast too soon, and a couple of times it cost her extra fuel.

EG: We were slowly approaching a red light where we were going to turn left. There is a brief (2-3 car) advanced left-turn signal on these lights. I started to say, "it is possible to over-do things and go too slowly..." when the left turn arrow came on while we were still half a block away. We missed the left turn signal and had to wait through an entire light cycle because there was a steady stream of oncoming cars. Oops!

Of the 3 laps we did on this route -- 2 hers, 1 mine -- my lap happened to have the highest average speed, and the lowest fuel consumption.

Daox 10-24-2012 09:57 AM

I've taught one on one once. I was asked to do a driving session by the local drive green group (aka hybrid group). It went quite well I think. He had a manual transmission Tercel and I taught him the basics of timing lights much farther ahead than normal people, reducing brake use, keeping speeds low. Then, we got to the fun part and did some P&G instruction. It took a little bit (as it did when I got instruction on it), but he got the hang of it. He later went on to get on the top 10 list here on EM. :)

MetroMPG 10-24-2012 10:12 AM

Good story - training a top 10 driver! (And the student has become the master....)

We don't have any hybrid groups in this town, though a few old-timers have told me they used to run the occasional economy rally in the old days in their (now defunct) sports car clubs.

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