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Old 06-23-2011, 11:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Traffic Kills My FE...

...partially. The area in which I work (Greater Boston) can be somewhat hilly. There are ways to deal with that. Sometimes, there's a lot of traffic. I can deal with that. The roads are full of patches and pot-holes. I can (sometimes) avoid them. All at the same time, there is a huge potential to mess up my fuel economy.

Between not being able to P&G in the worst of stop-and-go (slow-moving is easier), having a nearly dead traction battery when I hit the worst traffic (so the engine won't stop running--though I am getting better at "drive without battery" as applied to hybrids, that is avoid using the electric system), having my coast ruined by an unavoidable pothole and my car's stubborn refusal to "glide" above about 40MPH, I'm getting annoyed.

Sure, the Highlander Hybrid (2006 Limited 4x4) was rated a combined 26 (27/25). Yeah, my readout hovers between 31-32 (20% over EPA). I'm just convinced I can get it to 35 but I'm not doing everything right. High speeds kill my FE (as mentioned earlier) the most.

Help?

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Old 06-24-2011, 08:51 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Driving is traffic is an exercise in driving without brakes and trying to build up a buffer zone. If you can idle along at 10-15mph and use just the B (regen) on the shifter to slow down if you get going too fast -- and try to never have to stop moving. Can you keep it in electric-only mode by driving without heat or A/C?

What are your tire PSI? I'll bet you can do some aero mods to the wheels and wheel openings.
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:48 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Tires are at 32 (what the door frame says). I haven't used the A/C since early this week--it got cold. Also, I've discovered that "Boston hot" is tolerable w/blowers only. I've used P&G with longer following distances. Using electric-only drains the traction battery very quickly, forcing the engine to turn back on and stay on.

I bet a few drivers have wanted to kill me for it.

First tank that was solely work-related turned out at 30.44MPG (display says 31.0).
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Old 06-29-2011, 09:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I found out what's killing me. Slow-moving traffic is fine (it's easy to keep a huge following distance--on one leg I only had to stop twice). However, bumper-to-bumper ruins it for several reasons. One, the car loves to try to do "battery crawl" (which is exactly what I don't want). Two, huge following distances don't really help because if you're lucky the traffic moves three feet each time. Three, I always hit these areas with a low traction battery so the engine keeps turning on.

ARGH!
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Old 07-01-2011, 04:56 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I feel your pain. DC just got rated #1 in the worst traffic. That means worse than LA! Ew! I'm lucky in that the area has a lot of inclines. I can coast downhill in neutral more when traffic is very slow, and I have noticed tiny improvements in mpg when using neutral while traffic moves a few inches like every 3 minutes. Over 30 miles the neutral-ness adds up. Can your hybrid benefit from something like that, or will it just do the "battery crawl?"

I have to admit I know next to nothing about hybrid driving for FE. Building the buffer zone really helps me when traffic is moving a little faster though. Chicago commuters might cuss you out, but what else would be new? In DC you just get some rolling of eyes and someone trying to pass you, unsuccessfully, because they have nowhere to go! I've been surprised how little the buffer zone gap is filled in by other drivers.

I'm really interested to see what others have to say on your topic!
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Old 07-01-2011, 05:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The idea of neutral shifting is to reduce the burden on the engine, saving a small amount of fuel. My engine (as in any hybrid) shuts off entirely. Except when the battery is drained, then it insists on running. Shifting into neutral would (I think) disengage the charging mechanism, thus defeating the point. I'll have to look at that (if, say, "charge in neutral" is better than "charge in drive" I'm all for it).

Massachusetts drivers (I moved recently from Chicago to take a job in the Greater Boston area) tend to just blow by you on the shoulder (or "breakdown lane" as it's called here). I've been honked at, seen looks of exasperation from other drivers, and probably been flipped off (I make a point to NOT look). I've also had other drivers who are more than happy to follow my not-stopping-nearly-as-often ways--it feels like you're "moving faster."

One driver honked, blew past me in the left lane and promptly ran into a wall of traffic. I proceeded in the middle lane coasting (engine off as hybrids do) for at least a mile. Owned by karma.
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Old 07-02-2011, 10:49 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Do you have the budget to have a plug in hybrid kit installed? they often increase your electric only range by 15 to 45 miles, depending on the kit you have installed, they also reprogram the computer alot of the time allowing for operating in electric only range at higher speeds, down side is the kits tend to cost $5,000 and go on up in price and they could take as long as ten years to pay for them selves but on the other hand gasoline is not getting cheaper and they have the potential to allow you to drive even more efficiently.
Also, money in the bank doesn't even have a ten year pay back.
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Old 07-02-2011, 11:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Sc**w the door frame label. It's for butt comfort, I'm convinced of that. And maybe to keep the tire companies supplied with frequent customers. I haven't looked at that label on my car lately but it says thirty-something.

My tires are rated 44 psi and I'm running them at about 55. Had them on the car 6 months, driving about 600 miles/week plus a thousand-mile jaunt to the Green Grand Prix in April. No issues with those tires.
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Old 07-02-2011, 03:05 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryland View Post
Do you have the budget to have a plug in hybrid kit installed? they often increase your electric only range by 15 to 45 miles, depending on the kit you have installed, they also reprogram the computer alot of the time allowing for operating in electric only range at higher speeds, down side is the kits tend to cost $5,000 and go on up in price and they could take as long as ten years to pay for them selves but on the other hand gasoline is not getting cheaper and they have the potential to allow you to drive even more efficiently.
Also, money in the bank doesn't even have a ten year pay back.
That assumes such kits exist :P

If they do, it might be something I'd save for. As of yet, I can't find any and this is hardly a DIY type of modification. There are Prius kits (duh) and Ford Escape Hybrid kits, but no Highlander kits.
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Old 07-02-2011, 04:55 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sovereign View Post
That assumes such kits exist :P
Look around, we have a company here called ReGo that opened up shop in Minneapolis MN and another in Madison WI that install the Engener plug in hybrid kits, the rep I talked to claimed that they have already installed them in Toyota Highlanders.
The mid west is not the center of electric vehicles or plug in hybrid vehicles, so I can't imagine that we are the only ones who can get a service like this done.

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