Baby Steps: How I changed my driving habits

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Fuel Economy' started by Courtney, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. Courtney

    Courtney New Member

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    Many of us are in some tough financial times right now. I think it has made many people angry. I sense this on the roads and also in many PC posts here as well. I read about so many newbies upset with their new Prii because they're not getting the mileage they expected. I decided to compile some simple tips that helped me. TO PASS MY BLAH BLAH AND GET STRAIGHT TO THE TIPS, SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT BOLD SECTION!

    Last March I was still driving my '93 4.3L Chevy Blazer, getting about 17 mpg. I really loved my little SUV, having bought it used in '97 to accomodate my new family. I lived in the lower Sierra Nevadas and that little beast was worth its weight in gold, getting me up and down the mountain in winter months and negotiating the miles of rocky unpaved roads surrounding our home. I had put 300,000 miles on it when life changes brought me to So.Cali and gave me a commute of 100 miles round trip per day. When gas was hitting $3/gallon, I knew I couldn't do the monthly gas bill any longer and still be able to cover the ongoing repairs a 15 year old vehicle requires. I had seen the Prius, had ridden in my friends and found it to be quite comfortable, but thought it to be hideously ugly! Now I find it to be the most beautiful car on the road:nod:

    After realizing what I spent in gas every month was more than a decent car payment, I seriously looked into the Prius. I lurked on PC for a while and read enough to know that this little car was what I needed. I may have been one of the last people able to purchase a Prius at MSRP and not have to wait months. That wasn't the plan! The plan was to purchase the end of this summer, but a costly repair for my Blazer moved the purchase up in the timeline!

    I was (and still am!) thrilled to be the owner of a 2008 Black #2! My mileage was in the mid 40's and I thought the people on PC must either be extreme hypermilers or be total liars! I was afraid to join PC for a while due to the typical Prius owner stereotypes. I soon found that for the most part, everybody here were normal people, from many backgrounds and beliefs, and very passionate about their cars and what their cars meant to this evolving auto industry. I bought my Prius mostly to save money on gas (trying to save the planet was secondary - I know, how rude!) and have a reliable commuter car. But it feels good to consume about 70% less fuel than before and know that I have joined the ranks of hybrids on the road sending a message to big business and to consumers wherever I go.

    LESS BLAH BLAH, MORE TIPS
    In the early days driving my Prius, I averaged about 45-48 mpg. I drove the Prius like I drove my old Blazer - hard and aggressively! After attempting to give myself a crash course in PC fuel economy techniques, I was completely overwhelmed and totally frustrated driving my car. I had turned driving into a task. The harder I tried to increase my mpgs, the worse they got! I tried to drive mostly on battery, I tried to drive as slow as possible, trying severe hypermiling techniques. Many techniques worked but thery irritated me and made me anxious and grouchy!

    Now I am getting 56-60 mpg without severe techniques, or headaches, or aggravation.

    What I found is the road to better fuel economy for a new Prius owner is patience and baby steps. I decided I would take a couple things I observed early on and put it into an organized fashion so that others could copy what I have done. These are not highly technical things at all but they will help. Don't try them all at once, but rather a little at a time. The key is patience so don't get frustrated when your new Prius gets well below 50 mpg, because you're still getting more than any other car on the common road:)

    1. When you bring your new car home, check the air in your tires and do all those easy little tips found on PC that don't cost money and don't require the car to be moving.

    2. Take a weekend trip and get to know your car. Learn how the drive feels, how the car handles, how it stops, how it accelerates, etc. Try not to look at your mpgs - I know this is hard to do because it is so much fun to peek and try to get them to rise! But better driving habits come from knowing how your car feels.

    3. Let off the gas before a stop slightly earlier than you did in your old car. One of the things I noticed right away was that the Prius can really glide far! Don't worry about the arrows and what way they are going at first. Just realize that in this car you can glide farther before the stop. My old Blazer required heavy gas almost all the way to the stop - the big hunk of metal really needed the fuel to keep it rolling. Once you realize how far you can glide in your Prius, see if you can extend it a little further.

    4. Jon't jack rabbit start it! I know this is so difficult! I did it myself for so long - just bad habits, but as I'm sure you've read on numberous other posts, it doesn't do you much good! If you want to drive fast, drive fast, but ease into it a little. You don't have to creep away from the light, just take it easier. You will notice a difference!

    5. Drive more passively. I used to always pass the car in front of me - don't know why - just had to do it! It took me a long time to learn how to chill out and just coast. If I gained on a slow poke on the freeway, I taught myself to be patient and wait to pass a little later and a little slower instead of accelerating hard past the other driver to make a point! Try to ignore people who do this to you as well. Good people can turn into irrate jerks when they climb inside their vehicles. Understand this and just let them be jerks. What's it to you? You're saving gas and money and you have this sweet little car to drive!

    6. Go the speed limit or five under. I hear groans at this point do I not?? Yes, my old rule was 5-10 over minimum! It takes a while to be comfortable driving slower but you will feel better. Take the decrease in small intervals. It's in our nature to be impatient. This was one of the hardest things for me to change in my driving habits. Now I find I like to be in the slower lane. I am not as stressed and people pass me. Nobody's mad, and I get to my destination a little calmer.

    7. Let your car age. My car now has 8500 miles and my mileage just keeps getting better. I feel it runs smoother now too!


    If you do one of these at a time, the change will be easier and your mileage will increase without effort. At this point you will feel better in your car, know its sounds and motions, and can focus on the more complicated driving practices described in many other threads on PC. It takes at least a month to make something a new habit and muscle memory will come with a little time. Soon your mileage will bve increasing and you won't even be trying. You have learned to drive your car well with minimal change. I hope this helps some new Prius owners on their journey to happy driving!
     
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  2. AussieOwner

    AussieOwner Active Member

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    Courtney,

    It is nice to see some nice simple steps written down in a way that most people will understand.

    Until I had read through your steps, I had not realised that this is much what I ended up doing myself (although I had already started slowing down before I got my Prius). Now I find it is automatic, and I can now feel more comfortable in trying some of the more advanced approaches to hypermilling, provided that traffic allows me to do so.
     
  3. Prius 07

    Prius 07 Member

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    Hi Courtney,

    Great story and well done! Congratulations in your wonderful progress.
     
  4. NYPrius1

    NYPrius1 Active Member

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    I love your post!! Thanks For Taking The Time. I am sure New Prius Drivers can learn a lot from it!!
     
  5. F8L

    F8L Protecting Habitat & AG Lands

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    I think it is great you took the time to write down your experiences and share with others. Thank you. :)
     
  6. orracle

    orracle Whaddaya mean "senior" member?

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    Excellent post! It pretty much echoes my driving experience, too, and I used to always drive in the far left lane now I rarely leave the far right hand lane.

    Now if I only had a flashing billboard across the back with sayings like:

    --go ahead and pass!
    --you must really like my rear end--you stay so close to it
    --do you really think you need to zip around me to get to the stoplight that much faster?
    --55 mph: saves gas and speeding tickets
     
  7. micheal

    micheal I feel pretty, oh so pretty.

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    Ditto. It is good to have a nice synopsis of easy and simple techniques that don't overwhelm newbies. People trying to do extreme steps without getting to know the car is often counterproductive.
     
  8. Flying White Dutchman

    Flying White Dutchman Senior Member

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    great story i love it
     
  9. Genoz World

    Genoz World ZEN-style living

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    COURTNEY, I AGREE with everything you said.

    may i add that "GIVING YOURSELF a cushion of time will allow one to achieve these good habits of driving that will obtain better mpg's."

    leaving late will only bring out your "evil-twin" causing you to blast to your destination on wide open throttle. now, realizing that timing the lights, good driving habits might be even faster than stab n steer driving, having extra time takes the pressure off and ensures the enforcement of what you said.

    cheers.
     
  10. krmcg

    krmcg Lowered Blizzard Pearl Beauty

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    Thanks for taking the time to organize these ideas. Gives us something easy to read and easy to put into action.
     
  11. GreenRepublican

    GreenRepublican New Member

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    Great tips :)

    In addition, when you're going down a hill, shift into "B" gear (engine braking). MAKE SURE THERE'S NOBODY CLOSE BEHIND YOU WHEN YOU DO THIS!

    After the engine braking has slowed you down and recharged the batteries, you can safely shift back to Drive on the fly. The engine braking will stop and you will again start to gain momentum if still on the decline.

    I typically shift into B just as I start going down a hill, then back to Drive as I approach level ground again.
     
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