If I am being one hundred percent truthful right now, I never really obsessed this much over fuel economy in any of my other "gas savers". It seems though once I started driving my Toyota Prius, it was the only thing I could think about.
With so many people choosing to drive hybrids these days I began to wonder if others were thinking the same thing I was. How is my Prius consuming the fuel onboard? I began to watch the trip meter, fuel bars and average economy like a hawk. No matter where I was going, this was always on my mind.
I was driving home recently and had the thought, as I watched my average fuel econ jump from 42.1 to 42.2 if the feeling I was getting was because I was winning at the fuel economy game, or if it was because I had become obsessed with gaining optimal fuel economy.
The answer was yes to the second part of the question. I had an obsession with figuring out how to get higher fuel economy. Ever since been doing this, I have been able to recognize a few signs that Prius owners should watch out for when looking to get optimal fuel economy.
Changing Seasons, A Sign Fuel Economy May Suffer
It recently has become colder in my neck of the woods. The pacific northwest to be exact. With colder mornings and the demand for heat, my Prius is having to run the engine more often in order to produce it. More engine run time is a direct factor in reduced fuel economy.
Cold weather can also mean that the fuel that is being pumped into our fuel stations is more volatile, meaning that it will produce better cold starts but not necessarily the best fuel economy.
Cooler nights also attribute to the condensing of air in your tires. If you have recently gotten a tire pressure warning, the cold weather is most likely the cause. Your tires naturally lose about 1 to 2 pounds of air per month when they go unchecked. This problem then gets compounded into a larger problem once cold weather hits.
The air in the tires condenses even more and creates a tire pressure warning. What that really means is that deflated tires have more resistance on the road as they drag along and cause our Prius to work harder at pushing us down the road.
If you are like me and see a drop once the weather changes, I feel you. I notice all the little things like that, so welcome to the club of fuel economy obsession.
Having Concern For Your Hybrid Battery
Another sign you could be losing precious fuel mileage is when your hybrid battery is showing age. The battery loses capacity over time and thus causes the engine to run more often. This results in reduced fuel mileage as well.
Checking up on your battery using a cool software like Dr. Prius, can help you monitor what your hybrid battery is doing. You may even be able to spot a battery problem before it is too late. To learn more about hybrid battery reconditioning, please see my link at the end of this article.
Watch your hybrid battery calibrations on the screen and see how quickly your bars are going from full to empty and vice versa. If you are seeing your battery drop or charge rapidly, you should soon then also be receiving a trouble code.
Notice your battery doing any of those things as listed above? I know, I get it too, obsession.
Driving Habits In Your Toyota Prius
I used to think that Prius drivers were horribly annoying. They were always driving slow, and under the speed limit as well. Now I understand why. Driving a Prius has changed the way I think about driving. I look at every slight incline, downhill and flat surface as an obstacle.
This "hypermiling" idea has also made me think about when to stop accelerating and start letting the car get into regen braking while coasting up to a stop sign. I now think in terms of how much energy can I gain while driving, rather than, how fast can I get there.
If you find yourself getting into the stereotypical "Prius driver" mode, chances are you are obsessed.
Maybe I am being hypersensitive to my fuel economy, maybe not. One thing is for sure though, I know when my car drops 3 miles per gallon. It really shows. If you are a Toyota Prius owner that sees a reduction in your fuel economy, try checking your tire pressure, ease up on the throttle, or even add in a fuel additive that can help with the winter blends we are seeing at the pump.
Fuel economy is something to be semi-obsessed about. Just do not take it too far, and start pushing your Prius everywhere you go.
Thank you for reading, be sure to check out my other story about a device that can increase your resale value on your Toyota Prius.
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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting