Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Of hybrids and ridiculously anal driving

Several months ago, we started looking into alternatives for the BMW. It was a love/hate relationship really...I loved the car to start with, but when you end up shelling out more in maintenance over the the years than you spent on the car itself...a parting of ways is inevitable.

The Skis went green.

We originally wanted a Prius...but with the lengthy wait time (upwards of 2 months from ordering) and the smaller size (if we are destined to have a Sprouffske 2.0 and beyond), the Prius didn't seem as functional as we had hoped.

Enter the 2009 Camry Hybrid. The one we ordered arrived last night, and we picked it up at Toyota of Olympia. Working with Jeff Elston, who sold Jonathan his 4runner back in the day, was a dream. Being in sales, I loathe pushy people and I generally detest the entire car buying process. I loved working with Jeff. Very laid back, helpful, and straightforward.

Lots of cool little tweaks to this car -- the most notable being that there is no key. Just a fob. I leave my keys in my purse. When I get close to the car, I just pull the handle. It senses that I am next to the car. When I get in, it senses that the key fob is in the car. No key to put in the ignition. Just press the brake, and push the "start" button.

Since my famously nerdy gas post, I'd been reading up on all the driving tactics of Camry Hybrid owners...who scoff at the 33/34 MPG that is published on the sticker. I learned that type-A drivers (like yours truly) become fanatics about driving, and routinely get 40-44 miles per gallon. On extended trips, with effective maximum fuel efficiency, they can reach 55-60 MPG.

Seriously. Make this whole thing a competition, and I'm in. :)

In less than 18 months, we will have saved an amount more than equal to the difference between the base model and the hybrid models.

Toyota nailed the whole 'mental game' with the design. For example - check out the "tachometer". Normally, it shows how much you are revving the engine, right?

The Camry uses a bit of reverse psychology. The more you gun the engine, the lower the miles per gallon. You end up wanting to keep the needle as close to 60 as possible. When it's running on the battery, the needle stays beneath the 60 entirely.

And this, my friends, is what I did on the first full day of driving. 107 miles, averaging 36.5 miles per gallon. As I started to understand the little modifications to driving that help boost the gas mileage, it jumped up, and I felt like the smartest driver ever. You know, all 80-some miles under my belt at that time. :)

Most common ways that people reduce their fuel consumption in the Camrys?
  • Ease up on the gas to slow down. When you aren't depressing the accelerator, the car is recharging its battery. There's even a gauge which shows you if you are using gas, electricity, or recharging.
  • Avoid sudden starts and stops.
  • Anticipate traffic slow downs so you can recharge the battery while gradually slowing instead of slamming on the brakes.
  • Ease up on the gas when climbing hills.
  • Use gravity to coast down hills instead of accelerating with the engine.
  • Use cruise control.

Most of these are basic hypermiling ideas, which can be used in all kinds of cars, not just Camrys.

The best part about this car?

When you turn it off, it shows your eco drive rating based on how efficiently you used gas vs. electric to reduce your fuel consumption. This morning?

The car told me I was excellent.

It even speaks my words of affirmation love language!

How do ya like them apples?!?

(Oh, and lest you think I've gone too green, know that this will be one of the rare hybrids in Washington with both a Dino Rossi and a John McCain bumper sticker!)


Elizabeth Ann said...

That is so flipping cool- especially with the bumper stickers!!!

MUCH cuter than the Prius too!

foxmulder said...

I would make some snide comment and still insist that my white Honda gets way better gas mileage than yours, but I wouldn't stoop that low. And I don't even have a Honda.

Nancy E said...

Very cool indeed! We have been looking at the Prius for Sam and I think we should share all your amazing info - - I love to read your stuff...

Glad you didn't get a mini-van!

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