Drive smoothly for better fuel efficiency

Apr 23, 2015   | Categories: Canadian Fuels Association, Energy, Environment
Chris Chase is an expert eco-driver. The freelance auto journalist fell in love with cars and driving when he was only allowed to drive his Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel tricycle. He’s had a few years since then to hone his driving skills.

Chase recently won the “green jersey” at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s EcoRun, presented to the most fuel-efficient driver.

New technology designed by FleetCarma served as judge at the event. The company provides data tracking using technology built into every car, which most drivers never see.

“They have devices that plug into the car’s computer that record fuel consumption and other information that was used to rank the drivers in the EcoRun,” said Chase.

“It’s interesting to look at that data and see how driving techniques translate into the numbers used to decide the winner.”

In last week’s post, Chase described some of his eco-driving techniques. This is the second blog in a series on eco-driving, fuel-sipping cars and other findings from the EcoRun.

Smooth driving works with all cars

The “sweet spot” with any car, regardless of vehicle size or drivetrain, is to drive smoothly and deliberately, said Chase.

“It’s even more effective in a gas-electric hybrid or electric vehicle (EV), because these drivetrains employ regenerative braking that charges the battery when the car is coasting or the driver uses the brakes,” he said.

“In an electric car, this will help extend driving range. In a hybrid, using the regenerative system reduces the car’s dependency on its gasoline engine.”

Speed up, slow down gently

Regardless of the vehicle’s drivetrain – electric, hybrid, gasoline or diesel — gentle acceleration is key, said Chase.

“In an EV, this will maximize driving range between charging sessions. With a hybrid, going easy on the accelerator will keep the car in electric-only mode longer after leaving a stop.”

Knowing when to decelerate is also important. In highway driving, for example, allow the car to decelerate a bit on uphill stretches, he said.

“If you tend to drive at, say, 110 km/h on the highway, then — ideally, when traffic is light — let the car slow down to 95 or 100 km/h going uphill, and then regain that speed on the next downhill,” said Chase.

Chase said the EcoRun was a lot of fun, particularly because he was able to drive a variety of vehicles and see how each performed when driven in a similar style.

“I didn’t do much differently to win the jersey; I drove a bit more gently than I do in my daily driving at home, but didn’t employ any techniques I don’t already use every day.”

In upcoming posts, we’ll look at how different kinds of cars perform in various real-life conditions.
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