Project Prius C—What Happens When a Speed Demon Goes Green?


What happens when you cross a speed demon, lead-footed, aggressive driver with a hybrid car designed to be driven the speed limit on the back roads of town for maximum gas mileage efficiency?

Here’s the place to find out! This month long blog project will answer that question and more! As of yesterday, Pete will be driving my 2011 Toyota Corolla and I will be driving his 2012 Prius C for the month of September.

Here’s some more information on the particulars of the project:

Who: Sara and Pete Sawochka
What: Prius C
Where: You’ll find me on back roads only, unless taking the highway or expressway is absolutely necessary.
When: 9/1/13 – 9/30/2013
Why?: To see what it’s like to drive a hybrid car for a month, to try and be more green and hopefully will learn some patience in the process and how to drive more efficiently in the long run.

Question: Why did I choose this particular project?

Answer: I want to understand how to maximize my fuel efficiency and be a calmer, slower and safer driver. I want to see what going green will change in my regular daily routine. For instance, I’ve promised to stay off of highways as much as possible even though my job is in Merrillville and my gym is in Chesterton–30 minutes away–by expressway! Not to worry about workouts, though–I already have a plan for those!

I’d like to give you an example of what a typical drive with Pete is like. In this scenario, Pete is driving us to the grocery store in his car:

1. We get in the car, he starts it and then we sit in the driveway for several minutes while the car warms up. I’m not really sure what the purpose of this is but I promise I will find out. I just know that sitting there in the driveway feels like forever. Pete warms the car up every time before he drives it. And FYI this includes every season of the year (even summer!).

2. Next Pete will slowly back out of the driveway and put the car on EV-mode as he proceeds to the street entrance. Driving in EV mode keeps him on the battery only (under 25 mph) without having to use any gas.

3. In the winter and summer Pete never runs the heat or the a/c unless I am with him. He will not turn on the heat or a/c until we are out of our subdivision and have hit the first stop sign on the way to the grocery store.

4. Pete drives THE SPEED LIMIT the entire way there–never above…not even 5 or 10 mph over (like me).

5. Pete drives nearly all back roads to get wherever he’s going. Apparently the car doesn’t get as good gas mileage when driven on a major highway or expressway.

6. Pete pulls into the parking lot and puts the car back on battery, or EV mode.

6. Pete turns the car off and waits for the computer to generate his mpg.

After having this Prius C for a year, I do give Pete credit in that he’s one of the best people I know that can maximize fuel efficiency. He typically gets 60 mpg plus depending on what season it is and the current driving conditions. The most mpg I can recollect him getting is 80 mpg. That’s pretty damn awesome! It also requires a lot of focus and dedication to driving. He is a very safe driver. Ironically, I really worry about him sometimes in his attempt to be safe. I worry he’ll get nailed in an accident. When I talk to Pete on the phone after work (we both have Bluetooth built into the car—again safe) he always sounds mad or upset. Most people do not drive the way he drives. People tailgate Pete, or speed up to pass him in no-passing zones, almost causing an accident. I’ve heard other tales of woe as well and they always make me worry.

Pete has been kind enough to share some of wisdom with me so I can get somewhat comparable gas mileage (I’m shooting for at least 60mpg). He gave me a couple of driving lessons two nights ago.

So. again, just like Pete, I’ll be driving his Prius C taking mostly back roads, following the speed limit exactly, and leaving earlier to get places since driving slow means longer travel times. Tomorrow will be my first day driving to work with the Prius C.

I’m eager to see what it’s like driving green, maximizing my fuel efficiency and hopefully finding my zen in driving. Perhaps I can change my ways a bit and use this experience to learn to drive my Corolla a little bit greener and safer!

Peace out!
Sara Sawochka

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