Project Prius C: Filling up the Tank

It was inevitable. I couldn’t drive on the battery forever. I would finally have to fill up the tank. I found a gas station and paid the unhappy price of $3.45/gallon for 6 gallons of gas. I still had three gallons left but Pete somewhat insisted that I needed to fill up soon.

Filling up the tank was a sad moment. All of my gauges were re-set. Here were my numbers for this round of driving:

  1. 331.1 miles
  2. 70.0 miles per gallon

When Pete and I went out this week for my weekly evaluation on the way to the grocery stores, here’s what he observed:

  • As we were pulling out onto the first major street from our subdivision he noted that my Corolla had a much more comfortable ride than the Prius did. And he’s right. I notice the Corolla is a much smoother ride as a passenger and a driver. I’ve told Pete for a long time that the Corolla has a more comfortable ride overall. Interestingly, as a driver of the Prius C, I’m not noticing the lousy ride because I’m so busy concentrating as a driver, but the bumps go unnoticed as a driver but are definitely noticed as a passenger.
  • He found that I had gotten much better about not drifting into a stop from so far away from my target stopping point.
  • He noted that I needed to work on two things:
    1. Going up hills. My current predicament is that I use some momentum to drive up the hill from the previous down slide but my miles per hour suffers on the hill because I’m trying to stay on the battery. For example, let’s say I’m cruising on a road that is 30 mph. I’ll accelerate going down a hill while still on the battery. Then going uphill I lose the momentum because I’ve been stubborn and don’t want to switch to the gasoline engine. The battery starts to lose charge and the mph starts to drop from 34 mph to 25 mph. Pete mentioned that can be annoying to drivers behind me because I make my driving less predictable.
    2. My cruising score also needs work. This is a related problem to going up hills. There are three scores that you can get which give you an overall ECO score. Those scores are start, cruise, and stop. Pete noted that my starting and stopping scores were fine but that my cruising score wasn’t as high. One problem is my trouble with hills. The other thing I need to work on is getting up to speed a little faster, then lifting my foot off of the accelerator, then putting my foot back on to engage the battery, and then staying at that cruising speed as long as possible.
  • He was proud of me for doing such a great job with my overall gas mileage and that I was sticking to the project!

My notes on the project so far:

  • I’ve noticed that I really engage my leg muscles to drive, my quadriceps in particular, to work the gas and brake. My right upper leg is completely engaged the whole time. Who knew driving could be so physical? Actually, I’m so aggressive on highway ramps in my Corolla going around curves that my abdominal muscles engage a lot when going around those curves. So whenever everyone else in the car looks sick and is leaning sideways and has that open mouth look on their face, I’m sitting there upright with a smile on my face and wondering why everyone else looks so upset!
  • I don’t notice what’s behind me and how people are acting (are they mad, or waving around behind me, or trying to pass) on the back roads. On roads like Route 30, which we did take to Strack’s in Valpo on Friday night, I really have to not let my nerves get to me. Driving on the back roads has become relaxing to me and is a simple way for me to get home, get great gas mileage, and not have to deal with much stress. When we were driving to Strack’s in Valpo down Route 30 I felt myself wishing I had my Corolla with me to drive because people were flying around all over the place. It was the first time I’ve really noticed how aggressive people can be, myself included, in gasoline-powered cars (or hybrid cars not driven for maximum gas mileage efficiency efficiency). My anxiety hit the roof when we were on Route 30. I’ll stick to my back roads and get to my target destination taking a little more time to get there.
  • In the last two weeks I haven’t paid attention to gas prices at all because I’ve been more focused on getting better gas mileage over a long period of time. It was a shock to fill up. However, it took me two weeks to get to the point where I needed to fill up which is pretty darn good! I’m liking the time vs. money equation. The money I’ve saved spending on gas will definitely help fund next month’s project! In fact it already has—I’ve purchased two items to get myself started for next month.

And here’s a word from my expert driver, Pete, on the project relating to our two cars:

Based on the roads Sara and I take, and our different styles of driving, it’s hard to say for sure what has contributed to my much higher mpg in the Corolla than Sara usually gets for the first two weeks of this project, but I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of a) longer drifts to stops and b) driving on roads that are right around 40 – 50 mph, which is, as I understand it, most manufacturers’ fuel efficiency “sweet spot” for gasoline engines.

Looking ahead, I have a couple of things to work on and a full tank that will hopefully carry me through until 10/1/2013 when, I have to turn in my keys to the Prius C. We’ll have to see how that affects my overall gas mileage in the coming weeks.


Sara Sawochka