Tech: How To Get Better EV Mileage

Tech: How To Get Better EV Mileage

Tips to Combat Electric Car Range Anxiety

Electric vehicles are greatly appreciated for providing an alternative to expensive gas and diesel cars, yet the technology is far from perfect. One thing that bothers many drivers is the range anxiety. Here are some tips to get better EV mileage.

A typical EV cannot go the same distance as a combustion-powered vehicle (on a single “fill up”) and, combined with a possible scarcity of charge points in your area, this is one of the leading factors preventing people from adopting the technology.

Yet, it is still possible to improve your mileage. Hypermiling has long been used in traditional cars and many of these factors work with EVs.

Basic Maintenance

Nissan Leaf motor

Under the hood, a simpler world

Overall, maintenance is easy for an EV, since there isn’t a combustion engine to worry about. That said, the rest of the areas are, for the most part, fundamentally the same.

For the best example, simply look at your tires. Their condition determines how much energy is converted into movement, or wasted due to inefficiencies. It doesn’t take much to keep the tire pressure optimal, but it ensures the battery isn’t wasting energy.

The same can also be said for ensuring you don’t overload your car or add external fixtures (like roof racks) that create air resistance. It’s easy to do, but greatly helps in the long run.

Regenerative Braking

One of the biggest ways to save energy is to regain it via regenerative brakes (a common feature in EVs). Here, you can coast with the car, using gentle braking and accelerating to maintain your speed. It is regular but soft touches of the pedal that will make use of regenerative braking, saving a little power as you go.

This also works well when going down hills. Once you get an intuitive understanding of your braking system, you maintain your speed with gentle, but firm, use of the braking. This makes use of natural momentum, easing the requirements on the engine, and building up regenerative power along the way.

The Best Speed

2016 Fiat 500e, EV,electric car, road tst

Your speed may vary, but it’s important

With combustion engines, many people agree that a speed close to 55 mph is often the most ideal. Of course, this does not apply to wholly electric engines.

Right now, there is not enough data to determine what the best speed is and it will vary from car to car. Some online research, as well as your own observations, however, might highlight what speed range is the most efficient. While this might not always be practical, it’s a good fact to know when you don’t mind arriving at your destination a little late.

Route Planning

Many EVs come with sat nav and other features as standard but, as many drivers know, the most direct route is not necessarily the best one as far as energy preservation is concerned. Every time you have to bring your car to a halt, you waste energy. Of course, regenerative braking ensures this isn’t as bad in EVs as it is in combustion-based vehicles.

Likewise, you can also consider your speed, as mentioned above. You might find taking a route that is better for your desired speed is more efficient, even if a little longer, than the stop-and-start nature of driving straight through town.

As you can see, there are a few ways to help get better mileage from an EV. While the changes won’t be drastic, they can make a noticeable improvement and help put any concerns about range anxiety to rest.

Comparison Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius & Prius Plug-in

Comparison Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius & Prius Plug-in

The Hybrid Sales Leader Continues Its Market Dominance By Plugging In Its Icon.

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, Hybrid,EV

Toyota – expanding the leading brand with a plug

In the world of automotive sales, earning the ranking of top-selling model in any category is a considerable achievement. In an internal combustion engine world, when the Toyota Prius became the best-selling vehicle line in the State of California in 2012 and then backed it up with a repeat in 2013, it was huge for a hybrid to take the prize. The Prius had a strong national presence in 2013 where it was No. 16 in sales for all cars and trucks and No. 10 among cars. To round-out the sales story, Toyota has sold 1.5 million Prius models in the last ten years, easily making it the best selling hybrid car in the United States.

The Prius four-door hatchback first went on sale in the United States in 2000 and the smaller Prius c and larger Prius V came along in 2011. They were joined by the plug-in version in 2012.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive, in back-to-back weeks, the 2014 Prius Hatchback and the 2014 Prius Plug-in Hatchback. Here is a look at the two, where the similarities are many and the differences few.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel-drive 2014 Prius is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, which Toyota calls their Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.

 

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,HOV lane

Plug-in Prius gets you to new places

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 1.8L DOHC, four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor producing a combined 178 horsepower (hp). It adds a 26 hp/60 kW nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) battery and through the electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) delivers 51 city/48 highway for a combined 50 mpg.

The Prius Plug-in is powered by the same gasoline engine and electric motor but adds a 80 hp/60 kW lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that can power the car solely on electricity for about 11 miles. The Prius Plug-in fuel economy is a bit different with 51 city/49 highway but the same 50 mpg combined, but the Plug-in also delivers a 95 mpge when run in EV mode. As with all plug-in hybrids, the driving style and charging regimen will determine actually mileage in the real world.

The Prius Plug-in Li-ion battery is charged by plugging in or through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. There is a standard drive mode “D” or the “B” mode, which recharges the battery at a faster rate when coasting downhill.

In addition to the regenerative charging, the primary method to replenish the batteries is by plugging in. Here’s how much time it will take:

120V           3 hours: discharged to a full charge

240V           1.5 hours: discharged to a full charge

The Prius Plug-in does not come with a 480V Quick Charge option.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The four-door Prius Hatchback 2014 weighs in at 3,042 lbs, with the weight well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. The electrically power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a smooth, although not necessarily quiet, highway ride. The Prius with the 15-inch alloy wheels (17-inch ones are an upgrade) corners so-so with little body roll, but with no sense of feeling sporty. Acceleration 0 – 60 is listed by Toyota at 10 seconds, but that may be the minimum time it takes. No head snapping going on with the Prius,

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

The Prius models plug along

but off-the-line drag racing is not why a million and a half of these have been sold. So, expecting a performance level that Toyota never promised is unfair. But let’s get real on what is fair, fuel economy!

The Prius Plug-in (which weighs in at 3,165 lbs.) offers up-to 11 miles on pure electricity if you go no faster than 30 mph. Other than that, there is little difference in the two models. Once up to freeway speeds, both Prius models shine, delivering 50+ mpg. And if you are into hypermiling, the practice of energy-efficient driving aimed at improving fuel economy beyond the EPA ratings, you may want to see how far you can squeeze that gallon of gasoline or kilowatt of electricity. You don’t need to own a hybrid or EV to practice hypermiling, but it seems this is a hot topic among Prius owners trying to out-distance each other.

Toyota has mastered combining the regeneration system with the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Both Prius models stop straight and true with no brake fade.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2014 Prius has a spacious interior with a twin cockpit design with a “floating” center stack separating the bucket seats. I say “floating” because where most cars have solid sides to their center stack, on the Prius this area is an open tray. Once I got accustomed to fishing around for my stashed items, it was quite handy. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel has all the usual control buttons (audio, phone, cruise control, climate, Bluetooth,

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,dash

Just quirky enough

etc.) including the ability to switch between fuel and battery (hybrid) gauges. Another unique design feature is that the gauges are off to the right a few degrees. Toyota makes-up for this by having a heads-up display (standard on the Four Model–Prius Liftbacks come in Two, Three, Four and Five trim levels) that appears on the windshield directly in-front of the driver. All-in-all it’s a workable system after a short learning curve.

The Prius comfortably seats four full-size adults (five in a pinch), but the front bucket seats could use more thigh bolstering. There is plenty of storage space with or without the 60/40 rear seats folded flat. The car has good sightlines once you get over the spoiler cutting horizontally midway through the rear window. One oddity is that a beeper goes off inside the cabin when shifting into reverse. Odd because as the driver you know you put the car in reverse, the Rearview Camera pops-up on the screen and the beeping is not heard outside of the car where it would be the most useful.

The 2014 Prius is well equipped for safety with remote keyless entry, power door locks, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), projector beam halogen headlights, seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, vehicle stability and traction control and the optional intelligent parking assist and lane departure warning.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Prius is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road. Its wedge-shape has not changed much since redesigned in 2004 and, either you like it or you don’t. The shape is driven completely to reduce wind resistance and drag to increase fuel economy (both Prius models have an excellent .25 coefficient of drag). Rumor has it a new Prius design is a couple of years away, but it would hard to believe that Toyota would venture very far from the general overall shape of the current car.

Pricing

The 2014 Prius base price is $25,010, including the $810 destination charge. The nicely optioned Prius Four I was driving is priced at $33,290 including the $810 destination charge. The Prius Plug-in, which starts at

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,storage

Ready to swallow

$29,990 including the destination charge, qualifies for Federal and State tax credits that could reduce your final cost. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Prius Plug-in purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the Prius Plug-in qualifies for the coveted car pool stickers allowing the driver, with no passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State, but those stickers may only be available for a few months as the demand for them has been strong.

The 2014 Prius comes with these warranties:

  • 3-year/36,000 Comprehensive
  • 5-year/60,000 Powertrain
  • 5-year/Unlimited-mileage Corrosion
  • 8-year/100,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage
  • 15-year/150,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage (applicable states are: CA, MA, NY, NJ, VT, CT, ME, NM and RI) with the exception of the hybrid battery. The hybrid battery is warraned for 10 years/150,000 miles

Observations: 2014 Toyota Prius Hatchback and Prius Plug-in Hatchback

Whether tooling around in-town or venturing out on the open road, if you value paying as little as possible for each mile driven, then the Toyota Prius should be on your shopping list. Not many cars get the outstanding fuel economy of the Prius family.
You will pay more for a hybrid versus a gasoline-powered car and you will need to calculate if the additional cost makes sense for your driving patterns. But, if you are putting a lot of miles on your car or like the ability to cruise around town in pure electric mode like the plug-in version offers, then the additional initial expense may be worth it to you.
You will also pay additional for the Prius Plug-in, with a base price of $29,900 versus the base Prius Hybrid at $24,200. Both prices do not include the $810 Destination Charge. So as you can see, a $5,700 premium for

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,sales

Still leading the hybrid way

the plug-in will be a consideration at purchase time for what amounts to the ability to drive approximately eleven miles on pure electric charge and if you live in California, apply for the stickers that allow a single driver to use the car pool lanes. Hence, the conundrum.

Clean Fleet Report cannot recommend one model over the other as your lifestyle and daily driving needs are the determining factors. But, the Prius reliability and its being the market-leading hybrid should give you confidence that this car will be in your garage for many, many years.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

 Words and Photos by John Faulkner

Posted on March 23, 2014

Related Stories of Interest:

Top Ten Best Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

Toyota Is “All In” on Fuel Cell Electric Cars

GM & Toyota Go Opposite Directions in Pricing Their Plug-ins

 

New Ford Focus EcoMode – Up to 24 Percent Better MPG

New Ford Focus EcoMode – Up to 24 Percent Better MPG

Ford Focus EcoModeNew Ford Focus owners can learn a thing or two about driving skills that can maximize their miles per gallon – and they can have a little fun in the process. EcoMode is a handy software application aimed at helping coach customers in the art of eco-driving – and then rewards those that practice more fuel-efficient driving skills with in-car kudos displayed on the instrument cluster.

The new Ford Focus Electric is expected to have a range of about 100 miles per charge. EcoMode can greatly help people get better range. Those buying new gasoline powered Focus can save hundreds of dollars at the pump each year.

“The foot of the driver has one of the biggest impacts on real-world fuel economy of a vehicle and was the starting point for the development of EcoMode,” said Thomas Schick, an engineer with the Ford of Germany Core Vehicle Integration team who helped design the software. “This is a useful tool that creates awareness between personal behavior and fuel consumption and offers up hints on how to improve. Applying those hints and recommendations is all up to the driver.”

Eco-driving refers to specific on-road behaviors that can improve fuel economy, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In recent internal tests, Ford found that eco-driving skills can improve fuel economy by an average of 24 percent. The nationwide Auto Alliance-supported EcoDriving initiative further claims that if every American put eco-driving skills to work on the road and achieved just a 15 percent benefit in fuel economy, more than 22 billion gallons of gas would be saved each year. Practices most often preached within the eco-driving world include:

  • Using the highest drivable gear
  • Smooth accelerations and decelerations
  • Maintaining constant speeds and anticipating traffic flow
  • Using cruise control on the highway
  • Avoiding excessive idling
  • Avoiding short trips with a cold engine

EcoMode generates a personalized driver operation scorecard by monitoring engine rpm, vehicle speed, accelerator position, clutch position, selected gear and engine temperature related to three of these categories:

  • Gear shifting (when applicable): Is the driver using the highest drivable gear appropriate for the road conditions
  • Anticipation: Is the driver adjusting vehicle speed and distance to other vehicles without the need for heavy braking or acceleration
  • Speed: Is the driver using a cruising speed on open roads that enables high fuel efficiency

People can have fun reaching record scores. Friendly competition between family members can add to the fun. Within the driver information menu on the instrument cluster, Focus drivers can review their generated score against the software’s optimized patterns for each of these disciplines. When drivers do their eco-best, EcoMode rewards them with on-screen kudos that include championship cup icons and playful titles such as Advanced ECO driver or the top prize of ECO champion.

Throughout a drive, the scoring system generates hints on how to gain more leaves for each discipline. A driver looking at the advice screen for Anticipation, for example, may see the hint “Smooth driving saves fuel” displayed on the cluster if he or she is accelerating, decelerating or braking unnecessarily. In Gear Shifting, driver advice might include “Early shifting saves fuel,” if the driver is not shifting up as early as possible in conjunction with their acceleration.

The new Focus also offers an optional map-based navigation application called Eco-Route available with MyFord Touch that gives drivers the ability to choose the most fuel-efficient route, versus with the traditional navigation system defaults of fastest and shortest routes.

A member of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Ford has supported the nationwide eco-driving effort at www.EcoDrivingUSA.com since 2008, and has also developed an eco-driving module for its popular Driving Skills for Life educational program designed for new drivers.