Much has been made of the discrepancy between the rated fuel economy of hybrid cars and the actual results that drivers get on the road. Sure, "actual mileage may vary," but that variance proved particularly wide for hybrids, and was especially aggravating since fuel efficiency was the main reason people bought the hybrids in the first place.
Now comes the Dean of Energy Geeks, Amory Lovins, to offer a solution. According to his half-page piece in the current issue of the Rocky Mountain Institute newsletter (p. 15 of large pdf), hybrid owners need to learn a new style of driving to take advantage of their cars’ technology. Lovins calls it "pulse driving," and it has two main components:
– Brisk acceleration, then letting up once you reach cruising speed. "The engine is most efficient at high speed and torque," he writes.
– Gentle braking, anticipating the need to stop. This allows the car to recover as much energy as possible and feed it into the battery. If you try to stop more suddenly, the mechanical brakes kick in, and they dissipate that precious energy as mere heat.
Lovins claims that this strategy has enabled him to eek out 63 mpg with snow tires on his 64-mpg-rated Insight, and will bring in 53 to 55 mpg on the 55-mpg-rated Prius.
Not having a Prius, I can’t test-drive this advice, but I’d be curious how it squares with the observations of all you hybrid drivers out there.