Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Zen of Driving a Hybrid

I have been driving one for almost two months now and have come to the grand conclusion that the best way to drive a hybrid car, is not to think that it is a hybrid.
My new car came with a snazzy display right next to the speedometer, tastefully lit indicators showing me that I was in 'Charging' or EV (electric vehicle) or 'Eco' hybrid (Electric + gas engine) or 'Power' (gas engine) mode. It had little prompts on the screen showing me the running average of mileage that I was getting from my driving. Having started its journey to me from a dealership lot in VA, it already had about 280 miles on it, with a driver who was either running the A/C constantly, or had a leaden foot, as the average mileage showed 33 miles.
To my delight, as I continued to drive the car, set firmly to the 'Eco' mode, it was averaging about 45- 47 mpg on each individual trip, patting me on the back as I turned off the power switch- Any trip which clocks 42+ miles-per-gallon is marked with  a little display showing 'Excellent!' , like giving a preschooler a star and candy for mastering each letter in the alphabet.
But then the rate of increasing mileage started to slow, after an initial quick climb to the 40 mark. It started to painfully creep up (and down), adding 0.1 mpg over a period of days, then weeks. Now it appears to be taking a month to move up, the mark has been stuck at 41.7mpg.
I tried driving slower, especially local trips, striving to keep the car in the EV zone whenever possible, but that didn't always make for higher mileage. The ups and downs of the Pittsburgh roads will do that to you.
I tried driving a bit slower than usual on the highway, staying mostly on the right lane. The mileage didn't improve.
I tried keeping the car in Eco mode whenever possible. Again, no dice.
I gave up looking at the gauges and started driving normally, not paying attention to the mode, whether EV, Eco or Power, just focussing on carefully getting to work and back in the least time that I could manage.
Bingo, the mileage per trip started to go up again.
So, here we come to the moral of the story.  
To achieve the zen of driving, drive with true detachment  to the mileage recorded for the trip, just focus on getting from point A to B. It's the trip, not the vehicle, that matters.