Last year, American car buyers named fuel economy the most important consideration when shopping for a car, outranking even quality and safety. The change coincides nicely with the flood of hybrid and high-efficiency internal-combustion engines on the market. But as efficient as an engine may be—the best among them can get up to 50 miles per gallon—they can't compensate for one glaring inefficiency: us. Poor driving habits (floor it!) can slash fuel economy by as much as one-third. To maximize it, engineers need to not only remake the cars; they need to remake the drivers.
In his dissertation "Charismatic Computers," B.J. Fogg, a psychologist at Stanford University, demonstrated how technology can influence behaviors. In his model, an action is the result of three elements—motivation, ability, and a trigger. For drivers, the motivation for efficiency is clear: saving fuel saves money. (What's more, it can help reduce their carbon footprint.) And any driver has the ability to save gas just by sticking below 50 mph and avoiding abrupt acceleration and braking. What's been missing is the trigger.
Nissan Leaf, are packed with instruments that are designed to encourage better habits. The Fusion's LCD, for example, shows leaves and vines to signify good driving.Until the late 1990s, drivers had no way of knowing how much fuel they were consuming at a given time. Then Honda introduced the Insight, the first mass-produced hybrid in the U.S. It was one of the first cars with a real-time fuel-consumption meter in the dash. The trigger was born. Now the dashboards of eco-friendly cars, whether it's the Ford Fusion or the
Real-time data interfaces are spilling into cars with conventional internal-combustion drivetrains, as well. In the past few years, developers have launched a number of smartphone apps that analyze a phone's accelerometer data to provide readouts of driving style and its effect on fuel efficiency. Other apps, including Torque and Automatic, incorporate dongles that plug into a car's onboard diagnostics port. The Bluetooth-connected dongles relay engine-performance information from a car's onboard computer to an app. The Automatic app, for instance, chimes when it detects speeding, hard braking, or hard acceleration.
Just as Fogg predicted, these triggers work. A study by the University of California Transportation Center found that when drivers were provided with instantaneous miles-per-gallon feedback, fuel economy improved on average by 6 percent on city streets. Apply those gains across only one-third of the cars in the U.S. and drivers could save billions of dollars in gas.
Monitoring and controlling driver behavior could also pave the way for automotive advances. Quantifying cars is an important step toward automating them. The more performance data automakers collect, the better able they will be to perfect the algorithms that will eventually direct our automatic chauffeurs.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.
(Less touching moving parts makes for less friction and better economy.)
I drove a Chevy Sprint 3 cylinder and got around 50mpg with the air conditioner on. All this extra exotic technology the car manufactures are adding is just adding to their profit margin, making the car itself more complex and costly and not really adding to economy.
(Gas Mileage: 1908 Ford Model T - 25 MPG
2008 EPA Average All Cars - 21 MPG)
Mythbusters did a show on Hyper-miling.
It was busted - when people said it could "double" your milage.
On one of the tests, it was only about 20 Miles from doubling the milage.
So by changing your driving habits, you can greatly increase your milage.
although it includes:
turning off the car @ stop signal,
Driving a constant speed ... around 45Mph / 72Kph
slow acceleration & decelleration
-just to mention a few
Sure, the Model T may have gotten similar fuel economy as an average car today. But add heat, air conditioning, seat belts, a trunk, enough power to get up to highway speeds and for decent acceleration, wind-shield wipers, radio, gps, cruise control, etc -- and then how do they stack up?
Or better yet, tell Ford to build a car that seats four with no storage, has no creature comfort, does not confirm to any modern safety or emissions requirements. Let them stick in a 500cc motor -- I'm sure they'll get ~100 MPG or more city [and unknown highway since it won't be fast enough to do it]
It's really quite simple: just cut off the lead foot. Both of them if necessary!
Reduce the cylinders to 3 or less as in my firt example and yes cut off both lead feet per gizmowiz suggestion.
You are all missing an obvious trick.
Use the car less.
Vacuum gauges have provided good guidance for many many years.
Some people even use them.
With the advent of computer controlled cars there are many gadgets that report mpg because they monitor how much gas the computer is demanding. I'm pretty sure that they predated the Honda Insight.
Can they help, I suppose, but it doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you drive smoother you'll use less gas -- not to mention reducing stress on your mechanicals.
... also, maybe if the greedy gas companies stopped charging us so much for gas, we wouldn't need to worry about this so much.
I remember when gas was $0.57/L
It is silly to simply consider the MPG of one's personal vehicle choice. What matters more is how much total fuel is consumed by the individual over time.
Or even more important is how much that individual contributes to the overall welfare of society versus their energy consumption. In these terms, a person that consumes lots of energy but makes a large contribution to the overall welfare of society is of far greater value than a person that consumes little energy but also creates an economic burden on society.
Ehm, I thought the US was close to be self-sufficient for fosslile fuel. So I'm waiting to get a gallon for 50 cents again. Am I wrong?