One of the most important skills for safe driving and efficient driving is to be a Defensive Driver and to be aware of your surroundings.
My dad drove city bus in Minneapolis for most of my life growing up and he got defensive driving training twice a year. He would always share with my mom and me what things he was taught and he would apply them no only driving the city bus, but also driving a car. Now that he's pushing 70 I can tell that his reaction times have slipped but he's still an excellent driver because he pays very keen attention to what's going on around him and is almost never caught off guard by other morons on the road.
One example of something that he taught me to do is being aware of stop signs in residential neighborhoods. In Minneapolis the residential intersections usually have stop signs only for one of the two streets. And the streets alternate which one has a stop sign, meaning if you're continuing down the same street for various blocks you will have a stop sign every other street. Many drivers seem clueless to this though and either don't stop and yield at their stop sign because they think you'll stop too or they stop when they don't have a stop sign because they think they do have one. I've avoided many near accidents by paying attention from afar to what the stop sign situation is at the next intersection so that I can be ready for some idiot to be unaware of the traffic situation and cause problems. There are certain intersections that I know are especially bad for this and I am extra careful around those.
Little things like this are how I almost never get less than a 100% brake score and why our Lifetime Brake score is at 99% after 16000+ miles. I'm sure that if I were the only one driving the car my Lifetime Brake score would say 100% but when my wife drives she probably averages 96-97% for her brake scores so she pulls it down a little.
As far as acceleration I sometimes accelerate at 1 bar on the Empower screen, most often about 1.5-1.75 bars and sometimes 2-2.5 bars. I determine how fast to accelerate depending on the situation. If I know I won't be going far before stopping again (i.e. residential neighborhoods with lots of stop signs, driving through downtown or in heavy traffic) then I accelerate more slowly because accelerating quickly is wasteful. Typically I accelerate somewhere around 1.75 bars on the Empower screen. I find that this is a nice balance between ICE run time to charge the battery and fuel consumption. On occasion I know taking off from a certain stop sign or traffic light that I have to hurry to make the next light green. Making the next light green by accelerating quickly is more efficient than accelerating slowly and stopping again. So in those situations I'll go as high as 2.5-3 bars of acceleration. Wow! The car really moves fast when you step on the gas that hard. The acceleration coach bar gives me a bad score after that but I know that I'm smarter than the coach in those situations.
Sometimes my acceleration depends on battery SOC and my knowledge of the road ahead. If my SOC is low then I'll accelerate more slowly to get more seconds with the ICE on and thus more charge in the battery for cruising. If my SOC is high then I'll accelerate more quickly, but not quickly enough that the battery shows the down arrow that it's discharging because it is most efficient to keep the battery charging even more in that situation. If I know that I'll soon be going uphill I'll try to plan my acceleration to make sure that the ICE is on going uphill because that's more efficient. If I know I'll soon go downhill I accelerate more slowly and then use the downhill to gain speed. When I'm in EV mode I try to keep the power demand to 1 bar or less, if the power demand exceeds 1 bar then I step on the gas a little bit harder so that the ICE comes on and then I'll back off to the amount of acceleration I want. That way I run the electric motor under a light load where it is most efficient and the ICE under a heavy load where it is most efficient.
This is how I'm able to pretty consistently average 60+ MPG in city driving, even in unfavorable conditions such as rain, extreme heat & humidity with AC use or freeway trips around town. I don't do any hypermiling like Pulse & Glide or any of that stuff because that requires too much concentration and would distract me from being a safe & defensive driver. To do what I describe above I don't have to think about it, I just do it subconsciously. Driving techniques like the aforementioned ones are the things I'm trying to teach my wife so that we can have a tank at 60+ MPG instead of them being torn down to 50-55 only because of her driving averaging about 45-50 MPG only on very similar routes. That's a 10-15 MPG difference just in our driving styles because I follow the guidelines above whereas she accelerates at about 2 bars all the time regardless of the situation and isn't as aware of her surroundings.
Hopefully these tips will help others to get the most out of every drop of gas in their cars.
Edited by hybridbear, 14 August 2013 - 03:12 PM.
typos fixed & more info added