Aug 11, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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In what has been a banner week for drivers starting to get more attention among the media and automakers -- which is a step closer to their getting more say in the kinds of cars we can buy. Today, the talk of many online discussion groups, some newspapers (and eventually, it appears, an HBO documentary) is: Prius drivers using every trick in the book to go 1,400 miles on a tank of gas
Below we've reprinted the local Pittsburgh "pre- and post-marathon" reports, and links to some of the online buzz. And for the numbers fans, CalCars is hosting the spreadsheet results of the Marathon (prints neatly on one page) at
No one is saying everyone can achieve stratospheric performance levels in everyday life -- but it has important implications for how we (globally) drive and what kind of cars we need. We'll have more to say about this soon.
One more thing: lest you think that the subject is relevant only to hybrid drivers, here's what team member Dan Kroushl (who has been an active member of the PRIUS+ PHEV Conversion Group) said at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/Prius_Technical_Stuff/message/13253 (see more discussion there):
> Suppose you drove a standard car with manual transmission and accelerated "smartly" (ie so the throttle is pretty much open) and then popped into neutral and shut off the engine for the glide.
> What kind of performance can you expect, compared to the 100+ in the Prius?
OK, fair enough. One of our drivers owns a new Accord, in which he has imitated the pulse and glide technique. IIRC, he was able to record 75 MPG over a stretch of over 30 miles. Another driver has a Civic Hybrid and used the same technique, shutting off the ICE during the glide and starting back up for the pulse. He recorded 90 MPG for one 30 mile round trip, the same course that we ran the Prius on.
We have some ideas about how to broaden that discussion to non-hybrid users....
Friday, August 05, 2005
By Elwin Green, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005
Hybrid drivers to push Prius to the limit
Fans of the hybrid car, take note. The rest of you might want to pay attention, too.
Starting tonight, a four-man driving team will attempt to achieve the highest mileage-per-gallon ever recorded in the sporty Toyota Prius: 100 miles per gallon.
The men -- Dave Bassage of Walton, W.Va., Dan Kroushl of Pittsburgh; Wayne Gerdes of Chicago; and Rick Reece of Greenville, S.C. -- met online in forums and discussion groups for Prius owners. Their shared interest in maximizing their gas mileage led them to devise the experiment that they will conduct this weekend, essentially comprising two steps:
Step one: Fill up the gas tank of a Prius.
Step two: Drive nonstop until the gas runs out.
The "test track" for their endurance run, which the drivers expect to last 38 to 40 hours, will be a 14-mile stretch of Route 65 running in front the Sewickley Country Inn, where the four are lodging for the weekend.
"It'll be four middle-aged men spending a hot weekend in Pittsburgh going nowhere -- and calling it fun," said team spokesman Bassage.
Bassage said the marathon drive was Kroushl's idea. So he got to pick the route.
"We all have been working on trying to maximize our fuel economy, and Dan's had the most success of any of us," Bassage said. "He's been able to get consistently up in the 80 miles-per-gallon range."
To the best of his knowledge, Bassage said, no one has tallied more than 90 miles per gallon from a full Prius tank.
They plan to drive one at a time, in four-hour shifts, beginning tonight at 6 p.m.
If they reach their 100 miles-per-gallon goal, they will have driven nearly 1,200 miles (the Prius's gas tank holds 11.9 gallons) by the time the car rolls to a stop Sunday morning.
The published EPA-estimated gas mileage for the Prius -- 60 mpg for city driving, 51 for highway, and 55 for combined -- make it one of the most gas-efficient cars on the road. But that still falls far short of the three-digit target the team has set for itself. So how do the drivers plan to gain an additional 40 to 50 miles per gallon?
In a word, gliding. Or in three words, pulse and glide -- a technique that involves releasing the gas pedal, then depressing it slightly again. Releasing it turns off the gas engine and causes the generator to recharge the battery; depressing it slightly again disengages the generator so that neither the gas engine nor the electric engine in on, allowing the car to glide.
"For the duration of this event, the gas engine will only be running a third of the time," Bassage said. "The rest of the time we'll be in glide mode."
Bassage, administrator of the office of innovation in West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection, said that Prius enthusiasts tend to be either "enviros" like himself, whose primary interest in the vehicle arises from environmental concerns, or "techies" like his teammates, who delight in the car's mechanics.
With oil prices topping $60 per barrel, and gas pumps consistently registering $2.25 a gallon or more, their ranks may soon be swelled by "cheapies" -- people who just want to save money. Especially after President Bush acts on two bills awaiting his signature.
The first replaces a federal tax deduction for buying a hybrid with a more generous tax credit that could total as much as $3,400. The second gives states the right to open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to hybrids, even if there's only one person in the car.
The Prius is the most popular hybrid vehicle in the country. A total of 83,153 hybrids were sold in the United States last year, according to R.L. Polk & Co., a Southfield, Mich.-based firm that collects and interprets automotive data. The Toyota Prius hybrid dominated that market, with 53,761 new Prius cars registered.
(Elwin Green can be reached at egreen@... or 412-263-1969.)
Monday, August 08, 2005
By Jacqueline Shoyeb and Moustafa Ayad
Hybrid drivers complete run for mileage mark 2 days, 1,400 miles, 110 mpg 1 tank
CAPTION: Dave Bassage of Walton, W.Va., heads north on Route 65 in his Toyota Prius hybrid car.
Dan Kroushl punched the gas pedal in his silver Toyota Prius during the final 30 minutes of the 47-hour, 1,397-mile trip completed on a single tank of gasoline.
Kroushl was attempting to suck up the last of the battery energy and gas his car had been running on for most of the weekend.
The fuel light had been on for the past eight hours and trying to break the unofficial record for most miles per gallon set by a hybrid in Japan had become more of a headache than an astonishing feat.
Kroushl and four other middle-aged men are fuel-obsessive mileage maniacs, who drove themselves into the Internet's record pages with a jaw-dropping joy ride over a 15-mile stretch of Route 65 in Sewickley while averaging a little more than 110 miles a gallon.
"We are all running on fumes just like the vehicle," said Dave Bassage, the spokesman for the group and one of the drivers. "The only way I can describe it is it's pretty incredulous. This is so far beyond what we thought was possible."
The men -- Kroushl of McCandless, Bassage of Walton, W.Va.,, Wayne Gerdes of Chicago, Rick Reece of Greenville, S.C., and Bob Barlow from Fredericksburg, Va. -- drove continuously, stopping only to switch drivers every four hours like a NASCAR crew.
Their journey was chronicled by an HBO film crew, who recorded their every moment, even a brush at a local BP station where they were run off the property because only CBS affiliates could film at the station. And Barlow, the lawyer in the group, was pulled over by police yesterday at 2 a.m. because he was driving too slow.
In order to achieve extreme fuel economy, the team primarily used a gas-saving technique called pulse and glide. It's a form of coasting that involves releasing the gas pedal, then pressing it slightly again to disengage the electric motors. And as they glide, the drivers glance at a built-in screen displaying vital statistics like average miles per gallon.
"It's like playing a video game," said Bassage.
Using this technique, the team estimates they used the gas engine on only about 33 percent of the trip.
Kroushl's Prius finally rolled to a stop at 6:55 p.m. yesterday, five minutes short of 48 hours on the road. He drove more than 15 hours of the trip and emerged from the car drenched in sweat -- he was trying to boost fuel economy by not running the air conditioning.
But why spend a weekend driving nowhere?
The men each have their reasons, but it all boils down to two things: competition and hypermile super stardom.
"It's just a challenge," Kroushl said. "Some people want to race cars, see how fast they can go. I don't have a race car, so I'm doing the best with what I have."
Kroushl, an engineer, is the mastermind behind the almost three-day marathon.
He originally bought his Prius in January 2004 to save on gasoline, but soon afterward he began seeking out roads that could let him clock well beyond the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 51 highway mpg estimate.
In April, he found a smooth stretch of Route 65 where he was able to hit 100 mpg.
After more than a year's practice, Kroushl proposed his idea in online forums and discussion groups for Prius owners.
The challenge caught the attention of Reece, Gerdes and Bassage, three of the highest-reaching hypermilers on the Web.
"We're a little wacky," Bassage said. "I'm the greenie in the group, the tree hugger, and the rest are techies."
And whatever the reason for purchasing a hybrid, whether for the environment, the wallet or the technology, more Americans are turning toward the nifty electric cars.
Last year, there were 83,153 new hybrids registered in the nation, a 91 percent increase from 2003, according to R.L. Polk & Co., a Michigan-based firm that collects and analyzes automotive data.
The hybrid society is growing, but most probably won't achieve the hypermile status these hard-core hybrid owners have.
Gerdes, a nuclear plant operator, estimates about 1 percent of the public fall into the hypermile category.
"It's a trip," Gerdes said. "It can be addictive, but it also helps our environment and our oil dependency."
A FEW ONLINE LINKS (some of the servers may be overloaded today!)
Columnist Kip Munro's summary of Pulse and Glide technique Plus link to posts where Honda driver Wayne Gerdes, team member who started driving a Prius one month ago, describes his experience
10 pages of commentary so far
a more diverse crowd of auto enthusiasts