Fuelishness! -- The FuelClinic.com Blog

Gas Prices Steadily Climb Again – What Have We Done To Stop It?

Take a look at this graph of average gas prices courtesy of GasBuddy.com and you’ll see that prices continue to rebound from the “crash” of 2008… which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.


Not much has changed as far as our “oil addiction” since the “crash”. Looking back, it seems that Cash for Clunkers was the only national attempt at dealing with oil’s monopoly since the collapse, and the merits of that program as an energy policy are laughable.

It took a global economic collapse to undercut the oil gouging, something we can not afford to repeat. (I continue to assert that the uncertainty of affordable fuels contributed to the economic tsunami that brought world markets to their knees that summer.)

What are we going to do to shift oil from a strategic political and economic weapon to just “another” commodity that must compete with alternative sources?

1. I’ve long been a proponent of Flex-Fuel vehicles, since they offer the simple option to use purely petroleum based gasoline or alternative alcohol-blended (up to 85%) gasoline replacement fuels. Manufacturers “promised” to add Flex-Fuel capabilities into much of their fleets by 2010, yet most only add the systems to the most inefficient models, taking “credit” for making their fleet more efficient instead. Having Flex-Fuel vehicles on the road in great numbers will be an incentive for stations to carry more alcohol-blends, and at the same time allow motorists to travel far and wide without worry that they won’t find a filling station specific to their vehicle while the network of supply is created by the opportunity to serve this demand.

2. Small efficient diesel engines are hot sellers in Europe – 50% of all new car sales across the pond are diesels. Why? Because they are clean, quiet, powerful, last a long time, and get upwards of 65 to 80 MPG every day of the week. Plus you can fuel them with bio-diesel, and reduce the amount of petroleum based diesel fuel. Again, you can travel far and wide, taking advantage of bio-diesel when available – an incentive for stations to carry the product. Since bio-diesel is made closer to home, distribution is cheaper, jobs are created locally, and competition controls costs.

3. Hybrids are great technology for getting slightly better mileage from a gallon of gas – but they are all still 100% petroleum-dependent. Flex-Fuel Electric or Diesel Electric hybrids would allow motorists to offset even more of their oil addiction to alternatives, not just kick the can down the road a little further.

4. 100% electric vehicles are still not a replacement for the family car in most cases. High costs, limited range, and long recharging times limit options and create a situation where drivers must change habits (and hardware) to participate. Plus there is the battery problem, making exotic metal ore addiction the replacement for oil addiction.

5. Conservation (aka: eco-driving) is first-aid remedy immediately available for free (better than free when you consider the money savings) available to everyone right now. With modest changes to your driving habits, you can increase your fuel mileage 5% to over 25% no matter what you prefer to drive (including Hummers and Hybrids). And while “ecodriving” sounds like “hypermiling” to some people, in fact eco-driving is easy, courteous, and safer driving. It does require you to pay attention to operating your car (shouldn’t you be?), but relieves you from the urge to compete against those other drivers around you, and instead compete against the gas pump.

In the end, as we approach the future still addicted to oil we limit our geopolitical power and remain at the mercy of markets we do not have much control over politically. We have been at war for years thanks to oil, with no end in sight. While our planets poorest nations are prime real-estate for several bio-fuel industries that could lead them from poverty to prosperity, the “powers that be” lobby and maneuver to protect their monopoly on your mobility.

What are you doing to make progress? What do you see as our future?



Oprah Show: Distracted Driving – America’s New Deadly Obsession

Oprah Winfrey is using her considerable influence to educate motorists to the growing dangers of distracted driving, a topic near to our hearts here at FuelClinic.

Millions of people text, talk or e-mail on their cell phones while driving—a recent survey finds that 71 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 admit they text or talk on the phone while they drive.

If you think you can call, text and drive at the same time, you cannot. That message you can’t wait to send could kill. Distracted driving is an epidemic that is sweeping through our country, claiming lives and destroying families.

On Monday, she aired an entire episode dedicated to her new cause. While you can’t find the full episode online, here is a short clip available at CNN.

We applaud Oprah along with the many professional driving educators, technology creators, and others working every day to make positive changes in this important effort.



FuelClinic data included in Copenhagen case study

A few weeks ago I was asked by EcoDrivingUSA to create a graphic describing some aggregate efficiency improvement data from the information collected here at FuelClinic. The intent was to demonstrate the efficacy of eco-driving techniques for improving fuel efficiency and decreasing GHG emissions.

I spent a few hours pouring through the database, to find the best data set to describe our users maintaining fuel receipt records, making sure not to skew the numbers, but selecting a sub-set of our most active members who do not have data entry problems (automatically flagged as “suspect” by FuelClinic – a whole topic unto itself).

Then I created the following graphic, with this description:

fuelclinic-average-no-training

This information made it into an “EcoDriving Impact Study for Copenhagen” presented by Driving Sustainability earlier this month. What’s most impressive is that the average improvement in fuel efficiency is 5.23% without any real form of ecodriving training – a point not lost on the authors of the study:

According to FuelClinic.com, the average EcoDriver improves their efficiency by 5.3%. These are drivers who have had no formal instruction on green driving…

If everyone in the US improved their efficiency by a basic EcoDriving level of 5%, this would result in a 66,346,545 ton reduction in CO2 emissions in the US.

The most active FuelClinic account users are benefiting from following simple online tips and believing that they can improve their fuel efficiency. The effort it takes to create an account, collect multiple receipts, and enter that information into the application is not trivial, and it indicates that a percentage of motorists are interested in understanding their fuel efficiency – and just the act of being “involved” and improving their understanding is all it take to turn an average motorist into a basic EcoDriver.

As an aside – my personal goal for FuelClinic is to increase this average efficiency improvement to 10% by the end of 2010.

You can download the case study (.pdf) here.



Video: Eco-Driving Training

Take a few minutes to see a bit of eco-driving training in action. This video was shot in the UK, where eco-driving techniques are more well established and practiced more frequently (after all fuel is quite a bit more expensive in Europe than it is here in the US) – but the lessons are universal, and not difficult at all.

Both mention how difficult it is to change driving habits, that it may take as long as 6 months to overcome the “automatic” existing habits. In the end the driver gets some feedback that he has almost doubled his fuel efficiency with the new habits – a powerful motivation to motorists looking to save money while maintaining current their current lifestyle.



Introducing CarChip Pro w/ Eco-Driving Profile to FuelClinic Users

One of the most interesting things about “eco-driving” is that you can actually measure your progress and see the results of your efforts. FuelClinic allows you to track your overall MPG and related metrics over time, but it takes at least two receipts in order to establish your baseline, and then many more receipts over time to see if your mileage is improving or not. This is great because it’s simple, low-tech, and maybe best of all – it’s free.

But what if you wanted to dig deeper into your driving habits, to see exactly how you are driving vs. how you think you are driving. Maybe you need a little bit of help remembering to drive efficiently, some “virtual eco-driving coaching” along the way. Maybe you wanted to be able to “check in” on your inexperienced teenage driver to see that he or she is driving safely, or check to determine if your employees are doing what they can to drive efficiently and lower your fuel costs.

What is required is an interactive data-logger. There are several gadgets on the market, or soon-to-be released to the market. We’ve spent the last several months evaluating many of these devices for integration with our certified eco-driving training course using the reporting capabilities of FuelClinic, and have found several that seem very promising.

One of our top criteria is that the device not become a distraction to the driver, that it didn’t require the driver take his/her eyes off the road to look at a display or other indicators. Instead we looked for devices that gave simple auditory cues to remind the driver when his/her driving behavior exceeded pre-defined thresholds, and one that allowed the user or fleet manager to determine for themselves what “Eco-Driving Profile” to attempt to achieve.

I believe one in particular hits a sweet spot between cost, capability, ease of use, and integration potential. It’s called the CarChip Pro (and CarChip Fleet Pro for commercial use) manufactured in the USA by Davis Instruments. We’ve been testing several of the units for over a month now and have been getting feedback from professional driving school and fleet owners. Response was very positive, so I have decided to start selling these devices on the website.

CarChip-Pro-8226-Clamshell

CarChip Pro is a portable device that requires no extra wires or batteries (a USB cable is all that is needed to download the data to your computer), is installed in just a few seconds into the OBDII port that is standard on most cars since 1996, and can be moved from vehicle to vehicle easily. I’m working on a new section for FuelClinic that will provide all of the details about CarChip Pro, along with guidence on how to set-up an “Eco-Driving Profile” using the software provided with the unit.

I’m really excited about the CarChip Pro – Davis Instruments has been making the CarChip line of data loggers for nearly a decade, they are small, reliable, and have already been installed in tens of thousands of vehicles. The CarChip Pro is also one of the least expensive interactive data loggers on the market – with no monthly cellular fees or required contracts, making it attractive to parents, consumers, driving school owners, and small business fleet owners (there is also a commercial Fleet version with additional capabilities including a WIFI wireless data-download option and GPS data logging).

Stay tuned for more information about the CarChip Pro and how you can order yours (with a special discount) here at FuelClinic.



Fuelishness! Feed: Saving Money Motiviate Drivers; Oil & Gas Not Prepared for Risk; New Drilling Tech vs. Peak Oil; Doubts about 2016 Efficiency Goals

  • Money proves biggest motivator for a motorist’s eco-driving choices — When it comes to fuel efficiency, saving money trumps saving the environment for most people who have recently bought – or are thinking of buying – a new vehicle.
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  • Oil and Gas at Risk From Climate Change but The Industry is Not Prepared — A new Acclimatise report backed by IBM, entitled Global Oil & Gas – The Adaptation Challenge has identified top five impacts of climate change to the oil and gas industry. While three quarters of the world’s oil and gas companies surveyed believe climate change could impact their business, only 19 percent are taking action as noted in this Acclimatise report.
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  • New Techniques Oil Companies are Using in Drilling for Oil — As the politics and philosophical arguments about “Peak Oil” continue to rage, science continues to move steadily onward, progressively creating new and better ways to both find and extract oil that we never could have previously discovered, as well as get a lot more bang for our buck by more effectively utilizing the oil that we currently have readily available to us in our current reserves.
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  • Fuel efficiency up, but many miles to go — EPA report shows small gains in ’08, casts doubts on meeting 2016 goals — Americans bought slightly more efficient cars and trucks in 2008 compared with a year earlier, and are expected to do so again this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday.


Firms Can Save By Going Green

Source: Chicago Sun Times

“There’s no question that if you improve driver behavior, specifically improve driver efficiency, you’ll create less emissions because you burn less gas,” said Samsel, program director.

Some corporations adopt green fleet programs to be more environmentally friendly, while others just want to save money. Whatever the motive, the result is the same — a gallon of gas not burned means 19.5 pounds of carbon dioxide that doesn’t go into the air.

“Ultimately, what we seek to do is reduce greenhouse emissions,” said Jason Mathers, project manager with the Environmental Defense Fund. He said EDF wants corporate fleet managers to focus on emissions, and aim at the “low-hanging” fruit that can easily lower fuel consumption, like driving habits and vehicle size and type.



Spy-in-the-cab Could Improve Teenage Driving

Source: New Scientist

ACCIDENT rates among teenage drivers could be slashed using in-car technology that warns them when they are driving recklessly.

So says safety engineer Oren Musicant at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, who wanted to know if in-car technology could help reduce the appalling number of teenage deaths on the roads. In the US, for instance, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, accounting for over one-third of all deaths of those aged between 16 and 19 years old.

In March 2008, Staffordshire County Council in the UK trialled in-vehicle data recorders with 50 local teenage drivers over six months. The IVDRs, made by GreenRoad of San Francisco, California, are more commonly used to help truckers drive more safely and with greater fuel efficiency. The IVDR monitors unsafe driving events, such as overly sharp turns, heavy acceleration, hard braking and fast lane-changes. The warning system was switched on halfway through the trial. From that point, red, yellow and green LEDs on the facia of a dashboard-mounted box told the drivers how they were faring.

The unsafe driving events undertaken by each driver halved after the warning system was turned on. Musicant reckons the system could become part of the measures insurance companies mandate for teenage drivers: “Some insurance companies already adjust premiums depending on how far you drive – in pay-as-you-drive programmes. This could be part of such measures, lowering premiums if a teenager uses a risk detector.”



Changing Human Behavior by Adding Some Fun

November 19, 2009 · Filed Under Driver Performance Improvement, Driver Training · Comment 

Easily understandable feedback can help motivate people to change their behavior. When they can “see” the results of their behavior, and “evaluate” the results of slight changes in their choices, there is the potential to motivate people to make changes in their behavior – based on what they decide to do with that feedback.

Here’s a video of an experiment to motivate people to choose to use the stairs instead of an escalator – by making the stairs interact with each person in an interesting way – providing feedback and letting the people have a little bit of fun.

What’s also interesting to note in this short video is that some people apparently choose to take the stairs only because it is what other people are choosing to do. Some walkers obviously enjoy interaticting with the steps, others just trudge along behind. So you don’t have to change the behavior of everyone in the group that approaches the stairs/escalator at the same time, just a few individuals who will “lead” others to scurry up the stairs vs. take the perfectly functional escalator

Here at FuelClinic we help motorists and fleet owners monitor the fuel efficiency of their driving behavior, and offer simple advice on how to improve their fuel efficiency. In the next generation of FuelClinic we are developing the ability to collect much more detailed information from the vehicle that will allow the user greater insight into their driving behaviors – allowing them to set goal for themselves, and have a little real-time help along the way.



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