If you’ve been paying much attention to the news, you’ll notice gas prices are again on the rise, and are on course to set records again this year. Even with the economy sputtering and many people out of work, fuel costs costs the average household just under four percent of their income, before taxes, according to the EIA.
…[T]he U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Monday that gasoline expenditures in 2012 for the average U.S. household reached $2,912, or just under 4 percent of income before taxes. This was the highest estimated percentage of household income spent on gasoline in nearly three decades, with the exception of 2008, when the average household spent a similar amount. Gasoline prices averaged $3.63 a gallon in 2012, according to EIA.
Market researchers blame tightening of demand, refinery maintenance, and the other usual suspects. The markets rallied around the rising crude oil prices, and drove them higher before investors decided to take profits and sell off their futures.
California is hardest hit with some of the nations highest prices. Demand is outpacing supply on the left coast, which is ironic, since California sits atop one of the largest shale oil deposits in the country. But even if that oil could be produced (technically it could, politically it doesn’t work out so well), there are no new refineries in the area to turn that crude into fuel.
Which leaves the average motorist at the mercy of the pump and stuck in traffic. Sitting in traffic is costing us 5.5 billion hours a year – and an estimate 121 billion dollars in “wasted time” and fuel. Not hard to imagine, given that any car idling in traffic gets zero mpg while it sits with the engine running.
But, you are not entirely powerless. Get creative about methods for reducing travel (is teleworking an option), share a ride when it works out, time your trips to avoid the heaviest congestion (go into the office early, and leave early if it’s an option), and when all else fails, adopt simple and effective eco-driving skills to make sure you put good use to every drop of fuel you are buying. Even if you are not “green” minded, it will make you a safer driver – which means a cheaper to insure driver, might help you become a happier person, and will certainly allow you to keep a little more of the money you earn from feeding the gas pump.
The ecodriver-project.eu study “A study on perceived usefulness of eco-driving assistant systems in Europe” released this week show there is a great deal of interest in eco-driving, good deal of belief that the benefits are real, but no interest in paying for this kind of technology/service.
While this has been our experience with a consumer-based product (like our FuelClinic), there is considerably more interest from fleets interested in incorporating similar programs into their larger operations, since the cost saving benefits are multiplied well above what your average motorist would see (in addition to the safety and collision reduction side-effects of conservative eco-driving).
So what’s the most effective way to change the behavior of motoring public at little or no cost? How about a piece of duct tape over the fuel gauge?
Download the new eco-driving infographic from the eco-driving experts at Ford.
We’re very happy today to get referenced in a Yahoo Finance post about the winners and losers in the run up on gas prices:
The efficiency complex. When push comes to shove, Americans are really good at figuring out how to do more with less, and how to get more for their money — and then turning those ideas into businesses. When oil soars, websites such as Gasbuddy.com, which points users to cheap gas in the area, experience a surge in traffic. And firms like Propelit, whose software enables trucking fleet managers to monitor the driving habits of employees (and provide incentives for them to drive more efficiently), or FuelClinic.com, which coaches consumers on ways to drive more efficiently, find that their sales pitches go over much better.
We are in the “winners” camp, apparently members of the “efficiency complex”… I’m not sure I renewed membership this year, what with the fuel prices driving up my transportation costs and all.
None the less, very happy to be of service, coaching consumers on ways to drive more efficiently.
What to expect over the next few months… rising food prices that will lag behind fuel prices by a month or two, as most of our food is transported more than 1,500 miles from farm to your local market. Super-commuters will be hit hard, as just getting to work will become more and more expensive.
Will we hit $6.00 per gallon as some predict… what do you think?
Fuelishness! Feed: 1,418 Miles Between Fill-ups; VW’s Eco-Driving Program; Waste up to 45%; Drivers, not cars, to blame; Bio-fuels 10 years after 9/11
It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a Fuelishness! Feed, so this one is overdue. Eco-driving seems to be creeping into the wider American consciousness. Now it’s less about global warming, more about saving money. Here are some of the best stories of the past week or so:
- 1,418 Miles on a Single Tank of Gas, Avg 64MPG – Throughout their journey, in a standard-issue 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid, the drivers averaged 64.55 mpg, and 1,418 miles on the road before having to refill the tank…Taking the recommended approach can net the driver a 45% savings in gas over the course of a year, no matter what vehicle we’re talking about.
- A day at the Volkswagen Eco Driving Programme – Even though I was already a light-footed driver, I still learned a thing or two that will help me save more fuel. The computer that measured our driving really captured all kinds of mindbogglingly useful data which could be graphed and charted.
- Your choices can cut gas cost up to 45% – Less aggressive and slower driving can save up to 30%, so pick your times to let it out. Don’t be perpetually impatient, particularly when it’s not really saving any time and is really costing you gas.
- Cars Don’t Waste Fuel. Drivers Waste Fuel — Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CERT) are developing a new way of boosting fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent without changing a car’s powertrain at all.
- Using biofuels to reduce American dependance on foreign oil — 9/11 refocused attention on energy security. It has remained one of the three foundations of US energy policy in the decade thereafter, the others being economic competitiveness and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The influence of each changes over time but the three are linked inextricably.
There’s one narrative that still needs telling – the connection between safe and efficient drivers. More on that later…
Have you ever been driving along without a care in the world, then you glance down at the fuel gauge and notice that the needle is below the empty mark? You’ve forgotten to fill-up, and you are not sure how much gas is left in the tank… you know where the next gas station is, but it’s not very close…
You lift your foot off the gas pedal a little, slow to a more gingerly pace, coast up to stop lights just hoping that it will turn green before you have to stop, then you slowly accelerate trying to get every last quarter-mile from those last few quarts of gas sloshing around at the bottom of your tank.
Congratulations! You just became an instant eco-driver, no special training required.
But you don’t have to be motivated by the anxiety of being stranded at the side of the road in order to improve your fuel mileage considerably, and as often as you wanted to. The same “techniques” that you instinctively understood would help you with a near-empty fuel tank can also help you go much further on every gallon of gasoline you buy.
Here are the top five techniques that are proven to work on every vehicle.
- Accelerate Gradually – You don’t need to hold up traffic or drive like you left your coffee on the roof. Just accelerate more gradually than normal. Be the slowest off the line, and relax knowing that you are going to get to the next stoplight in about the same amount of time as everyone else.
- Leave Your Aggression Curbside – We’ve all done this. You are in a rush, you didn’t leave early enough to give yourself enough time to account for traffic, and traffic has been slow. You are tailgating the knucklehead in front of you hoping that he’ll move out of your way. The first chance you get you dart over to the fast lane and “make up time” with a little extra lead in your foot. You may think you’re making time, but studies show that drivers who time lights and traffic patterns arrive at their destinations sooner than drivers who drive aggressively. Relax, leave a few minutes early, stop jockeying for “position” with the cars around you, and you’ll find you arrive on time, in a better mood, and with more gas left in the tank.
- Avoid Stopping – Don’t try to tell Officer Friendly that you were saving gas by rolling through stop signs, they can’t be avoided. But the proper timing of lights and traffic patterns like smoothly merging into traffic can go a long way to helping you maintain your momentum. Any amount of momentum you can keep means less work needed to re-accelerate. Avoiding having to start from a total stop will save fuel every time. This takes a little bit of practice to get right, but with a little effort you’ll be negotiating traffic like a pro.
- Loose the Need For Speed – It’s simple physics. The drag on your vehicle increases with speed. The more drag, the more work your engine needs to do to maintain or increase that speed. Work = Fuel. Sure your speedometer on your car goes all the way up to 150 MPH, and the traffic on most major highways zips along above the posted speed limit, but neither is an excuse for not slowing things down a bit if you want to save money on fuel. Stay out of the way of all those filthy rich people who have money to burn, move over to the slow lane, and enjoy the warm feeling of giving “big oil” the bird as you continue to drive to your destination – on your terms.
- No Excessive Idling – This one is a little different, and not my favorite. I don’t recommend turning your vehicle off at stop lights or when you are engaged in stop and go traffic, unless it’s clear that you are in a backup that isn’t going to be moving for many minutes on end. Even then, re-starting a car with a hot battery and hot starter can sometimes be iffy (especially in older cars). The last place you want to be stranded is in the middle of a backup. But there are times when idling is done excessively, more often out of laziness or poor planning. Idling gets exactly zero miles per gallon. Idling in a drive-thru lane is costing you money. You might want to park and walk inside instead. Idling while you eat lunch and listen to the radio is another way to waste gas. Idling to “warm up” your car is a waste, unless it’s winter, and you want the heat to work.
There you have it – five top ways to improve your fuel economy. Most drivers can easily improve 10%, some may get up to 25% or more, depending on how terrible their driving habits were to start with. You can track your progress for free on http://www.fuelclinic.com and see for yourself.
There are 15 more eco-driving tips online at: http://www.fuelclinic.com/eco-driving-tips/
And don’t let the “eco” turn you off, manly-men can eco-drive too!
All signs are pointing to a continued run on fuel costs here in the US, with many experts predicting $5.00+ per gallon prices common by mid-summer. This is despite a continuing slump in crude oil demand here in the US – now at a 12-year low. This paradox between low demand and high prices has many wondering what’s really happening in the market, and where will it go from here.
Some industry advisors blame commodity speculators for the gouging at the pump, while others say a booming Chinese market and weakening dollar are to blame for near-record pump prices. Still others claim it’s the work of the Obama Administration to raise energy costs in order to make alternative sources of energy competitive in price. (After all he did promise to do just that during his campaign.)
Regardless of the cause, the reality to commuters and business owners is a painful reminder of the summer of 2008 when rocketing energy prices caused a wide ripple effect on prices in nearly every sector of the economy. Many businesses were in a panic about paying surging fuel costs while keeping prices low and people employed. Consumers felt it everywhere, but especially at the pump with painful total sale costs per tank of gas.
So what will $5 per gallon gasoline mean to you?
Will you choose to car-pool, buy a more efficient car, walk or bike to work (where possible), take fewer trips, buy gasoline on discount-days, adopt eco-driving habits, or cut-back in other areas of spending to afford your normal driving habits?
Can anyone explain to me how this system works. We are seeing near-record costs for gasoline at the same time demand for crude oil is at an all-time low.
…”Imports fell 1.7 percent to $210.9 billion. A big reason for the decline was that demand for crude oil fell to a 12-year low, which offset higher prices.”… (Source: Forbes)
The EIA indicates that higher crude oil prices are the cause of the higher gasoline prices, not additional taxes or increases in refining.
Graphic Source: EIA
UPDATED – POLL: What will $5 per gallon gasoline mean to you?
The average U.S. household will spend about $700 more for gasoline in 2011 than it spent last year, bringing total motor fuel expenses up 28 percent to $3,235, based on an annual pump price of $3.61 a gallon, the department’s Energy Information Administration said.
Retail gasoline prices soared by 38 cents over the last three weeks to $3.52 per gallon, according to the EIA, because of high crude oil costs due to unrest in the Middle East.
Between 2009 and 2010 we ran a poll on the homepage of FuelClinic.com asking for feedback as to “what motivated you to become interested in eco-driving”. Tonight while going through some materials on my mess of folders on my hard-drive, I found the chart I created of the results. Thing is that I don’t think I’ve posted it previously. (A quick google of the site didn’t turn it up either.) So I’ll post it now.
The results: “Saving Money” was the response of nearly 58% of the 919 respondents, followed by “Reducing Foreign Oil Imports” at nearly 25%, leaving roughly 16% of respondents indicating that “Reducing CO2 Emissions” was their prime motivator.
Eco-driving is a great way to save money, it’s free and easy to do, works in any vehicle – no matter the fuel source, and there are some excellent online training courses becoming available online and at some driving schools. (I know of several courses currently in development, and will blog about them when they are online.)
But what’s also interesting is the strong desire among people who took the poll to reduce foreign oil imports – even above “saving money”.
Most of the time eco-driving is discussed it is in the context of being “good for the environment”, and surely it is. No matter what side of the climate change argument you park your car on, judging from this dataset you’d have to acknowledge that many eco-driving initiatives may be missing the mark by painting it solely as an environmental issue.
Eco-driving has demonstrated significant results in improving driver safety, reducing fuel consumption, reducing emissions and pollution for those drivers who practice the techniques as part of their normal driving. Fleets with eco-driving programs have demonstrated considerable cost savings and improvements in safety thanks to the sheer size and organization of fleet management. But I still do not believe that eco-driving has had any impact on reducing oil imports or reducing the cost of fuel – simply because it hasn’t been used widely enough. We need to convince a significant portion of the driving public that it’s in their interest to make these simple changes.
I think that painting eco-driving with a singular “green” brush may actually be working against the ultimate goals of eco-driving interests, and turn-off a vast percentage of the motoring public who might otherwise give it a try. It’s this arguing between political and social “camps” that keeps the status-quo in place instead of allowing good ideas to be recognized as good ideas. It’s also clear that eco-driving appeals to a wider audience than the “green” camp, and the signal sent in these alternate directions needs to be amplified and repeated.
One estimate I read recently (will link to source if I can find it again) put the realistic potential savings at about $800/yr per eco-driving daily commuter. That’s at least a car payment, maybe a mortgage payment in some parts, but is it “enough” to convince your average motorist that it’s “worth it”? I don’t know. With all of the bad news about the rising cost of gas and oil – some experts expect $5 gas in 2011 or 2012 – it’s likely more people will seek out ways they can reduce the amount of fuel they use.
I’ve been rambling a bit, so I’ll turn it over to whoever is interested enough to tell us what you think.
A five-month ‘eco-driving’ trial involving 5,700 drivers achieved an average fuel saving of 6%, Fiat reported in November.
The most improved tenth of drivers in the trial, covering five EU nations including the UK, reduced fuel use by 16% on average.
Drivers were given a USB ‘memory stick’ which plugged into cars to record data on acceleration, gear changes, average speed and deceleration. Data was then analysed by Fiat’s ecoDrive software on home computers and tailored advice given on how to improve driving to cut fuel consumption and emissions.
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change and the now-abolished Commission for Integrated Transport have advocated eco-driving as one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce transport CO2 emissions.
Our own eco-driving results are not too far off – with an average 5.03% improvement from our 3,500+ members of FuelClinic.com, as measured over the last two years.
Motorists who also use the FuelClinic-Configured Car-Chip as an in-vehicle eco-driving coach see even better results. When properly configured to warn drivers of inefficient driving like excessive acceleration, inefficient top-speed, and aggressive driving, the device provides important immediate reminders about driving behavior to drivers.
Immediate in-car feedback is important to maximize returns on eco-driving training and programs, but must be done in a manner that is not distracting to the driver. Simple audible feedback is the form of “warning beeps” reminds the driver that their current action is “missing the mark” set for their eco-driving goals.
The full FIAT Eco:Drive Report is available for download. It is an excellent study, and I have been studying it for a few days now. I will add it to our “Research Library” shortly. In the mean time, you can download it from FIAT.
Georgia Southern University took a step in the green direction last month as its Center for Sustainability rolled out a “Get Pumped” Tire Inflation campaign. The Center teamed up with more than 80 student volunteers who informed ~400 drivers about the benefits of checking their car tire pressure each month. Volunteers also showed them where to find their vehicle’s recommended tire pressure in the driver’s door jamb, taught them how to use a tire gauge, and gave them a window sticker to remind them of the proper tire pressure and the date to check their tires each month. If vehicle tires were low, volunteers filled them up.
Student volunteers enjoyed the opportunity. Volunteer Jade McKibben commented “I really feel that I informed a lot of people who will spread the word about the CO2 emissions and the pros of simply maintaining the recommended tire pressure.” Drivers appreciated the free service, received unexpectedly as they went to their work out at the campus Recreation Activities Center (RAC).
Southside Service Center generously trained student volunteers and K’bob Kelly’s, Sugar Magnolia, and Gnat’s Landing provided gift certificates for the volunteers who educated the most drivers. Campus Recreation and Intramurals, Physical Plant, Parking and Transportation, Marketing all helped to make this event a great success.
For those interested in learning more about how to save fuel, visit fuelclinic.com for helpful tips and an online method to track your car’s fuel efficiency. Join the Center for Sustainability’s facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=142698357289 or find our website at http://cost.georgiasouthern.edu/sustainability/ for updates on sustainability events on campus and in the community.
Sanford, FL – The FuelClinic Fleet System (http://fleet.fuelclinic.com) pilot program with the City of Sanford, FL has completed it’s first phase, with the collection of driver behavior data from a selection of vehicles from the City’s fleet. The data-logging devices will be returned for analysis and processing using the driver behavior analysis software under development at Compendium Software Systems, LLC.
“The collection part of the first phase is done, and the data collected by the devices will be uploaded to our servers for processing. Based on what we find using our driver behavior analysis software, we’ll make recommendations to the City on ways it can cut it’s yearly fuel usage, helping the City to reduce expenses.” said Michael Bragg of Compendium.
The pilot program is being used to allow the City to evaluate the driver behavior monitoring system, and look for ways to save the City money by cutting it’s fuel usage and reducing risk. The system works by collecting data from the vehicles on-board diagnostic computer, providing the fleet manager a real-world look into how their fleet vehicles are being driven. In this first generation system, the devices are removed from the vehicle and the data is uploaded to a central processing server using a standard USB cable and a bit of software that handles the communications.
Once the data is uploaded, the processing of weeks worth of real world driver behavior data begins. The hub of this system is software that accepts driving data from a variety of devices and sources. It parses the data into a standardized format, and begins to look for trends that indicate inefficient or risky driver behavior. It then compiles reports to allow fleet managers to quickly identify problems within their fleet.
Compendium’s recent channel-partnership with Alert Driving provides clients with access to top-tier online training modules to help mitigate problems with driver behavior or fuel efficiency using proven training tools that are targeted, easy to administer, and affordable.
“Our whole goal is to make fleets of any size safer and more efficient, providing a substantial ROI to clients by getting more out of every gallon of fuel they purchase while at the same time helping reduce accidents and related costs” said Bragg. “We are cherry-picking the best practices and technologies already used in major fleets, and re-packaging them into right-sized systems that any business can afford.”
We can boycott and punish BP for their crimes… and it is a crime. And on election day we can hold the government accountable for it’s dereliction of duty in this disaster, but the next set of derelicts we elect may be no better. In between we can day-dream of a future when all of our cars are electric and run on sunshine and windmills.
But time is short, and we can “do better” sooner. We can take meaningful action now, every day, starting today.
Leonardo da Vinci inspires me with this quote:
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
We must do.
I day-dream about the impact of 3/4 million people waking up tomorrow, starting to work, and quietly deciding that today they will not compete with the other drivers on the road for position. Today they will not race to the next stoplight. Today they will try to maintain more distance in front of them to allow a little coasting before braking. Today they will move to the middle or the right on the highway and slow down 5 or 10 MPH. This week those people will go an additional 25 or 50 miles on a single tank of gas – possibly more, maybe enough to skip a fill-up for a day or two.
If all 750,000 squeezed another 50 miles from a full tank of gas this week, that’s 37,500,000 “carbon-free” miles traveled. At $0.12/mile avg. cost that’s $4.5 million dollars saved – ($6/ea) to be saved or spent elsewhere. Repeat that process each week, and you see it can add up to significant numbers very quickly. And that’s ONLY considering 750,000 people – imagine what would happen if each of them told two friends about what they are doing and impressed them to try.
It’s easy to do. You can track your personal per-tank mileage by setting your trip odometer at each fillup. If you want better data, keep your receipts and use a notepad, a spreadsheet, or a free website like FuelClinic to track your MPG over time, and look for ways to improve your score (see links below for additional techniques).
We all feel the urgency. We know what to do. The only questions is – are we willing? If you are willing, then you must DO.
Learn more fuel-efficient driving techniques here:
Now consider that commercial fleet vehicles are driven further (on average twice as many miles per year), they have to drive to stay in business (not really an option to stop driving), and fleet size can range from less than a dozen vehicles to thousands. The “power of scale” creates HUGE incentives for companies to take control of their fuel spend and improve their fuel efficiency.
Fuel remains one of the most costly items on a fleet’s bottom line – typically ranked number two, right behind driver wages and benefits – so carriers are deploying an ever-widening variety of methodologies to keep fuel costs under tight control…
…During a presentation here at Manhattan Associates “Momentum 2010” user group meeting, Braslavsky and Nick Cook, vp & CIO for refrigerated carrier FFE Transportation, stressed that even tiny savings in fuel costs on a per-gallon basis can reap big savings for fleets.
CalArk, for example, operates 650 tractors and 2,000 trailers nationwide – consuming roughly one million gallons of diesel per month. Braslavsky said just saving one penny per gallon translates into $10,000 in savings per month on the company’s fuel bill….
…Such fuel and route optimization methodologies are going to become even more critical in the future, Braslavsky pointed out, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program kicks in.
“There was a time when it was taken for granted that you could tell a driver to get there and he’d make it – those days are long gone,” he said. “Now we must be really, really creative with the time constraints put on our drivers – and better routing is the key to that.”
He also said new functionality such as actual loaded weight is being added in as well to allow for even more accurate fuel accounting. “We all know pulling 80,000 pounds consumes more fuel than pulling 45,000 pounds,” Braslavsky added. “The next level of optimization is going to take that into consideration.”
Source: Fleet Owner
“Eco-Driving” training should be a part of any fleet’s effort to save fuel costs, since saving 5% is generally considered the minimal savings a fleet can expect with a fairly minor effort. Fleets that are more determined to change company culture and commit to fuel efficient driving at all levels save 15% or more.
The most successful are those innovative fleet managers have incorporated employee-incentive programs to reward drivers who deliver measured fuel-efficiency improvement. Of course you need to be able to track and measure driver performance – what you can’t measure, you can’t manage – or reward.
A few people who know me well have told me about a new Walmart ad that talks about Walmart’s recent work improving efficiency in fleet operations by packing trucks more efficiently and paying more attention to routing, all in an effort to rollback prices for customers.
The funny part (for my friends) is at the end when the driver stands by his truck and says “My name is Mike, and I help people save money…” It’s funny because my name is Mike too, and I’ve been helping people save even more money though better driving habits.
Back to the commercial. I think it’s great, and a sign of the times that the world’s largest retailer, with one of the largest fleets in the world, is spending millions to educate people to the benefits of efficient fleet operations. Fuel prices are on the rise again, and the importance of efficient fleet operations is more important than ever, as our economy continues to recover from it’s recent with no real change to our oil dependency.
I’m only disappointed that Mike doesn’t mention the incredible savings Walmart could be realizing through a comprehensive driver efficiency improvement program that includes eco-driving fundamentals.
Imagine what 5% of their fuel spend must be? With additional computer-based training and strong corporate buy-in, take that 5% number and triple it… that would be some sizable “rollback”. Maybe I should try to get in touch with them.
As awareness of the benefits of eco-driving habits builds in the US and around the world, there is also a growing interest in incorporating eco-driving techniques in early drivers education courses.
Until recently, professional eco-driving training has been a specialty course provided to already-experienced drivers, often as a work-related program for professional fleet drivers in an effort to reduce company fuel expenses and reduce preventable accidents.
Several studies done in the last 10 years indicate a direct connection between efficient drivers and those drivers with fewer preventable accidents.
One internal study at a major US-based trucking company indicated that their top fuel-efficient drivers were squarely in the top percentile of drivers with the fewest preventable accidents. It was also found that their drivers who routinely drove in an inefficient manner were among those drivers with the greatest number of preventable accidents.
How are eco-drivers safer drivers?
By practicing eco-driving techniques motorists maintain a high level of awareness to traffic patterns and the flow of vehicles around and ahead of the driver, allowing the driver to plan to minimize the loss of momentum while operating their vehicle safely and efficiently.
Eco-driving motorists are encouraged to “de-couple” emotionally from the circumstances of normal traffic, focusing instead on a competition between “themselves and the gas pump” verses jockeying for position with other drivers around them.
By limiting the top-speed and maintaining generous following-distances eco-drivers give themselves extra time to react to unexpected changes, providing additional decision making time and a greater likelihood of maintaining control in evasive maneuvers.
This correlation between efficient driving and safe driving creates an opportunity to apply measurable indicators to driver safety.
In the past an individual driver’s skill and risk was measured by referring to DMV records to count number and severity of traffic citations, or by referencing insurance records to measure the number and severity of traffic accidents on record. “Defensive driver” insurance discounts are provided to drivers who have had fewer accidents and fewer citation – without any real data to determine if the driver is truly driving in a safe and skilled manner – or has just been lucky.
With the advent of inexpensive on-board driver-behavior data-logging devices (like the CarChip Pro) we can build software systems (like FuelClinic) that are designed to analyse real-world driving behavior based on actual data. With the proper training and monitoring programs in place, this driving data can be processed in near-real-time with timely reporting in an on-going effort to improve both fuel efficiency and safety records.
Several states are currently working to add eco-driving to drivers education, including Michigan and Florida, with RFPs seeking qualified training materials to be added to their existing driver training programs.
What do you think? Should eco-driving techniques be added to the existing driver’s ed program in your state? Comments are welcome below, or join the discussion over at our Facebook Community.
Fuelishness! Feed: Hummer now “Green” for Japan; Diesel Engine Biofuel Advances; Dolphin Wins Eco-Driving Challenge; Fuel Efficiency VS. The Tax Man in Washington State
- In Japan, the Hummer Is Now Officially Green — Starting this week, Japanese buyers of the hulking power machines from General Motors — which come with a 5.3-liter, 300 horsepower engine and roar to 60 miles per hour in eight seconds — receive a 250,000 yen ($2,780) subsidy under Japan’s new, looser fuel-efficiency standards for imported cars.
- Researchers develop “smart” diesel engine that runs on biofuel blend — Researchers from Cummings and Purdue University claim to have found a way to improve fuel efficiency in diesel engines that run on biodiesel fuel while cutting emission levels. The process involves an advanced “closed-loop control” approach for preventing diesel engines from emitting greater amounts of smog-causing nitrogen oxides when running on biodiesel fuels.
- Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne wins Audi fuel-efficiency driving challenge — The Audi Efficiency Challenge was designed to showcase the mileage and performance possibilities that Audi TDI clean diesel technology provides in real-world driving conditions.
- Fuel-efficient cars affecting Washington gas tax — Automobiles are more fuel-efficient, people are driving less and, increasingly, they are driving automobiles that aren’t powered by petroleum at all…”All of those things add up to the fact that we aren’t going to rely on the gas tax as being the mainstay of the future if we want to maintain, preserve and improve our transportation system,” said Paula Hammond, the state’s transportation secretary.
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?
Fuelishness! Feed: Hard to recoup on EV; DOE grants for fuel efficiency programs; Gasoline zips to $3 again; Diesel fuel spike causing trucking trouble
- Study: Buyers unlikely to recoup extra cost of electric vehicles — As automakers aggressively pursue electric vehicles, a study released today shows the cost targets behind the plans are unlikely to be achieved, making it hard for consumers to recoup the extra cost of buying electric.
- Massive DOE grant program aims to boost truck fuel economy — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is spreading $187 million in grants around the truck manufacturing industry to significantly improve fuel efficiency for heavy- and light-duty trucks, all while maintaining current exhaust emission curbs. “Improving the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks can make significant contributions to reducing America’s oil consumption within a short timeframe,” DOE spokesperson Jen Stutsman told FleetOwner. “While heavy-duty vehicles make up only 4% of the vehicles on the road, they account for nearly 20% of the fuel consumed in the U.S.”
- Gasoline prices zip toward $3 mark — Gasoline prices on Monday continued their push toward $3 per gallon. The only question now is when? Prices have been jumping on the back of a strong oil market where the cost for a barrel has spiked 20 percent in the past month on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
- Trucks at Work Blog – Containing fuel costs — Diesel fuel prices are on a tear all of a sudden – not surprising, given the recent deep freeze across the U.S. Diesel, as we all know, is made from the same petroleum distillate as home heating oil, so when the temperature plummets (like it’s doing now), refineries start cranking out more heating oil at the expense of diesel. Thus, you get a crimp in supply even as demand remains the same – thus, a shortage, and thus (tah-dah!) price increases at the pump.
PUTTING economy driving into practise was the aim of a group of drivers who took part in a Wexford to Dublin charity challenge. The Charity Eco-Drive Challenge was won by a driver who achieved a fuel economy figure of 87 mpg while driving a Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Style.
Organised in December by Ger Boland and Enda Newport from Ford dealer Boland’s of Ferrybank, Wexford, the Charity Eco-Drive Challenge saw six drivers tasked with driving from Wexford to Dublin (Stillorgan Park Hotel) and back to Wexford using as little fuel as possible.
Each driver’s fuel consumption was analysed and from the six drivers, Michael Forde of Curracloe, Co Wexford, came out on top with the most economic result of 87 mpg for the round trip. Among the six participants, the range of fuel consumption figures achieved went from Michael’s 87 mpg to 64 mpg.
To ensure fair play, each of the six participants drove the same route in identical Focus 1.6 TDCi models of the same age and similar mileage. The winning driver was given the option of nominating a charity to receive a donation of €1,000. Michael nominated the Wexford Women’s Refuge to receive an early Christmas present.
Speaking about his strategy for the challenge, Michael Forde said: “I wasn’t too concerned about maintaining a steady speed, the secret to eco-driving is engine revs.
“So long as I could keep the engine revs in the range of approximately 1500 to 1800, I knew that I would end up with a very respectable fuel consumption figure.”
Michael also highlighted tyre pressure as being another important element: “Most motorists don’t realise it but incorrect pressure settings mean more fuel used.”
The Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Style with alloy wheels, air conditioning, fog lights and Bluetooth, is available for around €21,750.
Once again a modern factory-built diesel-powered automobile has achieved astonishing fuel efficiency numbers in a driving competition. This isn’t futuristic technology that is “just around the corner” or “not yet cost effective”, these are current versions of diesel-powered cars that roll off of assembly lines in other parts of the world every day – and are affordable to ordinary people.
So, why are we in the US not yet able to buy these ultra-efficient little diesel-powered cars (Ford Focus ECOnic, Mini-D) that are “old news” in other parts of the world (as of 2007 about 50% of new cars sold in Europe have diesel engines) and then choose to run them on modern bio-diesel fuels that are slowly coming to market?
Embracing modern diesel engine technology also avoids the chicken-and-egg problem that other alternative fuels suffer from… US-based drivers can fuel their zippy and efficient little diesel-powered cars and light trucks, easily getting better than 60 MPG every day on petroleum-based diesel, then get even “greener” when the bio-varieties gain investment and availability (thanks to the greater number of vehicles on the road that can consume their products).
Or you can brew your own bio-diesel – or buy from a local bio-diesel producer – more on that later…
AS an aside, Rudolph Diesel, the man who invented the engine design that still bears his name “was also a well-respected thermal engineer and a social theorist. Diesel’s inventions have three points in common: they relate to heat transfer by natural physical processes or laws; they involve markedly creative mechanical design; and they were initially motivated by the inventor’s concept of sociological needs. Rudolf Diesel originally conceived the diesel engine to enable independent craftsmen and artisans to compete with industry.”
Diesel was a brilliant inventor and understood exactly how competitive his engine would become, but did he realize that the industries his engine would “threaten” a hundred years later would be the oil industry and the tax man?
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 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).
A few days ago the results of the global Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) Congestion Challenge were announced at the VenCorps blog (registration required), and we were pleased to learn that FuelClinic.com had won 2nd place from a starting field of over 90 competitors:
The winners of the ITS Congestion Challenge were announced today in front of global transportation leaders at the ITS World Congress in Stockholm, Sweden. iCarpool won first place for $50,000 and 50,000 points, FuelClinic.com took second place for 25,000 points and iCone secured third place for 10,000 points.
These three companies will join the VenCorps portfolio, called the Launchpad. They will be able to use their points to grow by incentivizing our community to help them solve business problems big and small.
Judging from the results released at VenCorps, our little community turned out in force to compete against some very well established competition. Taking a look at the graph published at the VenCorps blog, you can see that iCarpool was simply unbeatable in this competition, able to motivate a virtual tsunami of voters for their cause.
Rachel and I would like to send a heart-felt “Thank You!” to each of you who took the time to lend your support for FuelClinic, and who believe in our efforts to improve our roads and highways through advanced driver education.
A 1st place finish included a $50K seed-funding award, unfortunately there was no such award for 2nd place in this contest. We continue to seek seed-funding to turn our prototype system into a commercial application. We continue to work to meet our shared goals of helping people save money, reduce our oil dependence, cut pollution, and create safer and more intelligent drivers.
The month long contest was held in August 2009, and was sposored by The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), IBM , Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations (STCI), and partners.