Hybrid Road Rally - Competition Winner
We attempted to find out if 3 hybrids (Insight MT, Civic-Hybrid CVT, Prius)
combined could use the same amount of gas or less than just 1 mid-sized SUV.
They couldn't. The hybrids ended up using a tiny bit more. But
overall, the SUV was still the loser!
Yes, the SUV did in fact emit a little less Carbon Dioxide (the gas that
contributes to global warming), but it emitted significantly more Nitrogen Oxides (the
gases that cause smog). You see, Insight & Civic-Hybrid are ULEV (Ultra
Low Emission Vehicle) rated and Prius is SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission
Vehicle) rated. Those EPA ratings measure hazardous chemical emissions that
aren't directly related to MPG. So you can't base performance on fuel
consumption alone, since that
doesn't provide a clear indication of overall emissions.
Combined, the 3 hybrids were actually cleaner.
Lastly, don't forget that the Ford Explorer we used was only a mid-sized SUV. There
are quite a number of larger SUVs that get even worse MPG. And that's on
the highway. When (any) SUV slows down to city speeds, the MPG
drops much lower. Hybrids offer a distinct advantage, even when
incorporated into a very large vehicle. So, shouldn't the automakers
finally consider building SUVs with hybrid systems?
Great Stereo System. I had the tent
airing out in the garage while I was at work. When I got home, I had to
move it out into the yard so I could put the Prius away. Since the car
was in stealth, I just left her running. The music sounded significantly
better than my stereo I usually use out there. I was totally impressed.
The body of the car resonates the sound great. So I opened the door and
cranked it. That puts a entirely new interpretation on the concept of a
"portable" music device.
Speaking of Accidents. I had a small
hidden fear during the Hybrid Road Rally. We traveled a lot of miles,
following each other rather close at high speeds from time to time.
There was a very remote possibility that our adventure could become known for
having the first ever hybrid-hybrid accident in the United States. That
would have been very unpleasant.
ACCIDENT !!! It
was a horrifying experience. (So don't continue reading if you
traumatize easy.) While on the Hybrid Road Rally, I watched quite a few
birds dart out in front of the Insight. We never could figure out if it
was from being the lead vehicle or if there was something particular about
that hybrid which drew the birds to it. But none ever got harmed, only
startled. It was different for my Prius today. A bird got in the
way and couldn't get out in time. I smashed right into it. I have 2
birds at home that mean the world to me, so seeing that was a shock.
Pulling out the limp body pounded deep into the grill was horrifying. The
grill is a flexible plastic; afterward, I was able to twist it back into shape
and even get the clip to secure again. But that doesn't make me feel any
On a roll. Today's advancement to
145 miles brought the Multi-Display reading to 52.3 MPG again.
Still up there. After 98 miles, I
now see 52.1 MPG.
Something wonderful has happened. I
filled up near my house for the conclusion of the Hybrid Road Rally. So
today's commute was on a fresh tank. What I saw was delightful. My
best reading from the Multi-Display during regular driving with the Non-LRR
tires up to that point had been 50.0 MPG. Now, after
having driven 58 miles, it says 52.3 MPG. That's amazing! The 1,247 miles we had
driven over those 4 days were 97 percent highway and very aggressive at times.
Those 2-lane country highways required quick acceleration to nearly 80 MPH to
allow enough room for safe passing. And since so many people wanted to
talk to us as long as possible about our hybrids, we continually found
ourselves needing to push the driving to make it to the next location in time.
That stress must have loosened the drive-components. It's the only
thing I can think of that would have caused my MPG to increase so much.
That's Super Sweet!!!
I saw you on the news. Someone at
work was up in Alexandria this weekend. She had the television on and
suddenly exclaimed, "I know that guy!" So when I bumped into to her
today, she had a bit of fun telling me. Too bad she didn't tape it.
I'm really curious how they edited all the video we shot.
Hybrid Road Rally - Boldly Going
I'm a very devoted Star Trek fan. The biggest convention ever in the Twin
Cities was this weekend. People were amazed I wouldn't be attending.
I told them I was busy, my plans were to literally "boldly go where no
one has gone before". That made them think.
The Hybrid Road Rally was a wonderful (and very unique) opportunity to really make a difference.
Hybrid Road Rally
Time after time, I was asked to show the trunk. After opening it, I had
to recite the contents since it was difficult to tell just how much was
actually in there (yet, you still could reach the contents in back because the
trunk is so tall).
The people were impressed by how big the trunk really is.
Here's what was in there:
2 foldable captain chairs
medium duffle-bag (camera, medical kit, bathing
large duffle-bag (clothing)
2 boxes (misc. supplies & bottled drinks)
sleeping bag & mat
full-size spare tire, wrench, jack
36qt. double-insulated cooler
12-volt accessory battery
273.6-volt hybrid battery-pack
Hybrid Road Rally
- A/C research
Those long drives gave me
opportunities to experiment. It turns out, using the A/C
(Air-Conditioner) on a very mild setting is actually more efficient (and
cooler and quieter) than driving with the windows open on the highway. The reduced drag
makes sense, but I never had a really good chance until now to find out how
much extra gas it took to run the compressor. I saw a 0.1 MPG
improvement running the A/C instead. Of course on days that aren't so
hot, turning the vent blower fan up to the highest setting with the windows
closed works even better.
Hybrid Road Rally
Now, I somehow need to provide a summary of everything
that happened. Phew! It was a whirlwind of events. I documented as much as
I possibly could whenever there was a free moment, which meant a lot writing
under a flashlight at the campsite afterward. But now I have 21 journal pages
of writing to show for it. Thank goodness I did that, the individual events
are already starting to blend together in my memory. That�s actually ok
though. What�s really important is what we learned: It�s that people really
are interested in spending their hard earned money on hybrids, which is
contrary to what the companies in Detroit have been claiming. The public sees
no reason why even a SUV can�t be a hybrid. Making vehicles, regardless of
how impractical they are (too big, over-powered, etc.), more efficient and
cleaner is what�s truly important. Hybrid systems offer that.
We spent 4 days together, totaling over 1,200 miles of
driving. There were 15 rally stops where we shared information with the
public and the media. We started by traveling to Northern Minnesota from
the Twin Cities. That area is beautiful. The coniferous trees and
all the lakes & rivers made for incredible scenery. Next we drove to
Western Minnesota. That�s prairie country, which can be very
picturesque, but not always when viewed for the road. Those roads are
absolutely straight without any turns or hills. That means the sun
shining through the windshield never shifts position, it just burns a very specific
spot on your legs & arms. Bummer. The people there were great
though. Southern Minnesota introduced rolling hills which eventually
turned into canyons. The constant elevation changes are beneficial for
hybrids. Our already impressive MPG increased there.
Overall, we got to see quite a variety of geography and exchanged thoughts
with a ton of enthusiastic people. On the road itself was fun too.
As people passed by, you could see that they were thoroughly checking out each
of the hybrids. Cool!
Complaints about the lack of availability were constant. Being so far
away from the metro area of Minnesota, that wasn't a surprise. People
heard about hybrids, but had never seen one in person. For those few
places we visited that did actually have dealers with hybrids in stock, people
were simply waiting for personal endorsements. Advertisements don't mean
much. Getting to ask an actual owner (with lots of miles on the odometer) a few
questions is priceless. So we provided that opportunity.
Our goal was to prove all 3 hybrids combined (Insight, Civic-Hybrid, and Prius)
could consume the same or less gas traveling the same route as just one Ford
Explorer. We intentionally chose that popular SUV since a variety of
different sources have demonstrated 34 MPG is possible as a hybrid.
Unfortunately, 97 percent of our driving was at full-speed on highways.
When hybrids drive at city speeds (including stop & slow on the highway), they
have a distinct advantage over the traditional vehicles.
Unfortunately, we didn�t have the opportunity to use that ability. So
the hybrids actually suffered from this non-typical type of driving. In
the real-world, people drive quite a bit more than just 3 percent city.
So our hybrid MPG results really should be a little higher and the SUV a
little lower. Oh well. Also, we had a TDI diesel along to show
that there are more traditional (but not as clean) technologies available for
getting great MPG.
The weather was perfect. There's not much else to say about it.
We couldn't have asked for better. It was a true blessing.
As for the comparison information people have been
begging me for� yes, Prius squeaked by with slightly higher MPG than
the Civic-Hybrid CVT (taking break-in and tires into account, of course). But
the amount is actually so minor, it really doesn�t matter. The point is that
two very different hybrid technologies can both produce impressive
results. That means there�s a choice available, all the more reason hybrid
systems should become common in all types of vehicles.
Hybrid Road Rally, Day 4 - Red Wing, MN
More hills along the way. These cast a nice shade shadow. Cool!
The welcome party was small. Sunday evening was a bad time, plus we
arrived late. Oh well. We were all exhausted, sun burnt, and very
The rally had went extraordinarily well. There was a nice restaurant
just a block away. We celebrated, especially since each driver would go
their separate way from that point. Home sounded like a very appealing
destination for me. Mission accomplished!