Is Hybrid Fuel Economy Overstated?

real hybrid mpgWhy is my mileage so bad?

You bought a hybrid car hoping for mileage in the 50s. You wanted to make gas-stops just once a month and drive all the way to Grandma’s and back on just the one tank. Now, a tried and true owner of a hybrid car, you find that the mileage just isn’t living up to your expectations. What is happening in there? Where did this love affair go so wrong? Was your hybrid’s estimated mpg grossly overstated?

Going the distance
Hybrids were built for maximum fuel efficiency in stop-and-go traffic. When the engine is resting in idle, the battery has a chance to take the reins and relieve the gas tank. If you are taking frequent long trips and doing most of your driving on the highway, you won’t see ideal MPG numbers. In fact, the real fuel economy for highway driving if often only slightly better than that of similar non-hybrids.

Baby, it’s cold outside
When the temperature is low, your hybrid vehicle takes a while to warm up. In doing so, it is running at a high RPM and asking for more from its gas tank. Even once you are on the road and toasty, you’ll notice that the car still needs more power to run things smoothly. The Honda Civic hybrid actually stops moving to electric power during idles in weather colder than 32F; bad news for those of us in chillier climes. To make matters even worse in the winter, things like snow, ice and wind all increase air resistance, lowering fuel efficiency.

Feelin’ hot hot hot
It’s practically an age-old debate at this point: AC or windows? Well this fun little chart shows you how several hybrids performed in the MPG department when the AC was off and on. Overall, the consensus was that AC reduced gas mileage, usually by 15 to 27 percent. In addition, hybrid trucks such as the Ford Escape reportedly need the gas engine running when using the AC. The question is whether or not your mileage suffers as a result.

How’s my driving?
Check out last week’s articles on hypermiling for tips on how to boost your hybrid’s fuel efficiency! Combined, these little tips can make a big difference on how far you can really go on one tank of gas. If you aren’t getting the EPA gas mileage your hybrid vehicle is supposed to achieve, chances are you could be with just a few adjustments.

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