Weather Impact on Fuel Economy
Here at Hometown Hybrids we have noticed that we get a ton of calls from hybrid owners during the first week of really hot Texas weather for the year. This is our busiest time of year because hybrid batteries don’t appreciate the 100ﹾF weather. Extreme heat or cold can significantly affect your Prius’s efficiency. You may notice a big drop in your MPG’s during the extremes of the summer and winter, but don’t worry-it’s totally normal!
A/C Use and Its Impact
Obviously when it’s hot outside you’ll be running the AC more often. This puts a heavy load on the hybrid battery, which in turn will affect your fuel economy. If you live in a climate where it doesn’t seem like you’ve opened the gates of hell at 8:00am (Houston in July) you may be able to use the cars “vent mode.” This mode allows outside air circulation without engaging the actual heating/cooling system. Depending on where you live, you might not need to use the “Auto A/C” during winter. Instead, you can use the normal vent mode to draw in heat from the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). During spring and autumn, you should be able to use the vent to draw in cooler outside air, avoiding the need for A/C. Of course, keeping your car in a garage overnight is ideal as it helps maintain the engine temperature.
Importance of Smooth Driving
Next up, smooth driving. Avoid the urge to accelerate or brake aggressively. Smooth, gradual acceleration and deceleration are your friends when it comes to optimizing fuel efficiency. Try to maintain a consistent speed whenever possible. Some hybrid owners practice “hypermiling” which is basically paying attention to driving style while monitoring the battery usage on your display. https://www.torquenews.com/8113/what-it-means-hypermile-toyota-prius#:~:text=Hypermiling%20a%20Toyota%20Prius%20is,to%20gain%20more%20during%20regen.
Tire Pressure and Fuel Economy
It’s crucial to keep your tires properly inflated as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Underinflated tires increase rolling resistance and reduce fuel efficiency. The recommended pressure found inside the driver’s door jamb is a good starting point. That 32 psi is a decent balance between ride quality and fuel economy. The tire rolling resistance of the OEM Goodyear Integrity tires is very low. However, when under-inflated, the resistance increases dramatically, impacting gas mileage. If you want to boost your econ, take your psi up a bit. The extra pressure will allow for less drag on the road resulting in a better economy. I do not recommend higher pressure in the winter though; you need all the grip you can get. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car and check it once a month. Tire pressure is a massive help to those who check it often, and it will help yield a couple more miles on that MPG average.
Reducing Vehicle Weight
This one is simple – get rid of any unnecessary items in your car, especially the heavy ones. Extra weight is a fuel guzzler. And those roof racks or cargo carriers? Ditch them when they’re not in use, as they create aerodynamic drag.
Importance of Regular Maintenance
Regular maintenance is key. Keep your vehicle in top shape according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This includes oil changes, air filter replacements, and spark plug inspections. A well-maintained hybrid is an efficient hybrid.
Clean the Mass Airflow Sensor
The MAF sensor measures the amount of air entering the engine and is crucial for maintaining the correct air-fuel mixture for combustion. If the MAF sensor is dirty or clogged, it can send incorrect readings to the engine control computer, leading to an imbalanced air-fuel mixture. This imbalance can cause inefficient combustion, which can decrease your Prius’s fuel economy.
Hybrid Battery Maintenance
The Toyota, Lexus and Nissan hybrids all have a cooling fan to protect the hybrid battery from overheating. Unfortunately, these fan can become clogged with lint and hair which inhibits the fan from doing its job. We see this issue most often on the Prius C. I am not going to recommend that just anyone should be trying to clean their own battery fan as regular maintenance. Please take your hybrid to a professional to have this service performed!