Friday, January 27, 2012

Five Life Lessons I Learned From My Car

From the bean of Green Bean

Back in September, I traded in my minivan for a Prius.  Almost immediately, I went through withdrawals - as evidenced by this post.  I missed the ability to schlep dozens of kids and some random piece of furniture picked up at a garage sale.  I missed the cavernous interior which put the kids out of kicking the back seat and hitting each other range.  Heck, it nearly put them out of ear shot which, depending on the day, was a good or bad thing.

A few months later and you couldn't pay me to get back in a minivan or SUV.  My driving habits and outlook have done a 180.  What follows are life lessons that I learned from driving a Prius:

1) Small Is Beautiful.  Size does matter and bigger is not better.  Bigger means less parking spaces and more dings and dents.  It means that fire hydrant is closer when you are backing up.  Smaller means I can squeeze in just about anywhere.  I can have a meaningful conversation with my kids or ask them to do something with them actually hearing me.  It means there is more space in the garage and that nothing goes to waste.

2) Life is a Journey.  Not a Race.  My Prius (and I believe most hybrids) has a handy monitor that continually displays miles per gallon (MPG) and whether you are in gas or electric mode.  I confess that I used to gun it off the line and when getting on to the freeway.  No more.  I ease on the accelerator from stoplight or stop sign, watching just how much gasoline is being used. That may mean that I don't make it to the fast lane if I'm on a short freeway trip.  That's cool.  Life in the slow lane is sometimes more interesting anyway.

3) Silence Is Golden.  At stoplights these days, I often look around.  Who is making all the ruckus?  Seriously.  I'm over here enjoying a song on the radio or a conversation, cruising in electric mode.  Which means I'm enjoying the peace and quiet.

5) Coast When You Can.  Going up hill can burn some serious gas and, let's face, life throws us some hills now and then.  So coast when you can.  Take it easy, take your foot off the accelerator, and just cruise.

6) Try No to Lose Momentum.  Sometimes, we hit road blocks in life and on the road.  And, as we all know, once you've lost momentum, its hard to get up and moving again.  Same goes for our cars so I hit the brakes way before a stop light and coast in, hoping it will change for me.

7) We All Are a Bit Granny, A Bit Race Car Driver.  I take the straightaways at 25 and the curves at 30.  I finally understand (kind of) hypermiling thanks to the MPG display.  Just ease off the brakes and take that curve like a mad woman.  You'll come out of it faster, with momentum, not gasoline, propelling you.

You Don't Need to Own a Hybrid To Learn These Lessons.  Sure, the MPG monitor is super nifty.  And I really think we'd all drive a lot more fuel efficiently if every car had one of these.  Hypermiling, though, is something anyone can do as is coasting, taking it easy off the line, and just watching your foot on that accelerator.  And size?  After years of bigger, bigger, bigger, I think we are finally coming out the other side.

We only need what we actually need.  What we'll use.  Efficiency feels awesome!

* Note the "Best" MPG.  Prius has this feature too so that those of us competitive sorts can compete with ourselves and trot our our numbers with other hybrid drivers.  I do quite a bit of city driving and very little driving on the freeway, which results in a lower "best" MPG than the advertised 51 MPG.  Still, much better than the 16 or so MPG I used to get from the ole van.


Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

This post is going to make a lot of people jealous. Seems like a lot of greenies have hybrid-envy (I know I do a little bit). I wish they made hybrid minivans - I heard they have them in Japan.

I'm going to try to use these tips to improve my MPG! Never heard of hypermiling before (I am a novice, after all!).

Green Bean said...

Thanks for the comment, Betsy. I think Erin, The Conscious Shopper, wrote about hyper-miling on this blog before. I'm not very scientific so I just didn't get it until I got that little display that let me know exactly when I was wasting gas.


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