Our Hybrid Didn’t Like The Short, Mild Winter

I’ve noticed that our average gas mileage has gone down lately—we used to get in the low 30s MPG and now we’re in the mid to high 20s MPG. Our driving pattern hasn’t changed much, so I assume this is because the temperature has dropped to a not-so-chilly 50° or so lately.

There are a few reasons why hybrids don’t like winter (engines need to warm up, the heater eats up energy, tire pressure goes down (although I added more air recently)) but I had assumed that this applied to cars in places that actually got cold. Hopefully it is the weather though and mileage will go back up soon.


One thing that makes me think it might not be the weather is the odd consumption information the car tracks. In the picture above my average mileage is 25 MPG, but my best mileage is 21 MPG although I had reached 60 MPG at one point over the last thirty minutes. Maybe I’m just misunderstanding things, but the car’s manual had an example of this screen where the best number was actually higher than the average number. Maybe the computer is just counting things wrong?

Why Aren’t There Solar Panels On My Hybrid?

I’ve read a few articles recently that talk about how great plug-in hybrid cars will be. I can understand why adding electricity from a green source to your car would be a good thing, but I’m a little confused though when I read something like this:

Perhaps in the future, automobile manufacturers could even incorporate solar panels into the roofs of hybrids to provide constant battery charging, which some concept hybrids have already done. Until then, home-owners, solar-roofed parking structures, and portable solar panels could still offer consumers new possibilities and very futuristic accessories.

It seems odd to me that installing solar panels on a car’s roof isn’t easier and quicker to implement than putting together all of the infrastructure for a plug-in car (not to mention that even if you had that infrastructure people would still need to take the step of plugging in their cars all of the time, but a car with solar panels would power itself up without any extra help).

There seem to be some DIY solutions for adding solar panels to a hybrid car. I looked around and found a product from Solatec, although the product page says that their solar kit is temporarily unavailable. Maybe they’ve just sold out or maybe they stopped selling them since it might not work that well? I’d be curious to find out more if anyone is familiar with this.

Update: I just read an article in the New York Times about flexible and semitransparent solar cells that are in development. It mentions that “automotive companies [are] interested in the new cells for car roofs”, although it doesn’t offer any more information about why they are interested or how the cells would be used.

Forty Oh

I’m getting the hang of driving our new hybrid on the highway. After filling up recently, I drove mostly on the highway for the next couple of days and was able to bring the tank average to over 40 mpg. I took this picture in our driveway and was lucky enough to get this before the number dropped back into the 30s (we’re on a hill and the average mileage started dropping quickly as I was driving the last couple of blocks home).


I don’t have the hang of driving around the city yet and am getting numbers in the high 20s. I’m starting to do research, but I’m already running across some conflicting information. One person suggests that it’s best to accelerate quickly and then coast and then another set of tips tells you to accelerate slowly (look at page 7 in this PDF file). I’ll keep looking for other information, but feel free to let me know if there’s a good resource out there for this.

Thirty Point Four

I just filled up our new Camry hybrid for the first time yesterday and we managed to get an average of 30.4 mpg on the first tank. Hopefully we’ll be able to improve that average as we learn more about the car and about driving again in general (it has been about 10 years since I’ve owned a car). When I get some time I’ll do some research — I imagine Google’s got something with some tips and tricks that will be helpful to read.