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Learn To Eco-Drive
Jamais Cascio, 9 Mar 05

Green Car Congress points us to a new program in Japan designed to promote changing driving habits to reduce emissions. This program uses:

...an in-vehicle eco-driving navigation system that instructs the driver on fuel-efficient driving. These systems are being installed in official vehicles, private vehicles and taxis. The system detects sudden accelerations, abrupt slowdowns, harsh braking and idling, and calls the driver's attention to these problems by means of a computer-generated voice and a monitor display. The data can be saved to assess effects.

The eco-driving project started in October and finishes this month; the driving monitors will be loaned out to individuals wishing to learn how to drive more efficiently.

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Comments

I'm not always a model driver, but I try. One thing I notice a lot around here is that I'll start to coast when I see a red light ahead, and ... very often someone will fly up on me, ride my bumper, change lanes, accelerate, and then brake hard for that same red light. I'll catch up and look over at them, but they'll be staring straight ahead, ready to go.

I'm not sure what the deal is, maybe they think they can shave a few minutes off their time by always pushing it.


Posted by: odograph on 9 Mar 05

what are you doing driving anyways?
why don't you go read a webpage for polluters?


Posted by: Russell Wendt on 9 Mar 05

Because, Russell, the reality is that driving remains necessary for lots of people. A shift to broadly walkable/bikeable urban environments is certainly desirable, but is not something that can happen overnight, no matter how many people think good thoughts. Whether because of the lack of viable public transit, ability to bike, or need to carry more goods or people than can readily be handled by taking the bus or biking, some people do need to be in cars. That doesn't mean that everyone in a car is evil, or cares nothing about the environment; people who do need to drive can do so in as responsible a manner as possible, whether by choosing to use high-efficiency vehicles or learning to drive in an efficient manner.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 9 Mar 05

In the recent past I have said that I think all cars should be equiped with a MPG-meter device that gives fuel-economy feedback to the driver. Just like these little screens with graphs that they have in hybrids and some luxury cars, but it should be mandatory.

I believe that it could make quite a significant different in people's driving habits.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 9 Mar 05

They should start with systems that simply teach people to drive, not necessarily "eco"drive, whatever that is.

Say, for example, an "eco"drive system teaches me, in some pretty optimistic scenario, to permanently drive at 35 MPG instead of 30 MPG on average. Over 60 years of driving at 15,000 miles per year, I will have "saved" 4,286 gallons of gasoline.

That's the same as 100,000 cars wasting 0.04 gallons of gasoline apiece, which is about 11 minutes of idling per car.

Think of the effect on one accident, or one breakdown, on traffic flow - even if it's on the shoulder. A handful of people getting in accidents or having breakdowns will cause more fuel waste in an average city on any given day than one person could "save" by "eco"driving during their entire lifetime.

It's not to denigrate individual efforts, but our energy problems are systemic, and transportation energy consumption in particular is more reflective of systemic factors like congestion/flow.

Think about your lifetime consumption. If you are an average U.S. consumer, what you consume in a lifetime takes the whole U.S. population about 11 seconds to consume. So say you go to some pretty extraordinary efforts and somehow learn to reduce your consumption by 50% relative to the average baseline. That monumental lifetime personal effort is the same as 5 and 1/2 seconds of U.S. personal consumption. Divide those numbers by 4 to get your impact relative to the world.

The point is that most people intuitively know this, so if they look around and see everyone going about their business without monitoring their fuel mileage, reducing their waste, driving less, eating more vegetarian and more local, etc, then they sense how insignificant their own personal "savings" are relative to the ongoing enormity of the global consumption machine that just keeps chugging along.

It's a basic reality about human psychology that a lot of us need to have the courage to face and understand, because we've certainly tried the "do your individual part to save" approach for a long time and it really hasn't had that much of an effect.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

To give an example of a simpler solution - what would be the cost of having some sort of "car stamps" system which would help people with limited means keep their cars in good shape? I guarantee you that most cars that break down on a highway have been poorly maintained, and more often than not, it's a function of lack of cash more than simple neglect. And anyone who drives ends up paying for it with lost time, lost money, wasted energy, as well as reduced safety, every time some car breaks down on the highway. The combined cost of that wasted time, money, and resources, as well as reduced safety, dwarfs the cost of keeping a single car maintained and running properly, on many levels.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

Sure Joseph, the Tradegy of the Commons plays straight into this. I guess the question is how large a subset of the population will lean towards efficiency.

It is totally about human psychology, but humans are a hugely social species. We have to wear jeans that are just right for the year, and can be outcast if we are a decade out of sync. We apply a lot of our psychology toward acceptance and status.

There seems to be a split on southern California roads, with about half the people in small sensible cars (Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas) and about half in trucks and SUVs.

Huge and inefficient cars are, even to those who would never use the word, "bling." I think there might be a tipping point though. If there gets to be a broad concern about global warming or peak oil, stupid-big cars might lose some status.

The hybrid thing is obviously becoming a social trend, and might break over into "how big does your SUV really have to be?" They might cause, if nothing else, a change in "fashion."

Maybe I'm not that optimistic myself, but it's a hope.


Posted by: odograph on 10 Mar 05

Odograph, the reason that hybrids are as popular as they are right now is more a function of gas prices than anything else. There were huge efficiency gains in the US car fleet after the two oil shocks of the 70s, especially the latter one.

Since the early 80s, oil prices have generally been pretty low, with the possible exception of the time around the first Gulf War. Consequently, average fuel economy for all vehicles in the US is no higher today than it was 10 years ago.

We are all self-interested to one degree or another, so I really don't have much faith in long-term self-sacrifice for the common good. Drop gasoline down to 89 cents a gallon and I guarantee you that hybrids will no longer be that popular and we'll once again stop hearing about fuel economy in advertisements, etc.

Economic signals are far more powerful than fashion, peer pressure, or appeals to conscience.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

How exactly are you going to drop prices to 89 cents a gallon?

Even if we are not at Peak Oil, we are certainly getting more buying competition from developing nations.

I agree that cheap oil is seductive, but I don't think it is that likely.


Posted by: odograph on 10 Mar 05

How exactly are you going to drop prices to 89 cents a gallon?

It wasn't meant to be taken literally, but rather to be illustrative of people's behavior relative to economic signals. I apologize for not being clearer on that.

My point about the fickleness of "altruism" and fashion versus economics still stands.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

I guess what I'm trying to get at, is that while I agree in the abstract that cheaper gas would mean a return to profligate consumption, I think on practical terms we are headed the other way.

We might be kinda lucky that the case for global warming gets made as prices rise. You saw the bit where OPEC floated the idea of $80 a barrel, right?

http://www.norwaypost.no/content.asp?folder_id=6&cluster_id=27330


Posted by: odograph on 10 Mar 05

Well, if gas is going towards $100, then we don't need to worry about maximizing fuel efficiency with little feedback systems, because economics will take care of the problem by driving the market towards much higher fuel efficiency in engines and possibly alternative fuels.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

I meant the price of a barrel of oil, not the price of gas (of course).


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

My nephew counted Hummers on the way home from school yesterday, in Orange County, California. It was something crazy, like eleven or seventeen.

I'm thinking that those folks can afford $100/bbl, but I'm hoping they won't think the Hummer is quite as cool in that environment.

YMMV.


Posted by: odograph on 10 Mar 05

Odograph, have you ever read "Theory of the Leisure Class"?


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 10 Mar 05

I think I get the idea, and I see it tying together with the Prius phenomenon.

The Prius is not the cheapest car. It allows the buyers to show that they are both semi-wealthy and environmental. (The ECHO arguably has a lower environmental footprint, but doesn't share that "bling" factor. It is too cheap.)

A Mercedes or BMW hybrid would be even better from the standpoint of conspicuous consumption, and still be a significant environmental improvement over the Hummers.


Posted by: odograph on 11 Mar 05

The point I was attempting to allude to is that economics will drive efficiency more than anything else, and under conditions of very expensive oil, the value of driving a Hummer in terms of status will only increase because it will show that the person driving it has that much ability to be wasteful.

You'd need an entire shift-change in values for people to actually feel ashamed for driving one, and I honestly don't see that time coming without leadership and a media to reinforce the message.

That said, Hummers and similar vehicles are more symbolic of a problem than an actual problem in and of themselves. And at $100/barrel, it really won't matter if there are still thousands of Hummers sold a year because economics simply forces most of us to be more efficient.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 11 Mar 05

Most people accept that "Hummers and similar vehicles" are the reason US fleet mileage has declined in the last few years, rather than being simply "symbolic."

And people like James Woolsey are making the "shift-change in values".

... but at this point I think we can let the discussion rest. History will tell.


Posted by: odograph on 11 Mar 05

"Hummers and similar vehicles" means vehicles over 6,000 pounds which are exempt from fuel mileage and emissions requirements. They're wasteful, yes, but not a very large part of the national vehicle fleet.

I don't put Hummers in the category of a Ford Escape or Ford Ranger.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 11 Mar 05

Poeple who own hummers have more then enough money to replace the engine and fuel system with anouther as soon as oil runs low. These people have 200k 300k 500k a year jobs and spend 25-100k a year on cars and driving because its the one time of the day they have at least somewhat to themsevles 10-12 times a week.

Fuel is the least of thier costs or cares.


Posted by: wintermane on 13 Mar 05



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