Friday, June 8, 2012

Eco Pro vs. Eco Amateur: Do I have what it takes to beat the ActiveE at its own game?

Driving efficiently is the name of the game in trying to squeeze every last mile of range out of an EV like the Active E.  On most days, I don't need that much range, so no need to be efficient.  Besides the E has a nice feature called "Eco Pro" where it manages the amount of electricity being used by the electric motor and all the other electric components of the car (including things like the air-conditioning, heater, and heated seats).  Eco Pro helps boost the efficiency of the E without you having to worry your pretty little head over it.

And yet, I wonder...can I be as efficient without the help of a professional?  I had to find out.  Eco Pro (the car) vs. Eco Amateur (me) in a head-to-head competition to see if I had what it takes to beat the E Professional.

First, for some factual assumptions.

In order to make this contest a little more even, I chose to measure the E's driving efficiency (which is measured in miles per Kilowatt Hour (or mls/kWh)) over the course of two days.  On day one, I drove without the Eco Pro engaged from home to work, a trip of 16 miles.  I used only side-streets--no freeway driving--because the flow of the freeway is unpredictable over the course of two days (especially here in Southern California).  More stop-and-go traffic means more efficiency for the E, and I wanted the amount of stop and go to be about the same both days.  By taking city-streets to work I had a more consistent trip between the two days.

I also did NOT use the air-conditioning.  Since the Eco Pro setting manages the amount of power being used by the air conditioner, something I cannot do myself, I choose to measure the efficiency without using air at all.  On both mornings the outside temperature was about the same (64 degrees on day one and 60 degrees on day two).  Finally, I took the exact same route and stopped measuring in the exact same location both days.

The Results.

Eco Amateur: Here are my results on day one, where I (the Eco Amateur) tried to manage efficiency all by myself:

I averaged a respectable 3.7 mls/kWh.  Not bad for an amateur.  My average speed was 29.7 m.p.h. and the trip took 37 minutes to complete.  At 3.7 mls/kWh, you can expect to reach an overall range of around 100 miles--assuming you could maintain that same efficiency for the day.  That is not likely because as the day gets warmer, a/c is a must--and that would take more power.  With Eco Pro that power could be managed, but during this "amateur hour" of driving I can't manage the a/c other than turning it off (or setting the climate control at 80 degrees--no thanks).

Eco Pro: Here are my results on day two using Eco Pro:

I averaged 3.9 mls/kWh, with an average speed of 31 m.p.h.  And the trip was a bit shorter at 35 minutes (a result of my higher average speed).  At this level of efficiency you could expect around 105 miles of range, assuming you could maintain the same level of efficiency for the entire trip.  Again, it may be hard to maintain 3.9 mls/kWh for an entire trip, but with Eco Pro engaged the electronic systems--including a/c--would use less power.

And the winner is:  Eco Pro!  But not by much, which is surprising.  I have done the same trip using Eco Pro before and obtained an efficiency of 4.0 mls/kWh (my highest efficiency rating ever).  Slow, steady starts is the friend of efficiency--such as this:

The more you can keep the needle from moving past that first hash-mark to the right of "Ready", the better.

But the car's ability to zoom off the line (leaving every other driver looking surprised when seen through the E's rearview mirror) is the enemy of efficiency.  And yet, I it never gets old.  So if you are going to drive efficiently, don't do this:

Notes and Conclusions:

A couple of observations.  First, was I driving more conservatively on day one when trying to measure my efficiency without Eco Pro (how dare you accuse me of that!)?  Yes, I was.  Not intentionally, but overall I clearly was driving more conservatively on day one, which is why I had a lower average speed on day one than I did on day two.  I am not sure if it is even possible to drive exactly the same over two days, but taking this into account means that Eco Pro is probably better than these numbers show.

Further, Eco Pro would definitely be more efficient when using the air-conditioning or the heater.

Is there any reason to drive without Eco Pro when trying to be efficient?  Not really.  There are times when I will start without Eco Pro so as to cool the car faster in summer, and I know others who drive without Eco Pro to heat the car faster in Winter.  The E also has the ability to precondition before unplugging from a 240V power source--which means that the car will cool or heat itself and its battery to optimal temperature before departure.  This is a real power saver.

Overall, however, there is no reason to drive without Eco Pro when trying to be efficient--unless you want to see if you can best the Eco Professional.  Even then you may learn, as I did, it's hard to beat a Pro.

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