Monday, November 8, 2010

Eco Driving Analytics

Eco-driving analytics
For a few months now, I am a proud Toyota Prius driver (disclosure: I work at Toyota :-))! My wife wanted to have a car that is more environmental-friendly (and we all know that what women want, men do :-)). Not only the latest Prius achieves a low fuel consumption and very low (if no) particle emission compared to diesel cars (as we used to have) but it is also packed with advanced technologies and gizmos – which didn’t leave the engineer that I am indifferent.Choice was made!

Recently, an eco driving challenge was initiated at my workplace with the main goal of reducing average fuel consumption of all participants. I decided to join this challenge  to learn how to drive in a  “greener” way. Additionally, as a Web analytics geek, I saw it as an opportunity to do a different kind of analytics and to get experience from a different area. I think it is essential to keep an open-mind and looking for ideas outside our little online word. On top, for once, I would be on the other side – the “customer” side.

Eco driving & Web analytics
How does such eco driving challenge relate to (web) analytics? Well, judge by yourself:
  • There is a clear and well defined ultimate goal for the company – reduce average consumption by X% (and therefore reduce car fleet running cost)
  • This translated at my level in a personal target: Achieve an average of 4.0/100 km (= 71 mpg) or lower. And to encourage me to reach my target, there are a series of incentives.
  • Performances will be measured over time using specific measurement devices and well-defined metrics & KPI’s.
  • Performances will be reported on a regular basis in an appropriate format and analysed by experts who will help identify areas of improvements and will make recommendations.
  • It will be up to me to take actions and follow recommendations as much as I can. Actions can be to follow eco driving training, adapt my driving style (something I did already), test different itineraries (ah, the importance of testing) or other.
  • Performances will be continuously measured and analysed in order to assess the impacts of my actions.
You see, it isn’t that different compared to Web Analytics – in theory and principle at least. When it comes to Web Analytics, these nice principles are not always followed. When you do Web Analytics, are there always clear and well defined business targets? Do you provide practical recommendations or just fancy charts and figures? Are actions taken or are they simply ignored? Is Web analysis a systematic and continuous process or something that is done on ad-hoc basis (to please the boss)?

Think about it!

Ecodriving analytics in action with the Prius.
The car: my Toyota Prius III red
I quickly realized that the Prius is a dream car for analytics freaks. Really! Aside the reports and analysis I will get in the specific context of the eco driving challenge, the Toyota hybrid car provides you with plenty of features to track and improve your fuel consumption on a day to day basis.

For those who are not familiar with the Prius, it runs on a fuel engine combined with an electric engine. The great thing is that depending on the driving conditions, the car can run solely on the electric engine meaning NO emission and no fuel consumption (for more info on Toyota full hybrid technology – check here). So, in a simple way, the principle is to try running as much as possible on electric engine or minimizing solicitations of the fuel engine. But the difficulty is that the electric power is limited so you need to keep the battery sufficiently charged – by efficiently recovering braking energy or using the fuel engine wisely.

the new Prius offers 3 different driving modes on top of normal mode
On top, the Prius offers different driving mode like the Eco Mode, EV (Electric only) mode or Power mode (when you need an extra boost).

Enough about the car - now to the analytics part: the main key performance indicator (KPI) is the average consumption – in litre per 100 km here in continental Europe (*). The other metrics I look at when driving are speed, engine power level and instantaneous consumption.

Now comes the analytics fun: the Prius dashboard! It is unlike any other car. The left side displays the speed, fuel gauge while the right part offers multiple displays that you can easily change using the steering controls.
Toyota Prius energy monitor
  • Energy monitor (**): Very visual – it shows the battery level and the energy flows from the different engines as you drive. You can see in real-time when the engine is running, using the electric motor or recharging the battery. Mostly useful to learn how the hybrid system behaves in different driving conditions. And to impress guest passengers :-)
  • Hybrid System indicator (**): This one is key and very operational. It is a kind of economy gauge that fills in depending on how much you press the “gas” pedal (i.e. power you use). As long as you are in the green zone, you are running on battery mode. Past the midpoint you are running on gasoline and if you are really steeping on the gas, it goes in the red “power” zone. And when you brake, it fills in the left part – the “charge” bar as you are recovering braking energy. Additionally, it shows the battery level so you can keep an eye on it while managing your acceleration and speed in order to optimize your consumption.
  • Current travel consumption in 1 or 5-minute increments (**) that show in real time how efficient I am driving. It helps me to see where I do well and not so well according to road conditions. 
  • Past trip consumption & record: Similar as above, but for past trips. I usually set the start of a new trip whenever I refuel so I can see how I improve over time (my current record is 4.2l/100km and 819 km as you can see in the above screenshot).
Isn’t that a cool car? I wish it would be possible to export the data on a USB stick and review / analyze on my own PC. That would be analytics nirvana. :-D

Since I am driving my Prius, I must admit I have changed the way I drive – slower in general and in a much cooler & relaxed way. Globally it is less stressful to drive in a "zen" way (that is reinforce by the quietness of the car). I went from around 5.0 l/100km (=56 mpg) per full tank on the first month to 4.5l/100km (=63 mpg) in average (mostly driving in traffic jams). But I plan to do much better. Will I become an “hypermiler” and will I go below 4.0l/100km (=71 mpg)?

I will let you know :-)

Drive different: 10 eco driving tips
learn simple tips to drive for a greener world
To end this post, let me share some eco driving tips – so you can try too, to lower your fuel consumption and contribute in a greener world. Every contribution matters, even if small ones:
  1. Plan your trip: Plan unfamiliar journeys to reduce your chance to get lost. If you have a GPS, use it! Aside that, combine short trips (picking up kids, going to the bakery….) as cold starts are inefficient.
  2. Leave promptly: Don’t start the engine and stay idle. It is wasted fuel. Just start when you are ready to go.
  3. Anticipate – avoid unnecessary braking: Look far ahead down the road rather than just at the car in front of you, and anticipate changes at traffic lights or queues. Slow down gently – don’t brake hard!
  4. Manage acceleration and gear shifting: accelerate gently and smoothly. Try changing up at an engine speed of around 2000 rpm in a diesel car or around 2500 rpm in a petrol car.
  5. Mind driving slower: Drive at or within the speed limit – the faster you go the greater the fuel consumption. Driving 5-10 km faster on most trips will not lead in a huge time gain – few seconds to few minutes at best depending on the travel distance.
  6. Control tire pressure: under-inflated tyres increase consumption by few percents. Check the pressure once every month or two.
  7. Use air-co wisely: When going slow, turn it off and open the windows instead.
  8. Remove unnecessary weights: Leave wife and kids at home :-). No, seriously remove unnecessary stuff from your boot. Heavier car means higher consumption.
  9. Remove roof racks if no use: they increase air resistance and therefore the power required to maintain speed. It can increase consumption by several percents even if no luggage box on it.
  10. Turn off engine: If you car doesn’t have stop/start technology,  turn off the engine whenever you get stuck and think it will last more than 30s – 1min. Modern cars have become much more efficient at start so it is more efficient to turn it off and restart than staying idle.
Have a nice and greener drive!
Have a green drive - drive different!
What do you think? Did you find this post interesting? Do you do eco driving? Will you do? Please feel free to commment!

Related resources:
(*) for your info, 50 MPG =5.6 l/100km
(**) Display screenshots are not from me except the last one. I borrowed those nice examples from this blog. I hope they won't mind.
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