Maximize Your Fuel Savings by “Floating the Hybrid”

Lyle Ellerbee

In the spirit of frugal living we’re shifting in to full gear to show you how to get even more out of your hybrid vehicle. Regardless of this article’s title you will still travel rubber to road, and with the following tips you’ll learn the best way to drive a hybrid.

My wife and I bought a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid which we are 100% satisfied with. It has enriched our ability to save dollars on gas and maintain our lifestyle of frugal living. But just because you have a hybrid vehicle doesn’t mean that your efforts to save stop at the purchase. Did you know there are techniques you can use while driving your hybrid to squeeze even more mileage out of your vehicle? Read on to learn the proper way to drive a hybrid.

Hybrids realize their best mileage at speeds under 45 m.p.h. So travelling on the streets, contrary to the advice of yesteryear saves gas. At speeds below 45 m.p.h. you can employ the electric aspect of your motor propelling you without the use of fuel. The longer you can keep your car in this mode, the more distance you will travel without spending a penny.

Floating the Hybrid, Explained

We’re very fortunate to have a knowledgeable salesperson while we we’re test driving the hybrid. He introduced us to the concept of “floating the hybrid”. When you step on the accelerator of a hybrid vehicle, depending on how heavy your foot is, you will employ either the gas engine, the electric engine or both at the same time. The gas engine is the most costly, and the electric engine is the most economical. When it is in true hybrid mode, meaning using both gas and electric at the same time you save more than you would driving a gas powered vehicle but not nearly as much as if you operated it solely in its electric mode. In essence, you realize the most savings the more often you drive in electric mode. And the act of consciously keeping the car in this mode is called floating the hybrid. You’re essentially driving without using any gas at all.

Now on the Toyota Camry Hybrid model, there is an electric display near the speedometer that shows when the car is in gas mode, electric mode, hybrid mode, or if it is recharging the battery. We treat this display like a video game, constantly trying to use only the electric motor any time possible, but primarily when we are travelling under 45 m.p.h.. The technique we use on our car is to accelerate to the speed limit, then let off the accelerator slowly until the display shows that we are using only the electric engine. Usually we attain this mode by only a slight depressing of the accelerator. When you properly drive a hybrid vehicle you assume a mind state of conservation and not one of performance.

To even further attest to the video game technique the Toyota Camry shows how many miles per gallon you got for each interval that the car is powered on and the more focused you become on how the car is obtaining its energy, the more money you can save. For me, my highest score is a trip where I realized 54 miles to the gallon.

In summary, the engine status indicator on a hybrid wasn’t intended as a bell and whistle. It’s supposed to help you become more mindful of how your car is operating and help you drive the hybrid efficiently. No matter what hybrid model you have, if you can figure out how to float it and be mindful of what portion of the hybrid engine is running, as well as try to keep it in electric mode as often as possible you can truly boost the savings you receive and get even more out of your investment.

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