It’s no secret that the fuel economy of any given vehicle will be worse in the winter. It’s not just about the extended warm up time, as some might think. While it’s easy to blame it all on Old Man Winter, there’s a range of specific reasons why we experience lower MPGs at this time of year.
As luck would have it, I’m driving a 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid this week. When the news hit the wire today about Consumer Reports failing to hit the official gas mileage estimates, I took it all with a grain of salt. They had similarly poor results with the Prius C earlier this year. Part of the reason why they fared even more poorly with the C-Max may have to do with the time of year. (I’ll address the Consumer Reports issue in a subsequent post.)
Environmental conditions can play havoc with fuel economy. Natasha At Ford hit on the key points that apply to all vehicles in the wintertime on the Ford C-Max Hybrid Facebook page:
- More idling to warm up a vehicle
- Low tire pressure – a 10 degree drop in ambient temperature equates to a 1 psi drop in tire pressure
- Increased tire rolling resistance
- Engine takes longer to reach maximum operating temperature
- Lubricant viscosity of engine, transmission, and differential fluids affected
- Gasoline formulations and additives to aid vaporization can reduce available energy
- Higher electrical loads for lights, heaters, defrosters may increase draw on engine
- Denser air when cold causes aerodynamic drag
Colder weather is notoriously tough on vehicles that use hybrid technology, be they Fords, Toyotas, or Hondas. The systems are designed to fully warm up before allowing you to maximize the vehicle’s electric drive train components.
Here’s a handful of tactics that may help you recover some of those missing winter MPGs:
- If you have a garage, clear out the junk, and keep your car in it overnight.
- Use a block heater in colder climates.
- Try to park in the sun rather than the shade during the day (the opposite of what you want to do during the summer).
- Consider using different (synthetic!) fluids.
- Consider using a grille blocker.
- Be even more vigilant about tire pressure.
- Use your HVAC system sparingly. Seat heaters are the way to go.
- Minimize idle time (as always).
- by Daniel Gray
A big tip of the hat to Craig at Cmaxchat.com!
December 6th, 2012
- MPG Tip: Checking Tire Pressure
- Why Am I Getting Bad Gas Mileage?
- Tire Inflation
- Can a Heated Hoodie Improve Winter Fuel Economy?
- Ford Focus Gas Mileage: 2000 – 2013
- 2016 Toyota Prius: How Many MPGs Can YOU Get?
- Jeep Wrangler Gas Mileage Improvement Project