Driving Innovation

(c) – Stock.Adobe.com

My 2021 Honda Civic has been giving us incredible gas mileage. We bought it for that reason as we contemplated lower incomes of retirement and deplorable gas mileage on our 2014 RAM. (Both are ICE (Internal Combustion Engines), not Hybrid).

We often haul things so the truck is necessary, though less and less so. My truck gets between 19 and 21 miles per gallon, usually on the low end of that scale. The Civic dwarfs that. Couple that with the price of a fill-up. I fill my tanks when half empty. The truck costs anywhere from $50 to $80, depending on gas prices. The Civic between $15 and $25. We’re happy.

Early on, I achieved a Civic mile-per-gallon average of 48.2. I suspected it was the best I’d ever do and, until a recent trip to Salamanca, New York, I had never even duplicated it. This is about a 1.5-hour trip through Kane, Bradford, etc. I averaged 47+ MPG. My wife said it would be worse going home. I had to agree. We’ve found that the best mileage occurs when a lot of the trip is downhill. We try to avoid trips like those schools of our parents/grandparents being, as they were, uphill both ways. Downhill going was uphill coming home.

I did think momentarily that perhaps I could just drive in reverse on the way home. Of course, that was just silly. Transmissions are geared lower for reverse, so the trip would be slower. And it is hard on the neck if done too long. Still, there are other ways to make things more efficient. Perhaps even motivational.

The Civic records miles per gallon onscreen, along with a bar graph showing averages, in real-time as I drive. (This gauge only goes up to 80mpg. There is no way to tell when I am doing better than that.) It averages 40+ MPG. We like antique stores. It is our main out-and-about pastime. A typical purchase is between $0 and $20. We mostly like looking. The Civic gas mileage brings it all within reach almost regardless of gas prices. And lately, I feel creative. Things could be even better.

Taking an idea from the gaming world, it would be really cool to get extra lives for mile-per-gallon milestones. Sadly, that is not possible. One life per customer. However, I do think another gaming feature would work quite well for motivation. There should be a way for a driver to enter his/her initials which would be preserved along with the high mileage achieved. Perhaps keep a display of the top ten. I believe this would encourage healthy competition going not for speed but for meaningful efficiency of the combination of speed and miles covered.

This could have a real-world impact. Everyone could compete. Not everyone could win but with everyone TRYING for a place on the leaderboard, I believe that we would make some progress against climate change and depletion of oil/gas. If we use less, I have to believe gas/oil would cost less, and if they cost less, surely the cost of everything else would follow.

To pursue this further, there could be categories established so that trains, planes, boats, RVs, etc. could add to the fun and benefits. We would probably also need subcategories… Mini, medium, large, SUV, van, pickup, etc. Apples must be compared to apples.

There are some things that would have to be considered. First, we would need some way to get the information uploaded so that the whole world could see it. There would also need to be some mechanism to verify the information, though perhaps an honor system would be sufficient. Could this become a professional sport? Don’t dismiss it. Did anyone think video games would ever be a professional spectator sport? It is huge now.

Another feature of my Civic that is essential to achieving high MPG is cruise control. This seems to be a standard feature on vehicles. I use it every time I drive. It is more comfortable driving without my foot on the gas pedal all the time and gives me some peace of mind as far as worrying about exceeding speed limits. Cruise, however, has one glaring space for improvement that I have considered and solved. It rests only with someone in position to implement my idea. (I’m hoping that someone who knows someone who knows someone who reads this will pass it along. They could run with it with my blessing after that. No compensation, credit, or even acknowledgment is required.)

In every car I have ever been in, radios have had programmable buttons to preserve favorite stations. This even improved over the years. Originally five channels, through electronic jiggery-pokery, today’s drivers can now have ten or more pre-sets. I propose extending this idea to cruise control. I have found that driving often takes me through multiple different speed limits and it is tedious to have to adjust my speed control up and down. How much better would it be to have five or ten buttons with different speed settings? When the speed limit changes, push a button.

My Civic quite intelligently changes from high-beam to low-beam automatically. I can’t imagine it would be terribly difficult for it to automatically adjust my cruise control when it sees a speed limit sign. (Of course, this MUST account for metric-system locales.) This feature is not available yet, so the multiple-button cruise is the most I can currently suggest as feasible, but progress marches on.

My new Civic MPG record is 49.7 mpg. I don’t think I’ll ever beat this, but I had thought 48.2 was unbelievable when I did that. The only thing I feel reasonably safe in saying is that the best possible is eighty miles per gallon because that is all the higher the progress bar on my dash panel records. Things are ripe for someone to show the world a way to do things better. That is the kind of motivation that drives innovation.