Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fuel EcoAssist Systems

"Gently Does It" Economist. September 2nd, 2010

The article "Gently Does It" describes a variety of eco-enthusiasts, auto-performance optimizers, and fleet managers that seek to integrate driver training, route selection, and mechanical know-how in the pursuit of greater fuel efficiency. The entire article is only a page long and definitely worth the read, but the following synopsis is offered.


The following fuel inefficiencies are alleviated by EcoAssist systems:
  • Unnecessary braking "dissipates energy"
  • Driving at high speeds is less efficient than lower speeds
  • Poor route selection, resulting in stop and go traffic or sitting in traffic
  • "Excessive engine revving" and "harsh braking" waste fuel


  • EcoAssist systems monitor braking, speed, and engine behavior to indicate refinements in driving behavior. For example, driving above 65 MPH is discouraged as is harsh braking (which also has safety benefits).
  • Such systems also examine historical traffic patterns, current weather, and GPS defined location to determine the most fuel efficient route.
  • By recording driver performance, fleet managers can retrain drivers to adopt fuel efficient habits such as light braking and acceleration as well as "by anticipating manoeuvres."
  • Accelerometers and GPS interpet the forces being exerted on the vehicle, and display a green, yellow, or red lights to the driver via a dashboard LED mounting... thereby providing the driver with real time feedback.


"Firms using such systems say they can yield fuel savings of around 10% a year." Furthermore, the avoidance of traffic, weather problems and route planning enable greater driver productivity and return on vehicle investment. I am surprised to hear that such factors haven't been integrated into the routing algorithm, although I may be overestimating their significance relative to fuel and driver compensation. The article also notes that there is a correlation between safe driving and fuel efficient driving, which would reduce insurance payouts, insurance premiums, and hopefully give fleet managers cheaper premiums for the detailed driving data maintained for each driver.