Simple changes in driver habits can bring significant fuel economy savings. To prove that point, Isuzu Motors Ltd. has been holding a series of “fuel economy challenges” around the world to demonstrate the effectiveness of its “eco-driving” techniques.
Last week, 15 challenge participants following six basic techniques suggested by the program’s trainers at the company’s proving grounds on the island of Hokkaido in Japan saw their fuel economy jump by an average of 35%.
Using domestic versions of Isuzu’s N-Series low-cab forward loaded to 14,000 lbs. GVW, the participants negotiated a course that provided both urban and intercity driving cycles, recording individual fuel economy results that ranged from 11 to over 13 MPG.
A short classroom session then introduced Isuzu’s basic “eco-driving” techniques: minimize speed, accelerate slowly, upshift at low RPMs, maximize time in top gear, keep a steady foot on the accelerator and avoid overuse of engine braking.
Back on the course, the challenge group was asked to put the suggestions into practice and saw individual results jump substantially, with MPGs ranging from the mid 17’s to over 22.
While the 35% average improvement was higher than usual, the 12,000 people who have gone through the Isuzu economy program over the past 13 years have averaged 26% better fuel performance using those techniques, according to Todd Bloom, vp of fleet operations & marketing for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America.
The company said it will hold its next fuel economy challenge in the U.S. in early 2009, and plans to run at least three more during the year.
During this most recent challenge, Isuzu also took the opportunity to demonstrate two alternative fuel versions of the N-Series – a CNG-powered chassis featuring a 4-cylinder diesel modified by the company to run on natural gas, and a diesel-electric hybrid that boosts fuel economy by 10 to 20% over the standard diesel version. Both are currently sold in the Japanese domestic market, but are not at this point slated for North American sale.
The short video below shows a drive-by on the Isuzu Hokkaido test track with a standard diesel-powered N-Series followed by the CNG and then Hybrid models.