How to get better MPG with FuelFrog.com

One of the best ways to improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency is to record and track your miles per gallon (or kilometers per liters).

It’s been said that we could reduce our crude oil consumption by 20-30% just by mandating ever car have a gauge that displays instantaneous MPG. The person that said this didn’t site a source or show any numbers, but even absent “facts” it’s a good point. Since I’ve gotten my Prius I’ve noticed I pay close attention to that gauge and will accelerate slower (and more efficiently), and “pulse and glide” on longer stretches to optimize efficiency. I do a lot more coasting now that I did before, and it really shows in my MPG.

Of course, hypermilers have been doing this in non-hybrid vehicles for years; so don’t wait until your get a hybrid before you start applying better driving techniques.

Where to start?

One can’t can’t improve unless they have a baseline from which to judge improvement.

Back when I had my Newton MessagePad (130, 2000, 2000u, and 2100) I had a really sweet program called MPG by Catamount Software. Hardy (the owner, operator, programmer) for Catamount made well written software following the Unix principle of software development: a program should do only one thing, and do it well. Well, Steve Jobs killed the Newton, and I switched to Windows Mobile for my mobile platform (ironically, Palm has a Windows Mobile powered line now). Hardy went with Palm, so I lost the best MPG program I’ve ever used (even after asking Hardy and his “new” partner JaroSoft) for MPG for Pocket PC many, many times over the years.

I created an Excel Mobile spreadsheet that I entered my fill-up date into, but that was hard due to the small screen, the (then) lack of a keyboard, and the number of taps that it took to enter the data.

I turned to the web

The Government has a website up at https://www.FuelEconomy.gov/mpg/ that allows you to add multiple cars to your “garage” and enter your fill-up data there. They then run statistics for you. Unfortunately, just like almost everything the government does, they did a poor job and it’s not terribly easy/fast to get the data in or out.

Mike Dopp sent me a link to a new site/service called Fuel Frog which is a very new (less than a couple weeks old at the time of this writing) web application that lets you easily (and quickly!) input your data and immediately get stats back. What’s even more novel is that users can user Twitter to send a tweet to them in this format:

@fuelfrog (miles since last fill-up) ($/gal) (gallons filled)

They’ve got some areas to improve:

  • Their chart doesn’t show higher that 40MPG (which I do quite frequently) (UPDATE 05/13/2008: They upped their graph to 60 MPG today! Yeah!)
  • Their benchmark statistic reads “Did you know? Your average mileage over the last 30 days has been 0.0 mpg.” Um… I don’t usually fill up more than once a month… (After an email they said they’ve added this to their list of things to look into)

My suggestions for future features:

  • You cannot enter your odometer mileage, just miles since last fill-up (they said they’ve added this to their list of things to look into and noted this would be a simple way to differentiate multiple vehicles…)
  • You cannot enter your total purchase price, just price per gallon (they’ve also added this to their list)
  • They don’t have any badges/widgets to put on your blog/website or email/forum signature (from their email: “Yet…”)
  • I didn’t see any mention of an API to allow application developers access to the date (both pulling data and posting data; think flickr, but for MPG) (LillyPad for Windows Mobile by HankLynch.com is close)
  • synchronizing with FuelEfficency.gov (so you don’t have to manually enter all your data in two places, and so the government can get a real-world report of your car’s fuel efficiency)

Thinking outside the box… WAY outside (these could be 3rd party solutions that utilize the non-existent FuelFrog API):

  • sending your GPS location data along with fill-up date could quickly tie into a service that shows what stations have the best prices in your area
  • a quick button that sends a data/time/location stamp and an:
  • accident report
  • congestion report
  • construction report
  • detour report
  • speed-trap report
  • checkpoint/roadblock report (sobriety/immigration/seatbelt)
  • An alert to tell you when you’re approaching one of the above
  • Overall, I give them a 9 out of 10 for doing one thing and doing it well, as well as overall. These guys are great, in touch with their users, and have a fabulous product! If you’re interested in tracking your fuel consumption, you owe it to yourself to

    4 Responses to How to get better MPG with FuelFrog.com

    1. Hey Joe,
      check out http://gtftr.com
      Although it’s not designed primarily around it there’s a lot of what you want ;)
      http://blog.gtftr.com/post/2008/04/Get-fit-and-leave-the-car-at-home.aspx

    2. Hank Lynch says:

      Joe, hey you spelled my name wrong in the link dude, it’s “HankLynch.com”, not hanDlynch.com.

      In any case, all of the source is available for the windows mobile app, LillyPad, if anyone wants to change it, and I’ll happily post any improvements that might be made to it along the way.

      I disagree about the FuelFrog api though, in a sense, Twitter IS the api, that’s the cool part of it. I personally have no attachment to FuelFrog, I just made a quick and dirty utility that helped me format a text message, but I was able to do that because it was so simple.

      On another note, it was cool to see your pulse driving comments, I wrote about the same thing a couple of weeks ago. Gave up on it though because it honestly was a bit of a pain, and I’d get mad at myself for forgetting to coast on the downhills.

      Cool blog man, subscribed.

    3. Joe says:

      @Hank Lynch:

      oops! Sorry about the typo! The hyperlink was correct, so you were still getting click-throughs! I’ve fixed it now… :)

      Publishing the source is awesome, and thank you for that… as a web developer I’m going to have to wait for someone else (or yourself) to extend/improve it… I have the tools to do it myself, just not the “1337 sk177z.”

      You can disagree with me about the FuelFrog API, that’s cool. From my perspective, Twitter a conduit for submitting data, an “API Light” if you will. For a more full-featured API one needs the ability to edit/delete entries, not just submit. Also, being able to pull JSON or XML data from a particular user account (if that user has permitted) for inclusion in a custom app (Windows Mobile, Widget,desktop app, etc.) is something that’s missing in the current release. Even if one were to ping the user’s Twitter feed they’d still have to scrub the data and apply all the logic that’s already built into FuelFrog. Anyhow, that’s where my API comment came from. :)

      I’ve been reading about your pulse and glide (and push push coast) adventures, and agree with you somewhat. It’s hard to do. I’m hoping, however, that given enough practice I can get in the habit of doing it unconsciously. I’m probably not being as aggressive as you were about it, just trying to notice more of the surroundings (grade, traffic, upcoming turns, stale-green stoplights, etc.) and allowing enough time to “regeneratively coast” (in a Prius there’s coasting (no power being re-gen’d, no power being expended; and there’s re-gen coasting, which slows you down because you’re recovering power into the batteries). I’m going to try it for a few tanks and see how it goes.

      Thanks for subscribing! I’m pulling your feed, too! :)

      And thank you for the comments! Community participations is always appreciated!

      http://www.JoeLevi.com

    4. Joe says:

      @Offbeatmammal:

      That’s an interesting use of a “fitness application” but a very good one! I can see how “using your vehicle less” ties in to walking/running/biking more.

      Good thoughts! Have you contacted the FuelFrog guys to see if they might be interested in some of your code for extending their app?

      Thanks for the visit (oh, and I posted a comments on your blog about a technical hiccup; ping me when that’s fixed, if you don’t mind).

      http://www.JoeLevi.com

    Leave a Reply