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Toyota Highlander Hybrid Driving Tips & Tricks

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,854
Have a technique you're using to maximize the mileage performance of your Toyota Highlander Hybrid? This is the place to share and discuss your hypermiling tips.

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  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Hi, I shared your exact frustration once and grumbled to my wife about trading it in for a Prius. A lot of patience and a lot of practice behind the wheels paid off.

    Many others here have good experience to share, I can only share what my family does locally with our HH. It may or may not work for your car, location, weather, etc ,etc :). Our HH is at 5763 miles now so it is well broken in.

    Q1. 5-10 mph.
    If traffic allows, we accelerate to over 10-mph (13? 15?) and then let it coast back down to 10-mph, then either gently maintain speed or accelerate up over 10 and let it coast again.
    If traffic does not allow, we just maintain at safe traffic speed and ignore the gas mileage. No point sweating it at such a low speed.

    Q2.
    The short trip I wrote refers to actually parking, turning off the engine and get out to run errand and then get in, start up and drive to the next parking. We did this 6 times in a 10-mile loop and it slaughtered our mileage.

    "City driving" means driving on city streets dealing with stop-and-go, traffic lights and stop signs but the engine is ON so the car has a chance to switch between ICE and electric or both. Hybrid is supposed to be good for this.

    Q3.
    When our local temp drop to below 40-F, our gas-engine then tends to run more and more often. It does cut into electric-mode on very forgiving flat terrain but must less often. NOTE: this is not always bad, see footnote below.
  • phoebeisisphoebeisis Posts: 121
    nimhrod, just as toyotaken says,the AC in the HH is just like the AC in your house-is the bill higher in the summer(if you live in the south,it is)?
    Under some circumstances the AC might put drag on the motor-I think.toyotaken can probably correct me if I'm wrong.If you cruising along the interstate(no braking in last hr -battery low)have the AC on full blast,and you floor it,both-or all 3 on 4wd) "car" motors will come on-full blast,and the electric motor that drives the AC compressor will be on.I wonder if under these circumstances the car motor will be running an alternator-or generator to produce energy to keep the electric motors running(it will probably pass it thru the battery ist)??More likely,I think,is the electric motor will be cut back,and you will accelerate more slowly-depending on state of battery.
    Bottom line-the AC cost gasoline-but it beats sweating.I think the electric power steering,and electric AC compressor are to keep the gasoline motor off-they aren't necessarily much more efficient than the gasoline belt driven counterparts,but that great big 230 hp motor is pretty inefficient if all you need it for is to provide 5 hp for your AC and 3 hp for your power steering,and 1/4 hp for you AC fan,and power windows,radio etc.Keep the gasoline motor off-that is the advantage Toyota has over Honda-they shut it off and hope you brake a lot-(you do)Charlie
  • toyotakentoyotaken Posts: 897
    Mostly you're correct. However, the electronics in the HH keep the batteries at optimal charge whatever the conditions. So whether you're stopped, or going in city driving, or highway driving (no gas engine, sometimes gas engine, always gas engine) if the batteries are running low, the HH will divert some of the ICE's power towards regenerating the batteries. If the engine isn't running at that point, it will start it. Part of the wonders of this technology is that it will run the engine in the most efficient way possible for any/all of these situations. Just to recharge the batteries while standing still may have the ICE at idle speed, full throttle would bring the ICE to more rpm's to supplement the battery's power. Regardless, the software prevents the batteries from depleting too far. The benefit of changing the power steering, A/C and other electrical systems to electric only is that you don't have to have the engine running 100% of the time to power them. If you only need to run the ICE for 2minutes to get enough charge to run all of them for 30 minutes, why run the ICE for the other 28minutes?

    Hope this helps.
  • bouvsrusbouvsrus Posts: 13
    We have HH, Ltd., AWD and manual recommends regular unleaded but advises that premium unleaded produces better performance.

    For someone familiar with the 2WD, is the recommendation for premium gas only? I think I saw note on this board to that effect.

    Does anyone know what Manual means by better performance? Would I expect to get higher mpg avg? Just less build up of stuff in engine (which perhaps getting engine flushed everyone now and again and staying with regular unleaded would be best? Nor suprisingly, much prefer saving 20 cents/gallon (in DC area) with purchase of regular unleaded but unclear what, if any, "cost" is associated with my savings at the pump?

    Steve
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,848
    Does anyone know what Manual means by better performance?

    I read that Toyota does their HP ratings tests using Premium gas. The electronic fuel injection is sophisticated enough to compensate for most grades of gas that you will encounter. You may lose a few HP by running regular unleaded. I doubt it will decrease your mileage. You can always run a test for yourself. There are those that claim higher mileage with premium. It may just be a waste of money.
  • sbgirlsbgirl Posts: 22
    I have a 2WD HH and the owner's manual states the same thing:
    "manual recommends regular unleaded but advises that premium unleaded produces better performance"
  • energyeconenergyecon Posts: 16
    Is there any additional regeneration due using the B position on the trans?

    I watched the power guage and there does not seem to be much effect, even on steep San Francisco hills. The only time the power guage dips deeply into the blue range is on braking with the brake pedal. Hardly any indication during deceleration unless the foot brake is engaged.

    Is this the way it should be?

    Also, I wondered if the power guage is indicating the maximum regeneration when the needle reaches the bottom of the blue range.

    Marvin
  • johnny_5johnny_5 Posts: 10
    I have yet to test out the "B" on the gear selector except on mild hills. I was told by my salesman that the engine braking allowed the driver to maintain whatever speed that was set while descending. For some reason, I just do not buy it. Has anyone out there tested out the engine braking on the HH?
  • falcononefalconone Posts: 1,726
    I imagine it works the same as on the Prius. When descending steep hills it will give what appears to be additional compression braking when you engage B.
  • jdkahlerjdkahler Posts: 50
    Tried the B setting in a hilly area I've been driving "out in the country" for years, speed 45-55mph with the hitch that it leads downhill into a little town where the limit drops to 35mph - and sometimes a speed trap. Always had to ride the brakes in and push to slow down before the town (gearing down when I was driving a stick) - the B setting settled right into the speed limit and hardly had to brake at all. Worked nicely. I'd say the salesman was describing it accurately.

    The trip was to a campground where parents have spent summer weekends for 30+ years, we pulled in, shifted to B and drove effortlessly on the battery at the 5 mph speed limit - driving the only air conditioned electric cart in the place. It used to require some effort whenever driving through just to keep the speed slow enough. No problem here. Only noise was the quiet whir of the fans and the motor, and the crunching noise of the stone path under the tires.

    The first situation was real world but the second sure impressed the heck out of my dad, whose first car was a Model A.....
  • ulevulev Posts: 57
    I surfed over to the Lexus 400h board and found the following interesting post;

    "#29 of 31 Possible cause of performance problems by rx400_owner Aug 08, 2005 (10:34 am)
    Bookmark | Reply | E-mail Msg
    Those of you experiencing poor performance might ask your dealers to try the ISC Learning proceedure which reinitializes the the idle speed control. It is in TSIB EG010-05. This is something that can be necessary if the 12 V battery dies (and possibly that happens during shipment or prep of some of the cars).

    Some of the things this can cause are poor fuel economy, engine running too often and excess noise at idle.

    The info came from a post on another board. It didn't say that it could cause the lurch some here have complained about, but it seems possible that engine idle being messed up might lead to that behavior as well.

    This or something like it would explain why our experiences with this car vary so widely. "

    I have already placed a call to my dealer....
  • carz89carz89 Posts: 16
    Bear with me here ... I'm a very curious nuclear engineer ... Some of these have been asked before, but no one seemed to have really technical answers.

    1. Does the "B" engine braking position on the shifter truly regenerate electricity and charge the battery? I've read contradictory statements that it does and does not. Also, when on level ground, the car will move and accelerate slowly on its own when in the "B" position, as if it was no different than the "D" drive position. This seems sort of strange.

    2. Is the fuel tank size really 17 or 19 gallons? I've read both numbers, and am inclined to believe the 17 gallons based on my experience.

    3. Why are there several ticks in the region around zero kW on the kW meter? Why not just one tick for the zero mark?

    4. Why does the kW meter indicate a positive (+) number when only the ICE is powering the wheels? Obviously, this meter is indicating more than just electrical power transfer. Perhaps a conversion factor from horsepower to kilowatts is applied here?

    5. Sometimes the kW meter reads zero (right in the middle of the many tick marks), yet the power direction indicates "charging" the battery when drifting down the highway at high speed, or even down a gentle hill. Shouldn't the meter read negative (into the blue zone)?

    6. For charging the battery, is it more effective to brake gradually or drift down (kW meter basically reading zero), or to apply the brakes firmly and force the kW meter deep into the blue zone?

    7. Has anyone figured out how and where to tap into the computer system, specifically to get at the data that is used to calculate MPG? I have the basic HH (couldn't afford all the luxury features that came with the Limited), but I really would like to calculate total MPG for short trips, whether it's a 5 mile trip or a 50 mile trip, without having to refill the tank. I know the information is somewhere in my HH's little brain, since it will display a 6-second instantaneous MPG rate. For you computer nerds out there, I bet you could make some money if you came up with an interface and a program to download all this hidden data into a PDA or laptop. I would gladly spend $25-$100 for such a gadget.

    8. Pulse and Glide method: Is the "glide" portion of this technique the same as being in "N" neutral? Please explain the technical differences if they are not the same. Does pulse and glide cause more wear and tear on any mechanical components or electrical relays?

    9. What is the algorithm or equation that determines when the ICE switches on/off? What might some of the not-too-obvious inputs be? Is car attitude (levelness) one of them? Perhaps someone could do a whole lot of experimenting and figure it out.

    10. Non-hybrid specific: why can't auto manufacturers make a linearly-accurate fuel gage? This just blows my mind, especially with today's technology! There are zillions of accurate tank level measuring systems out there in industry, just not in the auto industry!

    geez - I guess I could have started a new discussion board here!
  • avivaaviva Posts: 1
    I'm afraid I'm just as curious about the answers to your questions, so not much help there.

    However, try this link to get you going for your question 7."
  • gazguzlergazguzler Posts: 137
    You know we’ve got problems in the world when a nuclear engineer is asking the likes of us questions more difficult than, “What’s your favorite color HH?”

    :-)

    Here are my guesses . . . please correct.

    “1. Does the "B" engine braking position on the shifter truly regenerate electricity and charge the battery?”

    Truly doubt it. I often hear the engine revving when I’m in this gear and can see it on the screen. I believe it’s braking WITH the engine. Also, it’s different from drive in that when you release the accelerator it won’t glide.

    “2. Is the fuel tank size really 17 or 19 gallons?”

    At cut off, it’s around 17 in your tank (or even less) but you can get more than 19 in there if you go beyond this. By the way, some nozzles have a vapor vaccum. If your nozzle is in the gasoline, you’re putting in and sucking out gas at the same time. Make sure your nozzle is out of the liquid.

    “3. Why are there several ticks in the region around zero kW on the kW meter? Why not just one tick for the zero mark?”

    Please refer to the previous answer about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin . . . who cares on this one? Never even thought of it.

    “4. Why does the kW meter indicate a positive (+) number when only the ICE is powering the wheels? Obviously, this meter is indicating more than just electrical power transfer. Perhaps a conversion factor from horsepower to kilowatts is applied here?”

    Yes, you got it at the end.

    “5. Sometimes the kW meter reads zero (right in the middle of the many tick marks), yet the power direction indicates "charging" the battery when drifting down the highway at high speed, or even down a gentle hill. Shouldn't the meter read negative (into the blue zone)?”

    It could, I guess. But it seems to only work in the +. It would be better to see how much energy it’s getting back.

    “6. For charging the battery, is it more effective to brake gradually or drift down (kW meter basically reading zero), or to apply the brakes firmly and force the kW meter deep into the blue zone?”

    Slow. A firm press actually uses the conventional brakes and you get no regeneration. There’s also the power assist, where the car thinks it’s an emergency and clamps down the calipers for you and then you get zero regeneration.

    ”7. Has anyone figured out how and where to tap into the computer system, specifically to get at the data that is used to calculate MPG? I have the basic HH (couldn't afford all the luxury features that came with the Limited), but I really would like to calculate total MPG for short trips, whether it's a 5 mile trip or a 50 mile trip, without having to refill the tank. I know the information is somewhere in my HH's little brain, since it will display a 6-second instantaneous MPG rate. For you computer nerds out there, I bet you could make some money if you came up with an interface and a program to download all this hidden data into a PDA or laptop. I would gladly spend $25-$100 for such a gadget.”

    You can bet it’s gonna cost you more than that and few are going to dabble there till their warranty’s up.

    ”8. Pulse and Glide method: Is the "glide" portion of this technique the same as being in "N" neutral? Please explain the technical differences if they are not the same. Does pulse and glide cause more wear and tear on any mechanical components or electrical relays?”

    On a normal car, it would be like neutral with the engine ala Kerouac’s On the Road (which I did all the time). But in the HH neutral gives no regeneration and you inevitably slip from one arrow to the other. Definitely don’t do this in neutral in a HH.

    “9. What is the algorithm or equation that determines when the ICE switches on/off?”

    Of course, I don’t know but I wish T had made this so you could set it yourself. How nice it would be to say only electric, for instance? Or even to have the equivalent of cruise control but where the car would pulse and glide for you between a high and low you’d set. Because P&G’s damn dangerous now as you have to watch the instrument panel every second.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Regarding #7, try the following Toyota link:

    http://techinfo.toyota.com/

    It is a Toyota site that has all technical documents and user manuals in PDF form. When you access each document, it pops up so you will need to enable "Pop-Up" for your browser.

    There are wiring diagrams & Toyota Diagnostic Tester info for the HH. Whoever is handy with a diagnostic unit can easily use such info to tap into the on-board drive system and decipher the data being passed to the instrument panel display. This can be like the system an owner did for his Prius (another poster has link).

    Whoever can do this and provide a read-out for us will likely charge beyond $25. It will involve wiring connection and installation of a device that provides such read out.
  • Carz89

    Can only answer #1. The info below is based on observing the arrows/flows on the Energy display on one of our trips.

    "B" - Engine braking, enginge does not charge the batteries as shown on the energy display. No flow into or out of the engine but we can feel car slowing and engine is reving.

    "N" - No charging at all. Display shows no energy flow anywhere.

    "D" - When driving, engine sometimes charges the batteries via the front motor. This is normal, it charges whenever it needs to.

    "Coasting in D or B" - foot off accelerator, car is coasting in D or B, charging occurs automatically from all 4 wheels. Have not seen engine charging the batteries when coasting in these modes.

    "Gentle Braking in D or B" - Tricky. Often, when we coast to a stop, regeneration is happening before we apply the brakes. Soon after we apply our brakes, regeneration stops and energy display shows no flows anywhere. While we believe we were gentle on the brakes, the car thinks otherwise and actuates the real brakes sooner than we think. This cuts off regeneration sooner than we think.

    "Hard braking" - No charging. Energy flow display shows no flows at all anywhere.

    "Pulse and Glide" Excessive Wear question - I do not believe so. It is all just normal driving, no hard acceleration, no hard braking so only "normal" wear and tear occurs.

    We do pulse and glide a lot on local roads and it helps with our MPG. We are now up to 26.5-27 MPG mixed at 2300+ miles. We also stay in the right lane more and coast to a stop as much as possible before applying brake pressure.

    Using analogy from flying, streets are like taxi ways, freeway on-ramps are like take-off's while freeways or high speed expressway are like crusing at altitude. :) Drive/taxi carefully and slowly but punch it on entering freeway/take-off and then cruise it at altitude.
  • sunbyrnesunbyrne Posts: 210
    2. Is the fuel tank size really 17 or 19 gallons? I've read both numbers, and am inclined to believe the 17 gallons based on my experience.

    The owner's manual clearly says 17.2.

    3. Why are there several ticks in the region around zero kW on the kW meter? Why not just one tick for the zero mark?

    No kidding. I don't get this, either.

    4. Why does the kW meter indicate a positive (+) number when only the ICE is powering the wheels? Obviously, this meter is indicating more than just electrical power transfer. Perhaps a conversion factor from horsepower to kilowatts is applied here?

    Conversion from HP is my assumption. If you hit car pages from other nations (you know, that whole rest of the world which is on ISO units) they report power in kW, not HP.

    5. Sometimes the kW meter reads zero (right in the middle of the many tick marks), yet the power direction indicates "charging" the battery when drifting down the highway at high speed, or even down a gentle hill. Shouldn't the meter read negative (into the blue zone)?

    I'm glad I'm not the only person to wonder this. Makes no sense to me, either.

    10. Non-hybrid specific: why can't auto manufacturers make a linearly-accurate fuel gage? This just blows my mind, especially with today's technology! There are zillions of accurate tank level measuring systems out there in industry, just not in the auto industry!

    No kidding. This drives me bananas in all cars...
  • Maybe I'm off the track here on #7, but nobody has mentioned yet that you can reset avg MPG calculation simply by holding in the "info" button on the multi-information display (I have a Limited w/o nav). It resets the average MPG calculation to 0 and starts all over again. So if you want to calculate MPG for a 5 mile stretch, just reset the "MPG avg" to zero and see what it does. I've been resetting mine with each refill to see how the average is going up as I break it in and get more miles on it. (I'm up to 28.4 on this tank of gas (my third)!) I have no use for knowing the "lifetime" avg MPG on the car, so it doesn't bother me to reset the average calculator to get my average over shorter distances.
  • gazguzlergazguzler Posts: 137
    I realized something's killing the consumption, particularly on short runs.

    I can have a full battery but when I start (after a few seconds of READY), even when parked or rolling slow, the engine will start and won't stop no matter if completely still or moving.

    The only explanation I can think of is that the engine always starts to warm up the catalytic converter (there MUST be a more energy efficient way to heat up that tiny little thing!). That’s doesn’t bother you if you’re straight onto a road beginning with I- and you’ll be cruising at 70mph but to roll through a neighborhood it’s pointless.

    I take my wife on a 2.5 mile commute. I get 15 MPG there and 30 MPG back (and it’s level).

    In my old 4Runner I would switch off the engine and roll in neutral, which you can do in the HH but you can’t start back up until you’re stopped and put it back in Park. The Runnner could statt in N or P. So, you could start on a roll.

    If there was away around this early engine running, you could save significantly on short cold runs and at least 2mpg on total use. By only using the engine when you needed it and not to warm up a catalytic converter, which isn’t only wasteful but you must emit more pollution this way (why not just let normal use of the engine warm it up? Using the battering for the first 3 minutes doesn’t pollute).

    Can anyone think of a way to prevent this early engine start-up or starting the car while in N?
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Gazguzler,

    We observed a slightly different behavior:

    1. Approx. 10 seconds after READY, ICE comes on. Display shows it charges the battery even when battery already has 6 bars.

    2. Charging continues for approximately 20 seconds then display shows charging ends, no energy flows anywhere. ICE remains on. Battery remains at 6 bars.

    3. ICE continues to run for about 10 more seconds and then shuts off.

    Total time from start-ready to ICE shut off is about 40 seconds and ICE stays on for about 30 seconds. This all happens consistently in ambient temperature range of 60-78 degrees.

    Will it charge longer if battery is less than 6 bars? or will it stay on longer to heat the converter as you surmised if ambient temperature is colder? We are not sure.

    We paid attention to this after reports of HH not starting overnight and HH ICE runs too long (NYT article). So far, we have noticed no such behavior.
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