Why Do I Have Low MPG In My Hybrid in the Winter/Cold? | Hybrid Driving Tip #26

Hybrid MPG Driving Tip #26. This article is a Winter Addendum and addition to my article “How to Drive a Hybrid | 25 Tips and Driving Techniques for MPG | GUIDE“. Based on feedback, a many readers have received a lot of useful information from that article. As winter and cold weather approaches, Trukbed offers another hybrid driving tip. A hybrid in the winter comes with a couple nuances that those in the summer or warm locales don’t really deal with. If you are wondering why you’re getting low MPG in cold weather, this article may help you.

white suv on road near snow covered trees driving in cold weather with low MPG, not a hybrid

Starting the Hybrid: The engine probably starts right Away, vs. the battery

The engine is cold

All summer you may have noticed the battery was ready to drive immediately upon starting the car. No engine would run. The battery had enough power to get you going practically immediately. As the winter and cold weather has approached, you may have noticed the internal combustion engine churning almost immediately.

This is because of two things: The engine has gotten cold – too cold for comfort according to your vehicle’s analytics. While you can drive the car, the system knows it needs to be warmer. So, it starts the vehicle to get it going and to pump the settled oil around the motor. It’s starting immediately so it can simply warm up to it’s own acceptable operating temperature.

The battery is also cold

Overnight, or even after an hour or two during the day in more frigid temperatures, the battery lost some energy. this was due to the temperatures. Batteries and cold do not get along that well with each other. So, the battery must also be recharged. The vehicle will charge the battery while the engine is warming up.

Afford yourself up to 10 minutes of more time in colder weather.

Unfortunately, if you want to maximize MPG efficiency with your hybrid in cold weather, you need to afford yourself more time before you get going. The time it takes will depend on the variables of how cold the engine and batteries have gotten. Generally speaking, you should afford yourself about 10 extra minutes. In fact, most engine remote start capable vehicles idle for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes before they automatically shut off.

In this time, the engine will be charging your battery as well as warming up the vehicle. You may choose to use the remote start, or simply wait in the vehicle while it warms and charges.

Winter gas is among us again, don’t forget!

woman filling up her gas tank of her vehicle with winter gas at gas station pump and is going to get bad mpg

I have an article that discusses fuel, octane, winter and summer gas, and more. You should read it for more information regarding this aspect of why your MPG will be lower in your hybrid during colder weather. Here is the link.

Very briefly, winter gas is worse on your fuel efficiency than summer gas for various reasons. It’s a double whammy. The cold weather is draining your battery and causing the engine to go far below a good operating temperatures. Now the gas in a winter gas solution that isn’t as efficient as the summer.

So put it together, and you see that the inefficient winter gas HAS to be used WHILE you need to warm up the engine AND charge your battery! This alone will hurt the MPG numbers you have been used to all summer. But your own driving habits may also be throwing in another hurtful variable.

You may be driving off too soon. Way too soon, in fact.

a toyota prius driving and getting lower hybrid mpg

You may be taking off for your destination too soon, and his could also be why your hybrid MPG is lower. But not allowing the battery to get charged, you forced a cold engine to do some heavy lifting for the first parts of your journey. Heavy lifting your battery was doing all summer, most likely.

A couple of the tips in my previous article discusses how to use the battery in low gears. Using engine in lower gears causes higher RPMs, and higher RPMs cause more fuel use. Well, when you take off too soon in a cold hybrid battery and engine, you’re not allowing the battery to be able to do any of that heavy lifting anymore. All low speed, low gear, high RPM work must be performed by the engine. A cold engine, which is also trying to warm itself.

You are still going to get lower MPG than summer, even if you warm up.

it is what it is - winter gas will result in lower hybrid mpg versus summer

Because the engine has to run in order to warm up and charge the battery, you will see less MPG than the summertime. It’s simply how it goes. And as mentioned, with winter gas vs. summer gas, that will not help matters. It’s best to accept the MPG’s will be lower. Upside? Your lower hybrid MPG is still going to be higher than any non-hybrid of your same vehicle model. The hybrid still serves a purpose. Once it is warmed up, both engine and battery, it should operate nearly as normal as it does during summer.

Just also remember, the winter gas variable applies, and is less efficient than summer gas, no matter how warmed up the engine and battery are.

It’s better to warm up at a constant engine idle than to drive.

Some may ask, what does it matter. If the engine has to work at idle anyway, why not just get going? Because idle RPMs are going to stay low, using less fuel. If you drive, you use much higher RPMs, and that drinks fuel.

Besides, the engine needs time to pump settled motor oil around in the crankcase with the oil pump – whether you have a hybrid, or a traditional engine only vehicle.. Give it time. Give it the 10 minutes.

Allow that warm up time to get better Hybrid MPG in the winter.

a nespresso coffee in a clear coffee mug on a table

While you will most certainly never equal your summer MPG, you can still conserve as much as you can. By remembering to give yourself and your hybrid more time, you will be saving money. Used in conjunction with my other 25 tips and techniques, you will definitely conserve fuel and raise your average MPG.

Maybe you can take that time to make a delicious cup of coffee in a travel mug, like from Nespresso for example, versus having to stop along the morning commute!

When the engine finally shuts off and the hybrid is ready in battery only mode, you are good to go.

So, there you go. This was my hybrid MPG driving tip #26. Best of luck to you, and thank you for reading! If you liked this article and feel like it may be useful to your friends and family, please forward it along! Subscribe if you’d like to see more tips like this in the future.

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