The usefulness of single-journey data in a hybrid car

Toyota Corolla dashboard

This week I drove into and out of central London, into the congestion charging zone, in my self-charging hybrid car for the first time this year. It’s about a 60-mile trip each way for me on the A4 and M4 motorway. Much of the journey on the M4 is under 50mph or 60mph speed limits due to the huge smart motorway project to widen that whole stretch to four lanes each way between J12 at Theale and J3 at Hayes.

I drive a Toyota Corolla hybrid that I bought in the summer of 2020. It’s an ideal car for low intermittent use, mostly short local journeys with the occasional one of two or more hours including trips into busy urban area such as this one. Plus, for me, such a hybrid car is a stepping stone to full electric-powered mobility, or whatever is feasible in 2023 or thereabouts, without the anxiety of running out of juice.

So on my journey home from London, after stopping at the westbound Heston services for a ‘refreshment break,’ I continued on the M4. This was exclusively a motorway journey for over 30 of the 42 total miles for this part, with the traffic flow and speed waxing and waning throughout.

I find adaptive cruise control (ACC) not really ideal in these situations as the car tends to slow down/speed up in an over cautious manner in the former and with too much enthusiasm in the latter. In any case, given the extra attention needed on what others are doing, setting cruise control of any type isn’t a good idea in my view. You need to be in control not the sensors.

I continued my journey with caution, keeping to the low speed limit or lower depending on the traffic. A look through the metrics for this journey in Toyota’s My T app on my Android phone showed my average speed at 47mph. That looks about right: actual speed of 50mph or less for the journey between J3 at Hayes and J8/9 at Maidenhead, and then mostly 60mph or less from J8/9 to J12 at Theale even though the limit on that stretch is 70mph: too congested for that speed.

My T journey metrics

The screenshot shows fuel consumption of 68.2mpg, much better than I expected – I was thinking it might be in the low 60s, even high 50s. Perhaps that thinking is influenced by typical driving behaviour on a motorway with generally higher travel speed with ACC in constant use, perhaps with some liberal acceleration here and there to get past bunches of slow traffic.

Hybrid like an EV

It also shows that 39% of the journey was under battery power, in EV mode in Toyota parlance. It means that the engine has switched off and I’m using only the electric battery.

That’s in line with my expectation.

On my inbound journey earlier, driving in central London in very heavy and very slow stop/start traffic, EV use was 80% with mpg at 57.3 according to My T. EV mode is especially useful in city driving, running near-silent and with no exhaust emissions. A good scene-setter for my motoring future with no internal combustion engine at all!

Either way, I find journey data like this really useful to better understand the capabilities of this hybrid car in tandem with my own driving behaviours and how I can improve them further. This isn’t about mpg but overall behaviour.

As a final note, the overall average info I see on my dashboard is also useful (for me, it’s currently showing average 62.2 mpg). But I find individual journey data even more useful.

If you drive a hybrid car, how do you see it all?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.