The real secret to better gas mileage, Kinney said, is better driving habits
RON SEELY - Wisconsin State Journal - July 23, 2006
Bills 2005 Honda Insight
The high-powered executives who run the big oil outfits probably don't have Bill Kinney's name on the list of problems facing their companies.
But were they to spend some time getting to know Kinney, they'd probably be afraid. Very, very afraid.
Kinney is one of their worst customers. More alarming, he's running around the countryside teaching others how to be bad customers, too. He was in Madison Saturday, spreading the gospel of hybrid cars - vehicles that use a combination of electric and gasoline power - at the first-ever Hybridfest.
The high-tech, high-geek, low-mileage gathering drew hundreds of people to the parking lot of the Alliant Center, adjacent to the Dane County Fair, where hundreds of hybrids were on display, including all 10 of the commercial hybrids now available from major car makers.
Sponsored by Hybridfest Inc., a nonprofit group of individuals interested in promoting awareness and understanding of hybrid vehicles, the event attracted enthusiasts from 21 states and Canada.
Though the event had its share of tech-types - many with keys jangling from their belts or sporting fanny packs - one of the organizers, Bradlee Fons of Pewaukee, pointed out that hybrid cars are catching on with a broader clientele, including families and the elderly.
Hybrids, Fons said, allow anyone to do something about high oil prices and environmental problems such as climate change.
"You can blame big government or the big oil companies," Fons said. "But, in the end, it's all of us."
Kinney is certainly doing his part. He drove to Madison from the state of Washington. He came in his cherry red 2005 Honda Insight hybrid, and his goal when he set out was to average 100 miles per gallon. But he was foiled by the headwinds of South Dakota and ended up getting a measly 98 mpg.
Still, Kinney made it to Madison on 21 gallons of gas. He filled his tank once, in Rapid City, S.D.
At Hybridfest, Kinney displayed his Insight in the parking lot, a miniature fuel pump with a sign that said "Smashing high fuel prices" lodged beneath a rear tire.
The real secret to better gas mileage, Kinney said, is better driving habits. It's possible to increase the gas mileage of any car by simply accelerating and braking more slowly and smoothly. Driving a hybrid in this way, he added, dramatically improves gas mileage.
Kinney and others also disabused visitors of some myths they say have become wrongly attached to hybrids. Jack O'Keefe, from near Spokane, Wash., said hybrids perform fine in the winter, and they also accelerate as fast as traditional vehicles.
Hybrid owners could visit booths selling everything from more powerful batteries to fancy paint jobs. But A.J. Bisek, the owner of Dark Side Ridez, offering stylish custom painting, lamented that the demand for his signature flame motifs seemed strangely slow among hybrid owners.