August 28, 2009

Got EcoRoute? Playing with EcoRoute on the Nuvi 255W


Garmin introduced ecoRoute earlier this year, an add-on application to its newer Nuvi line that helps drivers save gas through a feedback mechanism (Leaf icon with a score right on the main screen under the "+/-" zoom buttons on the right side of the screen) so that they learn what types of behavior helps and hurts the environment (your gas mileage). The application has you putting in your car's mileage estimate profile (City and Highway MPG), and utilizes the icon to send you feedback about your driving habits via a little leaf icon (red, yellow, green) overall. The program also offers you a "Challenge" where it will monitor your driving for a period of time and show you a few specifics about your challenge; where you are doing well and where you are not.

I activated the ecoRoute on a Nuvi 255W to test things out. You can access the ecoRoute program through the "Tools" menu on the GPS, off the main screen. ecoRoute is available on the 205, 705, 1200 and 1300 series at this writing.

More details below on my ecoRoute escapades.

While the image below doesn't indicate this (it was an all local roads trip), I usually get dinged on the speed ratings while the stops and starts I have figured out. The leaf icon seems to wither and die on me as I hit cruising speeds on the highway - around 55MPH, the thing is still breathing some life. Hit 75MPH and the leaf starts looking like it has been hanging in the desert under the noon sun for too long. Around Massachusetts, if you aren't driving 10 MPH over the highway speed limits, you might as well put your hazard blinkers on and drive in the breakdown lane- my scores plummet on the "Speed" rating when I drive on the highway a lot.

ecoRoute Challenge Scores for a recent trip

In the ecoRoute menu, you can select several items that offer both configurations and details on performance.

Fuel Report - the fuel report offers some insight into what your overall history is. After plugging in the cost of a gallon of gas, the unit can calculate what the cost of each trip is, while the fuel report shows more of an overall look at the performance of your driving across several days, weeks or even months. The fuel report shows distance traveled, time traveled, cost of fuel (estimate), average fuel economy, your carbon footprint in pounds of CO2, and fuel used. I found it was at least interesting, but the average fuel economy estimated that I should be getting 32+ MPG, which is only a dream in my car; I get about 24 - 26 MPG on a regular basis.

Fuel Price - type in your average fuel price for your area - you need to update this manually, it won't appear there through some connected service.

Driving Challenge - where you can see your current driving challenge results - also available by tapping the leaf icon from the front screen.

Vehicle Profile - Add your estimated city and highway MPG ratings to customize for your car. A must-do to make the ecoRoute program helpful.

Mileage Reports - The Nuvi gives you trip reports including the distance traveled from one location to another, the time, estimated fuel economy, fuel cost for the trip, and your carbon footprint for the trip. These seem to be affected by keeping the GPS on for the entire trip distance. So if you shut the GPS off (at a rest stop) and then forget to turn it on for 100 miles, the calculations will be off. These can also be accessed when you connect your Nuvi to the computer in the "Reports" folder as a CSV file, where you can also access the starting and ending Latitude and Longitude, as well as the starting time.

In summary, I think that the ecoRoute can in fact change your driving habits for the better, but I found myself saying "Damn the leaf" and driving fast anyway when I needed to get somewhere quickly. The leaf icon offered the feedback to smooth out those stops and starts to raise my score. I am not some hyper-miler, but I did get to bring my score up from the high 70's to the mid-80's on a regular basis - mostly through improved starting and stopping scores. The ecoRoute challenge would be a nice program to have persistently on for each tank-full, but unfortunately it stops with every power-down, making the "game" a bit limited. The ability to set and then re-tune your car's settings are a plus, making the program very malleable, but in some cases, you might not remember what your mileage on your car. If you need to look it up, the Department of Energy website can help you with MPG estimates for vehicles from 1984 to present. Overall, if you are interested in learning a little bit about improving your gas mileage, the program is a great way to help, and is well suited to some core capabilities of the GPS. If you are a data geek, you might just be in heaven.

More at Garmin ecoRoute, including installation instructions if your unit didn't come with it installed already

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Posted by Scott Martin at August 28, 2009 10:15 AM

Recent Comments

Fred, I have to respectfully disagree. I think that you don't give Garmin enough credit. I don't see it as worthless marketing tool, but something that people can use if they are interested in understanding how to have more efficient driving habits. Does it make marketing news? Yes, that's what product upgrades are supposed to do in between major launches. Is it perfect? No; for that you would need a bit more interaction with the car like a system that is tied into the car on many hybrids these days.

I have said in the past that Garmin is not the leading edge innovator all the time, but a fast follower who executes much better than average. With that said, the flat GPS launched to the mass market (original Nuvi) was their innovation, something that changed the entire market in about 12 months, and made other non-flat launches that season dead on arrival. I also particularly like the free lifetime traffic supported by ads that they developed and brought to market with NAVTEQ (an opinion that not everyone shares, I know). Something that was only just recently matched by Nextar, had innovation written all over it. I don't think that TMC traffic has a long future given the advent of better traffic with connected GPS units, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if they did TMC for free, that someone has figured out that ads can support, or subsidize the price of a connected service (at least I hope so).

Thanks for writing and reading Fred.


Posted by: Scott Martin at August 28, 2009 3:33 PM

So it is worthless marketing tool and not well implemented with which Garmin tries to get some attention in the press. When will come the time that Garmin launches something really innovative? IQ Routes, Reality View, HD Traffic, FreshMaps but then the first...

Posted by: Fred Zijderhand at August 28, 2009 11:23 AM
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