Driving greenly is one of those things that should be easy to do: treat the accelerator and brake pedals like eggshells and generally keep your speed under control. For drivers who need a little more help or motorists who are obsessed with eking every last mile out of a gallon of fuel, there will always be apps and gadgets that claim to boost your fuel economy. For example, the DriveGain app for iPhone aims to coach drivers toward higher MPGs with visual and audible prompts that encourage greener driving. The developers of this app go so far as to claim that using DriveGain can save consumers an average of $205 per year in fuel costs, as well as reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 660kg per year.
Motorists simply input the make and model of their vehicle, install the iPhone in their vehicle using some sort of dashboard or windshield mount, and the proceed to drive around with the app running. The app then uses the iPhone's GPS location awareness and accelerometer to measure where you are, how fast you're going, and how quickly you're accelerating or braking. Using this information, the app then estimates the vehicle's current fuel economy and displays the recommended gear and cruising speed for maximum MPGs. For example, if you're coasting along at 45mph in fifth gear, the app may suggest that your particular vehicle might operate more efficiently in fourth gear.
DriveGain can be configured to display fuel economy, cost per mile, or estimated CO2 emissions. The app organizes all of this information in a simple, uncluttered interface, but also feature spoken voice prompts (for example, "You should now be in fifth gear") that help users to keep their eyes on the road. The app also locks out many of its options and settings when the vehicle is in motion to discourage distracted driving.
However, there's one pretty big caveat. DriveGain, for now, only works with manually shifted versions of the vehicles it supports. The developers claim automatic transmission compatibility is coming shortly. Additionally, DriveGain does not yet support electric or hybrid vehicles.
DriveGain's developers state that the app is fully compatible with iPhone 3G and 3GS devices, the Apple iPad 3G, and the iPod Touch when used with a GPS receiver like the TomTom Car Kit or Magellan's Premium Car Kit. iPhone 4 support hasn't yet been tested but should be coming soon.
We're a bit skeptical about the $205 yearly fuel savings claim, but if the app saves you $7 in fuel, it'll have at least paid for itself. If you can drive a stick and want to give this app a go, DriveGain is currently available for download in the iTunes App Store for $6.99.