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Q: My husband and I share the same Toyota Prius. He shifts into neutral whenever there is an opportunity to coast, claiming it saves on gas. He seems to think this even saves more gas than driving a hybrid the “normal” way. What do you think of this method?
A: The hybrid drivetrain partially relies on engine braking to recharge the battery that supplies power to the electric motor. In addition, any slight savings in fuel economy would be lost in wear and tear to the transmission. If this were my car, I would leave it in drive and follow standard fuel-saving techniques. These are: brake smoothly, which helps with battery charging; anticipate traffic conditions; scan the roadway looking for other traffic; and slow down. Even hybrids benefit from reduced speeds and easy acceleration.
John Paul, AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor, answers questions from drivers every week. He has 40+ years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician.