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Fuel economy is not a spectator sport. The kind of mileage you get is not dependent just on the kind of car you drive, it’s also affected by how you drive it. This involves things like your average speed, how hard you accelerate from stops and what kind of condition you keep your car in. Chances are you know this kind of stuff already but find it hard to do. After all, life is busy; who has the time to drive “easily” and habitually keep a car in peak tune.  Wouldn’t be nice if there was a way to enforce these habits?

Maybe there is. Len Stoler Porsche of Ownings Mills, MD, a factory authorized Porsche dealer, told us that several companies make apps that make saving gas a game of sorts. Much like a FitBit that encourages us to perform a certain number of steps every day, these apps give you feedback on car performance. Let’s take a look at a few and how they work.

CleverDrive is an app that connects to any car made after 1996 through a Bluetooth-enabled adapter that plugs into the OBD-II port. The OBD-II port is the interface to the car’s operations computer. The adapter allows you to read parameters such as emissions, fuel consumption, speed and other useful data. The smartphone app and an associated website then rate your “Eco-Index” on a scale of 1 to 10, with points deducted for high RPMs, idling, and quick stops.  Driving “green” now becomes a game. CleverDrive also gathers information long-term, analyzing your daily commute and other parameters. The goal, say the founders, is to provide “a deeper understanding of your car’s internal workings which, if you play the Eco-Index game, may cut more than 30% from your typical fuel consumption.

Automatic is another app with a similar OBD-II link. While its focus is not exclusively on mileage, it offers several features that can apps help improve economy — including integration with Nest smart thermostats. Here’s an example: Automatic can communicate with your Nest thermostats so that your home starts heating up when it knows you’re on your way home.

In addition to smartphone apps, gamifying green driving is something the big automakers are starting to incorporate into infotainment systems too. Ford’s Fusion Hybrid calculates effective gas mileage and when certain goals are met, it displays decorative leaves in the dashboard display. Mini by BMW has a smartphone app that awards points for efficient driving. It can be downloaded from the Apple app store and it is designed to work with recent Minis that have the Mini-Connected system installed. The Japanese brands are jumping on the bandwagon too. Both the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius keep track of fuel mileage in ways that reward competitive drivers when certain goals are hit.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.