The Prius Hypermileage Challenge

Fund for Santa Barbara Promotes Energy Efficiency

A Toyota salesman answering questions about the Prius
Alisa Trager

The labels on each of the trophies read the same: “blatantly re-used.” Recycled from thrift stores, these prizes — indeed, appreciably past their heyday—perfectly embody the event they stand for: The Roger Horton Prius Hypermileage Challenge.

Put on by the Clean/Green Energy Fund through the Fund for Santa Barbara, the competition encourages energy efficiency by challenging Santa Barbara Prius owners to improve their gas mileage during a one-time drive to Buellton or over a two-week period of local driving. As its name suggests, the event honors former Santa Barbara City Councilmember Roger Horton and his endeavors to promote eco-friendly technology and practices.

In the competition kick-off, a handful of — by the looks of it — mostly baby boomer participants met at Toyota of Santa Barbara on Saturday April 2 for the initial test drive to Buellton. Prior to the trip, Toyota sales staff held a short seminar on tips for attaining the best gas mileage possible, covering mainly common sense advice on route selection, tire pressure, gas type, acceleration, idle vs. shutdown, AC and accessories, cruise control, and when to drive, among other topics. The staff proceeded to answer questions pertaining to the Prius in particular in a Q & A reminiscent of grandma learning how to use her computer.

Proceeds from the event’s $50 challenge registration fee will go directly into the Clean/Green Energy Fund, established by the Unitarian Universalist Society in 2009. According to society member John Warnock, the fund supports energy efficiency within other nonprofit organizations — in particular, churches.

Even without Toyota’s tips on driving for greatest fuel efficiency, competitor Norma Davenport says she and her husband have reduced gas costs from $350 per month to $112 with the help of their 2002 Prius. Society member and challenge participant Don Bushnell hopes the competition will encourage an improvement in gas mileage even more by as much as 8 to 10 percent.

Winners from Saturday’s drive included Mary Ann Foley in first place with 55.2 mpg, Colin Jones in second place with 50.9 mpg, and Don Bushnell in third place with 47.8 mpg. According to a statement issued by the Fund for Santa Barbara, those participating in the two-week competition will submit their gas mileage scores at the April 16 Earth Day celebration, and winners will be announced the following day on April 17.


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