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MPG Challenge takes a slow run through Richmond

on October 9, 2010

If you were cruising through Richmond Friday afternoon and got stuck behind someone who was driving excruciatingly carefully, you might have found yourself fuming at one of the competitors in the Green Drive Expo’s MPG (miles-per-gallon) Challenge.

The expo is the Bay Area’s first eco-friendly car showcase for consumers, featuring vehicles in every style of green. The MPG Challenge was the first event of the weekend, where car owners drove a route in Richmond trying to get the most miles out of a gallon. This means they drive very … thoughtfully.

Bill Kinney, who drives a 2003 Honda Insight, a hybrid, is a frequent competitor in the MPG Challenges and has a trick for his good scores.

“I accelerate to around 30 miles-per-hour and then turn the engine off and then coast, see how far I can glide,” Kinney said.

The cars in the challenge got anywhere from a lowly 54 miles-per-gallon to—ready for this?—3,858 miles-per-gallon.

Before you go out to grab one of the cars that got thousands of miles per gallon, however, ask Eric Powers for the backstory. Powers, the founder and manager of the expo, points out that the achievements of the MPG challenge are not an accurate representation of how much energy these cars actually use.

“Those numbers are totally misleading,” Powers said. “Cars are using more and more electricity and less and less gas. Our current calculations only take into account the gas being used, so we’re missing, ignoring, what is actually propelling the car most of the time.”

Competitors at the challenge awards, held at Extreme Pizza in Point Richmond, didn’t seem to mind any of the oddities of the event. Except that it’s hard to serve pizza to a man from New York, and another guy looked disheartened to learn the pizza in front of him contained mandarin oranges, pineapples, and ham.

Nonetheless, between mouthfuls of food, everyone was talking about eco-friendly cars. There was no shortage of opinions on which car was the most “green”, and preferences on whether to go gas, natural gas, hybrid, or completely electric.

Take Ray Chiu, who sounds almost like a salesman–he is such a big fan of natural gas cars. He saves more than gas money by driving a Honda Civic GX, Honda’s only natural gas car. His car also comes with the platinum High Occupancy Vehicle sticker (HOV), which allows him to drive in the carpool lane, saving him time every day he commutes from Hercules to San Francisco for work.

“It makes so much sense,” said Chiu. “When I purchased them (July 4, 2008) you got a $4,000 federal tax credit and $3,500 check from the state of California, which is like cash. … I only pay $110 for gas and I used to pay $480 a month.”

The cars that drove in the MPG Challenge, listed below, will be on display as part of the Owners’ Showcase on Saturday. Check Richmond Confidential for continuous coverage and Tweets throughout the day from the Green Drive Expo.

List of cars in the MPG Challenge

  • Bill Kinney, Honda Insight (manual transmission): 1:40, 181 mpg
  • Joe Siudzinski, Honda Insight (manual transmission) with MIMA: 1:39, 105.7 mpg
  • Ron Hansen, Ford Fiesta: 1:19, 54.3 mpg
  • Paul Guzyk, Toyota Prius, Gen I: 1:44, 79.9 mpg
  • Robb Protheroe, Prius PHEV, Gen II: 1:12, 883 mpg
  • Aaron Crocker, Prius PHEV, Gen II: 1:16, 3858 mpg
  • Gary Kah, Prius PHEV, Gen II: 1:32, 308 mpg
  • Kiet Chau, Prius PHEV, Gen II: 1:11, 3540 mpg
  • Ryan Kalb, Prius PHEV, Gen II: 1:10, 3553 mpg

Related links


Green Drive Expo

  • When: Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Where: 1414 Harbour Way South
  • Cost: $10 for adults, free for 16 and under
  • Event website: Green Drive Expo


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