Pretty much everyone knows that driving too fast wastes fuel and creates excess carbon emissions, as does revving the engine and not bothering with tune-ups. We can try to alter our driving habits accordingly, but how can we know how much to alter them? What speed should we drive at when, and how often should we take our car to the garage? These questions can be instantly and completely answered, right in your car, if you’re using an Eco-Navigator device.

First of all, as a GPS navigation device, the Eco-Navigator does the usual job of showing and telling you how to get places, utilizing Navteq maps of the U.S., Canada, Europe and China. It also provides high-speed internet access, along with various other features. Its Eco-Way mode, however, is what makes it special.

The device plugs into your car’s diagnostic port, which both provides it with power and allows it to monitor and display a number of vehicle parameters. When the Eco-Drive screen is selected, it displays your current miles-per-gallon, throttle position (as a 0-100 percentage), and pounds of CO2 emitted per mile. Moving to the Eco-Score screen will show you how those current specs compare to your overall cumulative score, or to some other benchmark such as your car’s EPA rating, a fleet average, or averages maintained by other drivers of the same car.

If your current MPG and/or CO2 is considerably worse than it ought to be, you can then slow down, shift to a higher gear, or otherwise change your driving behavior until the unit indicates that things have improved. Of course, it’s possible that your substandard results could be due to the state of your engine. By clicking on Check Car, you can instruct the Eco-Navigator to run through all your engine’s diagnostic codes, and alert you to anything that needs your attention.

Each of your trips are logged upon completion, so you can go back and look at how you performed overall, and how different runs of the same route compare from day to day.

If you go into Eco-Route mode, it will select a route based not necessarily on getting you to your destination as fast as possible, but on using as little fuel as possible to get there.

The type of driving that the Eco-Navigator encourages is known as eco-driving, and is popular enough in Europe that it is now part of the driver education curricula in some countries. European drivers have reported fuel savings of 5 to 15 percent by adopting it. As part of an experiment in bringing eco-driving to America, last year the University of California - Riverside equipped 20 drivers with Eco-Navigator devices, and reported fuel economy improvements of 6 percent on city streets and 1 percent on highways. A similar test is being conducted in the San Francisco area this year, with plans for a much larger-scale test in the future.

Retailers that sell the Eco-Navigator are listed on the product website. It sells for US$249.

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