By May 17, 2011

Fuelly.com: online way to track your vehicle’s fuel efficiency

My father kept a small notebook in the glove box of his truck. Every time he filled up he would write the date, miles driven, and fuel economy. As I grew older I did the same, and it was neat to fill up page after page of information. Unfortunately, neither one of us ever did anything with that information. I never really talked to my father about it, but I used the information to help me determine if there was something wrong with my cars. When my fuel economy started to drop, I knew that was yet another indicator to check my tire pressure. But did we ever really make “use” of those stats?

So when I discovered Fuelly.com, I was anxious to get better insight into my MazdaSpeed3’s fuel economy.

Overview

First off, Fuelly is free to use. The site appears to be 100% ad supported for now, and there is no “free” vs “premium” functionality or anything like that. It appears to be totally free.

Fuelly keeps track of your fill-ups for you, and helps you visualize your fuel efficiency and trends. I’ve entered 31 fill-ups since October 2010 (I didn’t drive my car very much until recently). Fuelly reports that my MazdaSpeed3 gets an average of 23MPG, with a high of 29MPG and an average fuel cost of $3.52 a gallon. Fuelly also reports the total mileage you’ve driven, average fuel cost per mile, and a bunch of other statistics.

Fuelly also projects how much you would save if you could increase your fuel efficiency by a few miles per gallon. The amount in my case is pretty low (usually about $1.50 per tank), but it does help people visualize how correct tire pressure or driving differently may make an economic impact. The site also displays fuel efficiency tips.

Getting started is pretty easy. You create a car by selecting its year, make and model, and adding optional details like a car name or a photo. You can select your units of measurement (right now it’s just US gallons vs liters, miles vs kilometers), or decide if you want to track mileage by the car’s odometer or trip meter. I do the latter, but I know that Sedagive? doesn’t use the trip meter so the odometer route may be best for her.

You may register multiple vehicles, and you can “share” vehicles with other users. This function would work well for my friend BigDub, who shares his Volvo car with his wife. Sharing a car would allow either one of them to enter fill-up information.

Usage and design

Fuelly.com is currently undergoing a redesign, which should be completed sometime next week. I’ve posted screen shots of their new layout. While the new design is an improvement aesthetically, there are several key usability snafus that will hopefully get addressed before the site goes live. I won’t discuss them now in case they do get changed, but here’s a picture of my MazdaSpeed3’s Fuelly page:

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10343-2/zoe+fuelly+page.png

As you can see, the new design gives a quick summary of your fuel efficiency, mileage, and fuel costs. I actually prefer the old layout. For example, the new layout pushes the individual fuel-up summary to the bottom of the page, and the arbitrary “city vs highway” stat is too big and takes up higher priority real estate.

The mobile phone version of the site is nice, and the “full” version displays pretty well on my HTC Droid Incredible smartphone. I expect the new site design to be even more mobile-friendly. Here’s what the input screen looks like for the mobile version:

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10345-2/fuelly+mobile.png

It’s excellent — no unnecessary images, no fluff, just tap in your information. The fields know to default to numerical entry, which is a nice usability touch.

For awhile I wondered if Fuelly was going to come out with a mobile phone app, but then I realized they didn’t really need to. The easy-to-use, easy-on-the-eyes mobile Web interface is just fine for data entry. I can’t think of anything that a mobile app could do that would help automate the task of data entry, so why bother? The mobile version is good to go.

Social options and bragging rights

I first learned about Fuelly because I saw these little badges under people’s forum posts on a Mazda site that I visit:

Fuelly has a built-in mechanism for showing off your fuel stats. I like this badge because it’s small and to the point; however there is a larger badge that show more information. The larger badge details your total number of fill-ups, your car’s nickname, make, model and year, its type and your username.

I am very surprised that the new version doesn’t have a social networking option. Seems like every site on the Web has a “share on Facebook” icon or a way to import widgets into blogs or other Web pages. I don’t write about my car much, but if I ran a car blog it would be cool to embed my Fuelly stats on my Web page.

The badge functionality is nice, but I expected to see more data sharing options in this “social” age.

One thing that I do like about the Fuelly site is the ability to import and export data. Data portability — the ability to move your information from one Web site to another — is of growing importance in the age of social networking, and I am glad that Fuelly supports this capability. I’m not going to use any other Web site or service, but if I did it’s nice to know that my data isn’t locked into Fuelly.

Summary

If you’re a stats nerd in the slightest I recommend that you use Fuelly. It’s free, easy to use, and is fun. I wish the upcoming redesign concentrated more on top tasks, allowed for more customization (like hiding/displaying blocks of information, or moving that information around), and had more data sharing options. However, for the task of tracking fuel economy, Fuelly is a great alternative to a beat-up notebook in a glove box.

Strongly recommended.

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Posted in: cars, review, technology

1 Comment on "Fuelly.com: online way to track your vehicle’s fuel efficiency"

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  1. EdH says:

    Sweet. I’ve been using Excel on my phone for years to do this. Just imported all of the data for my Road King Classic since purchase. Nice.

    http://www.fuelly.com/driver/edhans/flhrci-road-king-classic