I hadn't seen anything much on route altitude here, so let me point you all to a little tool called GPSvis. I found it looking for a way to assess altitude changes on various commuting routes. Turns out the bicyle community has this sussed.
Start by plotting your route on Google Maps
Above the start/end entry area you'll see a link icon. Click and copy the resulting URL
Open GPSvis to the input page linked above. In the lower right, above "Draw the Profile" is a a box labeled "Provide the URL of data on the web"
Enter the Google link into GPSvis URL input box and "Draw the Profile". You get this:
This is for my expressway commuter route. The dip is a bridge over a canyon-style bay. As to "what does this all mean?" On another thread, I developed this chart showing the relative energy content in an operating hybrid.
(link to that thread)
In my commute path shown above, I drop about 30 feet from home to office parking lot. That's about 10m, which I've estimated at 0.16MJ under "Potential Energy" in the diagram. I also realized tonight that 1MJ (megajoule) is the energy contained in 0.99 ounces of gasoline. My ~10m altitude change is "worth" 1/6 oz. of fuel. Going to Mammoth may be worth more...
What can you do with altitude data? Pick a route with fewer steep hills, perhaps? Nahhh....
I think the value is in understanding your route, where your low and high spots are, so you know when it's OK to be on the ICE longer and harder. My rural commuter route's high spot is a gentle crest on a fairly flat road, not the steepest hill. The lowest spot is a dip over a culvert on a state highway, not the 1-lane railroad underpass around the corner.
Someone like Jus may find some of his routes have a pattern that fits well with the C-Max's energy storage/discharge capabilities. After some more baselining, I may try different altitude-profile routes to see if more up/down makes a difference (betting it does; re-gen's only like 90% efficient if you score 100?).
HAve fun with the toy,
PS I should have noted that it's inaccurate to treat energy in gas as if it were as accessible as energy in the battery, or due to hilltop location. ICE efficiency is in the 60-70% range, with only about 20% reaching the road (where it's dissipated by rolling resistance and drag).
My -10m altitude change is worth more like 1 oz. of gas in terms of energy to the road, not 1/6 oz.
Edited by fbov, 05 February 2014 - 04:39 PM.