How much gas can one expect to save by using simple efficiency measures? A little research on the internet will show that results may be as high as 37% (Edmunds.com) savings in fuel; a very significant amount.
Over the past year, I have applied these measures to my own driving. Although my record-keeping is a bit haphazard and unscientific, my estimated gas savings is about 25%. These measures are well worth the effort!
1. Adjust your personal driving style to “efficient”, and save up to 30%
Quick quiz: When does an old clunker compete with hybrid car for fuel-efficiency?
Answer: When the driver uses efficient driving techniques.
This may seem an oversimplification, but if you want to save gas this summer, the best tip is to practice efficient driving. You can save, on average, over 30% of fuel by the way you drive. This takes no particular training, just a little common sense and a bit of restraint. Does it really matter if it takes 5 more minutes to get to the mall?
Aggressive acceleration from stop lights is the most common gas waster. In city driving, as much as 50% of your car’s gas use is applied to acceleration. Instead of accelerating in ‘jack rabbit’ style, try a slower, smooth acceleration. And once you’re up to highway speed, drive as if there were an egg under the pedal. Develop a light touch on your gas foot. According to Fueleconomy.gov, “You can assume that each 5 m.p.h. you drive over 60 m.p.h. is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.”
Quick braking is another mistake, except in emergencies of course. How often have you been passed by someone, only to catch up with them at the next light? Driving fast, then braking harder as you approach a stop is wasteful on gas and also wears out the brakes more quickly. When approaching a stop from a distance, first check your rear-view mirror to ensure no one is on your tail, then ease off the gas and coast to the stop. Use your brakes only as needed.
Since I started slowing down and driving closer to posted speed limits, the experience of driving has become more pleasurable. Today I give way more often to other cars, pull over to let tailgaters speed past, and find myself less stressed by more aggressive drivers. Driving more slowly not only saves gas, it’s safer for you, your passengers and nearby cars, and less aggressive driving is good modeling behaviour for the younger family members.
2. Use your smartphone to avoid traffic congestion
Burning fuel in stop-and-go traffic is a huge waste of gas which in many cases can be avoided. Today’s smartphone technology lets you look ahead to your destination and identify any congested routes to avoid. Google Maps, which comes preinstalled on many smartphones or is available for download, displays road conditions in major cities to help identify the best route around congestion. Color-coded lines correspond to the intensity of traffic: green for no traffic jams, yellow for medium congestion, red for heavy congestion, and red-and-black for stop-and-go. Google Maps Navigation, offered through Google Maps for Android, has recently been updated to offer alternate routes to avoid tie-ups.
3. Make sure your tires have correct air pressure
Modern cars are so well made that they are almost maintenance free, which lulls owners to rely on scheduled servicing to spot any problems. But checking tire pressure, one of the most common overlooked maintenance tasks for car owners, should be routine every few fill-ups. Under-inflated tires can cause fuel consumption to increase by as much as 6%. Under-inflated tires also cause uneven tire wear and can reduce the tire life.
On average, tires lose approximately 1 psi per month and 1 psi for every 10 degree drop in temperature. All vehicles therefore will need routine tire inflation adjustment.
To check and inflate tires properly:
1. Determine recommended pressure for your tires. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual or the door jamb for the proper level of inflation. (Do not read the inflation number on the tire itself, as this number shows the maximum tire inflation pressure.)
2. Check the tire pressure in your driveway when the tires are cold, and note any tire that is underinflated.
3. Drive to a gas station to inflate the tire. The tires will have warmed up, which increases pressure, so check all tires again and inflate the low tire to the same pressure as the others.
4. Remember to check the pressure of your spare tire too.
Don’t rely on visual inspection or ‘kicking the tires’ to determine proper inflation. Radial tires, for example, may look properly inflated and yet still be low when tested with an air pressure gauge. To ensure consistent results, always use your own tire air pressure gauge. These are available at gas stations for about $5 – $10.
4. Use cruise control on longer drives
Cruise control is engineered to control the engine output to deliver only the power it needs. Cruise control delivers a smoother fuel delivery when compared to a typical driver who works the accelerator more frequently in reacting to small changes in driving conditions.
In Edmunds.com’s test using a Land Rover LR3 and a Ford Mustang, the Land Rover got almost 14 percent better mileage using cruise control set at 70 miles per hour rather than cruising at driver-controlled speeds between 65 and 75 miles per hour. The Mustang got 4.5 percent better mileage.
Steep hills reduce the efficiency of cruise control because the car will shift through the gears in trying to maintain consistent speed. In hilly terrain, it is best to shut off the cruise control and use your own driving skills to adjust speed as required.
5. Don’t idle any longer than necessary
When your car is idling, think of money falling out of your pocket. It’s a complete loss. Idling gets you nowhere, and wastes gas in the process. One of the reasons hybrid cars are efficient is that they shut the gas motor off during stops to minimize idling.
How much fuel you can save by reducing idling, and how long you should be stopped before shutting off the engine are the crux of the issue. Fuel savings estimates range from 10% – 19% depending on where you look, and it is recommended that you should shut the engine off if you will be stopped for over 30 seconds. Although the fuel savings are significant, there are two caveats.
First, safety trumps fuel efficiency. If you are stopped at a light and take too long to restart your engine as the light turns green, you may risk being rear-ended by a following driver who fails to anticipate any delay from you. Use your judgment, and recognize situations where it’s safer to keep your engine idling. Secondly, on cold mornings you want to be sure the car is safe to drive before putting it into gear. The engine may be ready to go, but the windshield may not be fully de-fogged.
Well. You’ve made it this far so here are two bonus suggestions for ways to save gas this summer.
Establish a “no drive within a mile” policy
Driving short distances is especially wasteful on gas. The efficiencies of highway driving do not apply as much on short trips which have frequent startups and idling during stops.
It takes the average person about 15 minutes to walk a mile, and about 4 minutes to ride a bike the same distance. In the summer, with warm weather and long daylight hours, it makes sense to walk or bike to nearby destinations. These simple actions not only save gas, they also deliver the benefits of exercise. Walking to a video store, for example, helps counteract the two hours sitting on the couch viewing the movie.
There’s another benefit to walking or biking to nearby destinations. It is modeling behavior which may influence others to do the same. I like to think that some folks, seeing us walking with our grocery sack, might consider giving it a try themselves.
Well, this tip is somewhat self-serving since we have an online store, but it merits a mention since this is a significant way to save on gas.
Online shopping today is safe, and in many cases the consumer will find more options online for the item they are looking to purchase. The cost of shipping to your home is offset by the savings in gas and in not paying sales tax for online purchases. For higher priced items, like composters and raised beds, some websites even offer free shipping. More choice, no tax, and free shipping make online shopping very appealing. And as the cost of gas rises, online shopping becomes that much more appealing.
A quick look at the trend in gas prices shows that learning to squeeze the most efficiency from our fuel is becoming an important life skill. And the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the environment is a pressing reason for each of us to find ways to conserve. I hope that soon we’ll all find that conserving fuel is a priority we can’t afford to overlook.