By Todd Cloutier
With gas prices at or above $4 a gallon these days, many of us are revisiting ways to stretch our fuel budgets. News articles abound with recommendations for how to increase the Miles Per Gallon (MPG) you get from your vehicle, but what really works?
After much surfing around news and auto websites, and even the federal EPA site, here are a few quick tips for how to stretch the fuel budget. (Some useful hyperlinks are at the bottom of the article)
1. Drive less. Did anyone really need to tell us this? OK, but how do we drive less but continue living our lives? With spring weather, there may be a few opportunities to walk or bike – clearly the zero emission way to go. Or try to work from home more often. But if you have to drive, some thoughtful planning to combine your errands, and shopping closer to home, will help reduce the miles you travel.
2. Maintain your vehicle, and watch for changes in miles per gallon. Keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, and keep the engine tuned. None of the magic elixirs that promise increased mileage work, so no need to waste your time and money on such shenanigans. How do you know if your mileage is slipping? Some keep a small spiral notebook in the car console to record miles and gas consumed, and mileage is easily calculated (cell phone calculators help with the math) MPG = Miles traveled/Gallons consumed. I use a website that tracks my carbon footprint, CarbonSalon.com – it will even provide an alert if your calculated mileage is less than expected for your vehicle.
3. Zen driving. Aggressive driving, which means rapid acceleration, hard braking, and other efforts to try to get to your destination that one-minute-sooner, will lower your MPG by enormous amounts – EPA sources cite a 10-30 percent reduction in mileage. Driving with the flow of traffic, accelerating smoothly, braking early and gently, will boost your mileage.
4. Use the cruise. Obviously, there are times this doesn’t make sense, but if you get into a steady speed environment, set the cruise. Hwy 104, Hwy 99, and I-5 can be good places to try this out, if you’re able to avoid commute times.
5. Put your car on a diet. Remove that sandbag and the tire chains that you’ve had in your trunk all winter. Reducing your car’s weight by 100 pounds can increase your mileage by about 2 percent. Sound small? Well, think of it this way, 2 percent of $4 per gallon, is 8 cents per gallon.
6. Trade up. If you have the ability to change your vehicle, or add a new vehicle to your home, make fuel efficiency a priority. Here’s some quick math: If you put an average of 15,000 miles per year on your vehicle, and you trade a 17 MPG average vehicle for a 35 MPG average vehicle, you’ll save $1800 per year ($150 per month) in fuel alone! Plus, smaller and more efficient vehicles often cost less to insure, so the savings will accrue even faster.
So get started today. Save some fuel. Save some money. Save the planet. What’s not to like?
1. A simple Sustainable Edmonds fuel savings calculator spreadsheet: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Aiow5a1jrJySdFhVQm9xN1o4WWg5ZmYxc0QweGVlY0E&hl=en
2. CarbonSalon website for tracking personal greenhouse gas emissions: http://www.carbonsalon.com
3. US EPA fuel economy website, includes MPG listing for all vehicles, personal MPG tracking, and tips: http://fueleconomy.gov/