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Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

November 12, 2008

Top Tips For Saving Gas

Gas_handle_2 You can’t do much about the price of gas, but you can actually do a lot to reduce the amount you use.

Americans account for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but consume about 25 percent of the world’s energy resources. According to the Energy Information Administration, this includes about 390 million gallons of gasoline a day. Each gallon burned releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If we reduced our consumption by just 1 percent, we could stop more than 28 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide a year from being released. Holy carbon reduction, Batman! Collectively, we would also be saving about $4 trillion a year. That’s one hell of an incentive plan.

Many of these tips offer much greater than a 1 percent fuel savings. They are good for both our environment and for your wallet.

Keep it steady
You can save more than 30 percent of the fuel you regularly use by keeping your speed at a steady rate. That means avoiding fast starts and backing off the accelerator sooner as you approach a traffic light or stop sign. Let the car coast to a stop instead of braking hard at the last minute. The best possible situation is to avoid stopping at all. If you time it right and get a little lucky, the light will change to green before you get there. There is a huge difference in getting a car up to speed from a stop versus one that is already moving.

Slow it down
My 4-cylinder Scion XB is rated at 30 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. When I drive it on Interstate 89 — usually at 75 mph — it actually seems to suck gas like a 1970 Cadillac. When I take it down a slower road such as Route 22A, traveling at closer to 55 mph, the gauge barely moves. The difference is amazing. Each car has a “sweet spot,” and it’s typically going to be in the 45-60-mph range. At 70 mph, your mpg really starts dropping off. You can save 12-20 percent in fuel by driving more slowly.

Replace your air filter
Driving around with a clogged or dirty air filter can reduce your gas mileage by up to 10 percent. So replacing your air filter could be compared to reducing your cost for gas by almost 30 cents per gallon. At about $20 for the filter, it could pay for itself in a month. To test your existing filter, shine a light through it. If you can’t see the light passing through, then it’s time for a change.

Denver Webb at Advantage Automotive in Williston, who services and inspects my vehicles, recently found a mouse nest in our Scion’s air filter. The hole the critters chewed through it could have resulted in costly repairs, so kudos to him for checking it during a recent inspection. Webb told me this is an all too common occurrence.

Properly inflate your tires
You can improve your mileage by about 3 percent by ensuring your tires are properly inflated. That won’t result in as big a savings as will some of these other tips, but every bit helps.

Don’t idle
Rule of thumb: If you’re going to be stopped for more than a minute, turn the car off. This is exactly what Hybrids do, and it’s a significant factor in their low mpg ratings. Turning the engine off for periods of less than one minute, however, really isn’t worth the additional wear on your vehicle, so use common sense.

Use your overdrive transmission
An overdrive transmission reduces rpms by switching to a higher gear, typically at speeds above 45 mph. Your engine is working less to achieve the same speed; in other words, you’re achieving the same speed and using less gas. If you’ve got overdrive, use it. No-brainer.

Gas prices have lowered slightly in recent months, but they are going to remain relatively high. As third-world economies continue to rev up their fuel consumption, their needs will compete aggressively with ours. The sooner we practice driving smarter, the better off we — and the planet — will be. It’s not going to be easy — I’d be the first to admit I have conflicts. I like to drive fast, but I also ride my bike to work on most days. If we all do a little, it can add up to a lot.

Resources:
www.fueleconomy.gov — This is a great website with tons of information, including ratings for new and used vehicles, new and developing vehicle technologies and, of course, a variety of ways to improve fuel economy.

www.eia.doe.gov — This site provides an almost overwhelming amount of info on all the energy sources the U.S. consumes. It also has an Energy Kid’s Page with games and classroom projects.

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