How To Meet Or Exceed The Estimated MPG On Your VehicleWith gasoline at or above $4.00 per gallon, all of us are painfully aware of the effect of fuel prices on our budgets. Suddenly the fuel efficiency or lack thereof of a SUV, Hummer, or large car becomes painfully evident. Even with a fuel-efficient small car, the impact on our wallets catches almost everyone's attention.
Most of us simply cannot run down to the local car dealer and buy a brand new, highly fuel-efficient hybrid car. Somehow, we just have to make the best of what we have available to us. In this article, I am going to assume that you are just like me, and I am going to assume you need to figure out how to get the best gas mileage out of the vehicle you have in your driveway. So, what can YOU do TODAY to reduce your cost of driving from here to there and back?
Slow Down. What? S...L...O...W... D...O...W...N (Taxi Humor)
When you have to drive your car, the single thing that you can do to most dramatically reduce the cost per mile is to SLOW DOWN. I know that you didn't want to hear that, did you? Whether commuting or traveling on the interstate, we all want to keep up with the traffic, which is probably going 10 to 20 mph above the speed limit, if traffic conditions allow it.
Many decades ago traffic jams began to back things up on the Golden Gate Bridge and traffic engineers began exploring ideas on how to move more cars across the bridge in less time. The answer was to reduce the speed limit from 50+ to 40 or less. With less distance between the cars at the slower speed, the total number of cars per hour across the bridge went UP dramatically.
Every car consumes energy to run. For most of us this means gasoline. The engine-transmission-rear end-power train combination requires a certain amount of fuel per second for any given speed. While the specific data varies for each power train combination, a graph of speed versus miles per gallons (www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml) shows the maximum miles per gallon (and the lowest fuel cost per mile) occurs between 45 and 60 miles per hour. Above 60 the MPG drops rapidly.
For some cars, the computer and the instrument panel can team up to show your estimated MPG data, in real time. If you have the information available look at it - it can help you understand how to achieve the most fuel-efficient operation of your vehicle, in whatever conditions you drive.
According to the DOE/EPA web site (www.fueleconomy.gov), aggressive driving (high acceleration, high speed, rapid braking) can reduce you gas mileage by as much as 33%. If you drive with tire squealing starts, 80-mph interstate cruising speeds, and "stand on the brakes" stops - you are paying a dear price at the gas pump.
If you hate $4.00/gallon, eliminating these fuel inefficiencies could give you the equivalent of $3.08/gallon gas. Does that sound good to you? All you have to do is slow down. Now, slowing down to 60 may feel a bit frustrating at first, but just think of all the dollars you are saving, every time you get into your car! What's really important to you... fast acceleration and fast driving, or lower driving costs and more driving distance?
Minimize Drive Time
Aside from riding your bike to the grocery store, instead of the car, you can also reduce your car's expense by carefully planning your errands to minimize your total miles driven. Make one Saturday errand trip rather than 3 or 4. Think ahead. Shop once a month, instead of twice a week, or only stop at the store on your way home from work. You would be amazed at how much fuel you can save by reducing your need to drive.
Properly Inflate Your Tires
What else can you do? Check your tire pressure and adjust to the recommended pressures. Soft tires consume more energy flexing and rolling than hard tires. The Owner's Manual lists the recommended tire pressures, and there is an information plate on the car, usually around the driver's door, giving the same information.
Get a tire pressure gage and check the tire pressure in each tire when it's cold. Record the pressures and note how many PSI below recommended pressure each tire is. Drive to a service station. Recheck the pressure in each tire - it will probably have gone up some from the initial cold check as rolling and friction warmed the tire. ADD air to each tire to increase the pressure by the number of pounds each tire was low as recorded above (even if the new hot pressure is higher than the recommended cold pressure).
Make Your Car More Aerodynamic - Reduce Drag
Another savings idea - reduce vehicle drag as much as possible by removing car top luggage containers, ski racks, etc. If you feel you must use such devices, understand there is no free lunch - it will cost you in reduced fuel economy. Also, reduce the total vehicle weight as much as possible by removing any unnecessary weight in your vehicle. If you put sand bags in the trunk during the winter, to improve your traction on snow and ice, get them out of your vehicle when the ice and snow have gone.
Keep your engine running in good order. That means regular tune-ups, air filter changes, and proper oil viscosity selection. Remember, every little bit helps.
A number of web sites offer other information. See (www.fueleconomy.gov/) for U.S. Government data and for suggestions from Consumer Reports, try: (www.consumerreports.rog/cro/cars/new-cars/resource-center /green-car-guide/green-car=guide.htm)
Don't Be Duped - Avoid Magic Bullets
If there are DOs, there must also be DON'Ts. We love to believe in magic potions, silver bullets, and conspiracies. For generations we have been bombarded with commercials and advertisements about stuff to dump in the radiator, in the oil, in the gas, or hang on the car, which will fix our problems and make everything much better. Some of these things work, sometimes. More often than not, they offer false hope and little, if any, practical benefits.
One of the recent popular subjects is running you car on water. Many web sites talk about hydrogen-oxygen powered engines, hydrogen boost from water, etc. It is true that burning hydrogen produces heat, and water is a by-product of that process. Some automobile manufacturers are even experimenting with hydrogen engines, fuel cell propulsion systems, etc.
However, the basic method of getting hydrogen gas, in the "water powered car", is electrolysis of water using an electric current. Unfortunately, the electrolysis process requires more electrical energy to separate the hydrogen and oxygen out of the water than you will gain by burning the gases in an engine. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxyhydrogen)
Yes, it is true that some people are claiming fantastic results using the water-powered car technology, but you may also note that most the people making these claims are the same people that are hoping you will spend your money with them.
They say, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is". Wait until these technologies are well proven, by reliable and independent testing facilities, before depending on them to save you money or reduce the operational expenses of your car.
If at the end of the month, you can increase your MPG and/or decrease the miles you drive, you will save money.
Studies have shown that the average person can increase their fuel mileage by at least 30%, by simply changing the way they drive. If you can increase your fuel mileage by a mere 30%, then you can expect to save about $23 per month on every $100 you currently spend on gasoline for your vehicles.
If you can drive 20% fewer miles than what you drive right now, you could expect to save another $15 on every $100 spent.
If you drive as much as my wife and I drive, you can expect to save $46 per month, on your monthly $200 gasoline expense, just by improving MPG by 30%. Then by cutting your driving distance by only 20% per month, you could expect to gain another $30 savings, bringing your overall fuel savings to $76 per month.
Every dollar counts these days.
We are not stopping at simply trying to increase our fuel mileage. There are actually people in this world who are beating the Estimated MPG on their vehicles, sometimes by as much as +100%. We will be happy if we can simply beat the Estimated MPG on our vehicles by a mere 20%. Think of it this way; every gallon of gasoline saved is $4 earned! And I am all for increasing our earning power!