Using Less: Gas

I used to tell people I had an office with a 365 degree view. I was a mobile computer tech. We had clients all over the metro OKC area (competes for the town with the most square miles in  America).  I had had a few different cars during that job but I started thinking seriously about gas usage when the price began being consistently above $3 a gallon. That year I asked my bosses for a raise based on gas prices. They agreed and it helped a lot but my monthly gas bill began to out pace my stipend. At the time I was driving a Dodge Dakota 5.9l V8 (thought we’d be pulling a camper more but that didn’t pan out at the time). The best I could do was in the Dakota was 15 mpg. If I drove super conservatively I could get to 16 mpg.

While researching fuel economy tips I found the website The thing that attracted me was the “100+ Hypermiling Tips” document but I stayed engaged because of the awesome forum. I knew there was no way I’d be getting 200 mpg in my beast but I thought it couldn’t hurt to drive a little ‘nicer.’ Well, I did drive nicer and tried a bunch of the tips but was only able to get up to 16.9 mpg. The thing just drank gas. So, I evaluated why I thought I needed a truck and came up empty on all the reasons I thought of. So, I sold the truck and bought an ’01 Honda Civic and got 39 mpg on the way home from picking it up. Since then I’ve averaged about 35 in a mixture of city and highway driving. Two weeks ago I filled up and got over 300 miles on half a tank (granted the top half of the tank is bigger than the bottom but still…) that’s 44 mpg.

The site is not just about driving differently but also about modifying your car so it “sips and slips.” Sips gas and Slips through the air. The only mod I’ve done so far is to dam the lower grill so that air moves around the side of the car instead of creating turbulence under the car.  You can read about the mod here.

My biggest fuel economy tips are:

  • Remember, If your engine is running and you aren’t moving you are getting 0 MPG.
  • Keep your revs under 2000 RPMs through all the gears except the last.
  • Slow and Steady saves Gas, Money, and Soldiers!

Here are the tips from the “100 +” that I’ve found useful:

4) Clean junk from your trunk

The additional weight you carry in your vehicle doesn’t ride for free. It takes energy to move it around. Removing unnecessary stuff from your vehicle saves fuel.

6) Join a fuel economy forum

Join an outstanding forum to learn ways to increase your fuel economy by talking to others who share your enthusiasm and goals.

7) Remove unused roof racks

If your vehicle come with a roof rack and you don’t use it, remove it. Same holds true for bike racks. Doing so will reduce aerodynamic drag, resulting in better fuel economy.

8 ) Check tire inflation regularly

Make sure that your tire pressures are, at minimum, set to manufacturer specifications. The higher the pressure, the less rolling resistance.

Remember that pressure is affected by ambient temperature. As temperature drops, so does your tire pressure, so keep track as the seasons change.

9) Track your fuel consumption

One of the first steps in improving efficiency is tracking fuel consumption.

Get in the habit of saving all your fuel receipts, recording distance travelled and fuel economy (MPG). Keep a small notebook to record trip type and new techniques employed to monitor your progress.

While the slower pace of tank-to-tank feedback isn’t ideal for feedback on driving technique, recording and montoring your “big picture” progress is great motivation.

See the Ecomodder Blog for more information on tracking fuel consumption.

14) The ‘corridor effect’

All else being equal, traveling at a constant speed on a freeway within a flow of traffic (in the same direction) is more efficient than going the same speed in isolation. The reason is aerodynamic: a flow of traffic generates a localized wind current in the direction of travel. You will benefit from this artificial breeze.

16) Time your gas station trips

Plan to refuel your car during off-peak times to avoid lines and excessive idling.

17) Avoid drive-thrus

Avoid drive thru windows. They lead to excessive idling.

29) Minimize idling when stopped

If you’re going to be stopped for more than a few seconds, shift to neutral and shut off your engine. This is one of the main reasons hybrid vehicles get such good fuel economy in urban driving.

39) Windows up

Drive with windows up at higher speeds to minimize aerodynamic drag. Use flow-through ventilation if possible.

40) Reduce speed

Aerodynamic drag increases exponentially with speed, so reduce highway cruising speed as much as practical and safe.

Generally, a vehicle’s most efficient speed is just after its highest gear has engaged.

There are tons more that I haven’t “acheived” yet and even more that most people just dont have enough control over to use like turning off your engine at red lights (its illegal to stop your engine in a road in Oklahoma). But pulling through to park to eliminate backing up and going in a restaurant instead of a drive thru is very doable!

A further benefit to driving slower and focusing on fuel economy is a reduction in my “Road Rage.” I find that I am the slow car and its an advantage to me to wait behind another vehicle because they are blocking the wind for me.

It all works for me – your mileage may vary!

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