Saving Energy: Five Tips to Make Driving Less Bad

Posted by Allison Arieff, Ben Jervey, Nikhil Swaminathan, and Keith Scharwath

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Each time you drive your car,
you’re contributing in a small way to global warming. Cycling or using mass transit is an ideal way to reduce one’s personal carbon footprint, but the reality is that not every city is as bike-friendly as Portland or has as large a subway as New York. Driving is a very necessary facet of life in America. And not every American can afford to buy a hybrid or an electric car. With that in mind, here are some simple strategies for getting the most out of every gallon of gas you put in your car:


1. Over-inflate your tires.

Forget about what the recommended tire pressure should be, say the fuel-economy experts at CleanMPG, and go for the maximum pressure that your tire-maker discloses. The number will be imprinted on the side of the tire, just like the more conservative figure. This extra blast of air will provide a 3-percent boost to fuel efficiency.


2. Manage your starting and stopping. 

If you have a choice between routes for getting between point A and point B, obviously go for the most direct. But, if you have two equal options, go for the one with fewer traffic lights. And if you’re stopping to pick up a friend, turn the engine off. Not idling could mean efficiency savings of 5 percent.


3. Only use your A/C if necessary. 

According to a recent Swiss study, using your car’s air-conditioning can account for up to 30 percent of its fuel consumption. This means that on average, a driver will purchase 5.4 percent more fuel per year due to air-conditioning use.

 

4. Control your need for speed. 

Speeding is dangerous to drivers around you, and it’s bad for the earth. What should you do instead? Try cruise control, especially on long, straight highway drives. Control your distance behind cars in front of you and lay off the brakes unless they’re absolutely needed—like when you’re approaching a traffic jam. By decreasing constant acceleration, which uses energy to overcome increased drag, you’ll need less fuel.

 

5. Coast. 

Your ultimate goal in fuel efficiency is to not tax your engine. Use the momentum generated on straightaways and from cresting inclines to coast through segments of your trip. If you’re driving on a highway that isn’t relatively flat, CleanMPG suggests forgoing cruise control and limiting the acceleration of your vehicle by keeping the pressure on your accelerator constant as you go up and down hills.