A gas station this week in West Hollywood. (AP)
We learned today that – no surprise – the prices of EV, hybrid and economy car models have risen faster than other already quite expensive used cars, in direct response to the rise in gasoline prices. On the bright side, we also learned that the price of crude oil has stabilized somewhat, and the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have made progress in the peace talks. But even if those promising trends continue, the prices we pay at the pump might not fall for weeks or even months.
So nobody likes high gas prices, but now is a terrible time to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. But good news: you can become more efficient in the vehicle you have. Any car can be a greener car. Love the one you are with.
It’s just a matter of smart ownership and careful driving, bordering on hypermiling. If you’re new to that term, it simply means getting the most out of every drop of gas. If you’re someone who turns off the lights when he leaves the room or is good at storing and eating leftovers, you’ll enjoy a little hypermiling.
By following even the simplest of the steps below, you can reduce the damage to your wallet:
† Drive less. Admit that some, perhaps a lot, of our driving is not essential. The widespread employer adoption of working from home is helping some of us with this.
† Is being organised. When you eventually get out of your home office to buy more frozen pizzas and Pop-Tarts, try doing all your shopping in one go.
† Is there more than one vehicle in your fleet? Park the slurper. As you probably have already done.
† Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Check them often, at least monthly. Bring a portable tire inflator so that airing is easy and convenient.
† Maintain your car to ensure maximum efficiency. Is your air filter clean? Your car uses much more air than gasoline.
† Avoid long warm-ups. When you start the car, do not let yourself idle unnecessarily. The time it takes you to put on your seat belt is enough to warm up. Every second your car is idling, fuel consumption is exactly zero miles per gallon.
Once on the road
— Avoid idling in traffic. If your car is equipped with stop/start, activate it. Otherwise, if you sit for more than a minute, stop the engine.
— Darling. Move the accelerator. Besides idling, you get the worst mileage when accelerating from a standstill. This is Newton’s first law: you overcome inertia. Just look at your car’s real-time mpg readout and you’ll see what a gas guzzler it is to get a car moving from a standstill.
— Don’t stop unless you really have to† This is the flip side of inertia. Any braking situation wastes kinetic energy that you’ve burned expensive gasoline to create. You are always better off to keep rolling. To achieve this …
— Look far down the road. See what the light does for you – and the light beyond. Don’t rush from stoplight to stoplight. When you try, it’s surprisingly easy to keep your car rolling and almost never stopping. Even if you have to crawl at 1 or 2 mph as you approach a red light, if you can keep it rolling, you’ll save gas.
— Use the mileage. We mentioned your car’s instant mpg gauge. Keep that in mind during your trip. It’s a great tool for teaching yourself to be a more fuel-efficient driver. Dashboard displays may or may not provide accurate calculations of your overall fuel economy, but the instant readout will certainly show you which driving styles are working and which are not.
— To summarize all of the above: Be flexible. In addition to better fuel economy, smooth driving habits will save you money in other ways – you won’t have to brake as quickly and your car will last longer due to less wear in general.
You are a leaf in the wind
— Do not carry unnecessary weight† Unload anything you don’t really need.
— Remove roof racks or something on the outside of the car that causes drag.
— Also close windows and sunroofs for less resistance† Especially at highway speeds, as we’ll see in a moment.
— air conditioning is OK. Closed windows may mean you have to use the air conditioning. You often see “turning off the A/C” as a fuel-saving suggestion, but modern air conditioning systems don’t tax the engine as much as they used to. If you’re comfortable with the air conditioning off, every little bit helps. But if you need to, don’t worry.
— To slow down. Drive the maximum speed. On the highway, keep your speed at 60 mph or less. Cars are their most fuel efficient in a 45-60 mph range. Air resistance increases drastically above 60, and fuel consumption drops just as drastically.
— To slide. If you have a modern car equipped with a flared automatic transmission that can shut off the engine and transmission seamlessly when conditions permit, learn how to use it. Otherwise do not coast. But look for ways to reduce the throttle on descents and minimize braking.
— Maintain a constant throttle position. Sometimes it’s best to use cruise control on the highway, although some systems can accelerate too hard and you may be better off as a human cruise control with a subtle footing.
— Or, pulse and slide. In other situations you will want to use this technique. Say, by increasing the acceleration uphill and then descending. View your instant readout and learn which technique is best when.
— Think about the terrain. Sometimes a direct route is not the best choice when going uphill. A longer route that goes around the hill can be more economical.
— Think about traffic† Prefer lightly used routes with fewer cars to slow you down or stop you.
— Think of the time. Along with WFH, some of us have more flexible schedules, even on days when we commute. Avoid peak hours and the fuel-guzzling delays they cause.
— Remember your routine route. If you often travel the same roads, learn where to accelerate, coast and brake to a minimum. For example, avoid the highway lane, which you know from experience will backfire in a particular spot. On the route from the highway to my house, I can take several turns and avoid the brakes everywhere except at one stop sign and when arriving at the driveway.
— Avoid cold temperatures. Again, if you can adjust your travel time, don’t drive early in the morning when it’s colder. Cold weather kills fuel economy. The engine is less efficient and the cold tires have more rolling resistance.
— Tidy up your garage† Park your car in the garage to avoid cold starts.
— Avoid high temperatures. If these high gas prices continue into the summer, try to avoid the hottest times of the day to minimize heavy air conditioning use.
— Avoid angering other drivers with these techniques. Sometimes those behind you don’t understand or appreciate why you’re crawling to a stoplight. Take your environment into account. And maybe stay in the right lane so the jackrabbits can pass you – on their way to the gas station to squander more of their money.