Drive Slower and Other No-Brainer Solutions

Auto engineers are getting more and more sophisticated about hybrids and other fuel-saving technologies—but reducing fuel consumption doesn’t have to be rocket science. Campaigns around the country, such as National Drive Slow Day held on June 1, are encouraging drivers to use common sense low-tech solution to beat high gas prices. How about these three no-brainer solutions?

1. Drive Slower
Almost everybody knows that speed kills mpg. Reducing your highway speed from 65 miles per hour to 55 mph can improve your mileage by as much as 15 percent. To spread the message about the merits of slowing down, Michelle Lee and Julie Pearce, two local newscast anchors from Northlands News Center in Duluth, Minn., established National Drive Slow Day. Pearce, who commutes 43 miles each way, keeps her highway speed to just above 60 miles per hour—well below the 70 mph speed limit. As a result, she boosted the highway mileage on her 2002 Volvo sedan from 28 to 32 miles per gallon. She told, “I tack on about five minutes to my commute. What’s five minutes in the grand scheme of things?”

The couple estimates that easing up on the gas pedal can save you $300 a year. The collective savings would be $85 million a year for American drivers. Before complaining about high gas prices, try slowing down.

2. Drive Less
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched a campaign of local incentives last week to get residents of his city to carpool and take public transit. Nearby Vancouver, British Columbia is beginning its Bike-to-Work week campaign this week. And across the country, people are taking an even more direct approach by leaving the car at home—and telecommuting.

According to a 2007 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, about 48 percent of employers offer an option of telework at least one day a week. In an April 2008 report from the American Electronics Association, an estimated 1.35 billion gallons of fuel could be saved if all Americans who could telecommute did so 1.6 days per week. Employers will have to balance the desire to monitor workers every move with lower office occupancy costs and higher employee retention.

3. Drive Smaller
If telecommuting is not an option for you, and it’s too hard to change your speedy ways, then maybe it’s time to trade in the SUV or full-size truck for a smaller car. You’ll be joining a stampede of other car buyers who are downsizing. The trend is intensifying based on May 2008 auto sales. George Pipas, Ford’s chief sales analyst, told Bloomberg, “May is all about the accelerated shift from trucks and SUVs to small and mid-size cars.” So far this year, the small car segment is up almost 40 percent, while the sale of trucks, larger SUVs and big cars is down about 17 percent nationally.

The hybrid car is the poster child of fuel-efficiency, but any combination of driving slower and smaller, and less often, will go a long way to reducing your fuel consumption, as well as the environmental impact that comes with daily driving.

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  • Harold Huey

    I talked to my dealer and he told me that the most efficient speed for my car is 46 MPH on the dynometer.

    I am experimenting the idea.

    2/3 of the first Qtr Tank says 115 miles
    thats really good compared to Qtr Tank=100 Miles

  • Old Bald Guy

    You do realize, of course, that gas mileage is not measured in miles per tank … or some part of a tank … but in miles per gallon (MPG). The only way you are going to know what your change in driving is doing will be to measure MPG.

  • Jeff

    Driving 55 is one of the easiest ways to improve fuel efficiency nation wide. But the Federal Government will have to take action just like they did in the past since driving 55 mph on the highway right now is a good way to get yourself killed or run over by all the idiots driving 70 mph and faster.

  • GR

    So…you’re saying I SHOULDN’T drive my Hummer 80 miles an hour everywhere I go AND I should try to drive it less? Interesting.

  • sean

    GR, you got the message.
    : )

  • CJ

    As a paramedic, I’m here to tell you that it is the disparity of speed that tends to cause death on the superslabs. You may think that you are driving safer and saving mileage by driving 10 to 15 miles per hour slower than everybody else, but you’re just setting yourself and your family up for a lethal rear-ender or a road rage incident. Drive the speed that everybody else drives. Pass half. Let the other half pass you. If you try to play that drive slow, save gas thing in traffic that is trying to move, you deserve whatever you get. Your life, and the lives of everybody else out there are worth more than your milleage

  • PatrickPunch

    More solutions:

    4. Anticipate traffic situations ahead
    By anticipating slower speed situations ahead (stops, traffic lights, slower traffic) you can begin coasting with some braking instead of keeping your foot on the throttle followed by more braking. All energy put in braking is wasted. So avoid brakling without jeopardizing safety.

    5. Provoke upshifting while accellerating
    Engines have an optimal speed. This is near the maximum torque speed. You can force your automatic transmission to shift to a higher gear when accellerating by slightly lifting the throttle pedal. You can keep your engine at yhe optimal speed +/- 500 rpm.

    I apply 4&5 combined with coastingt in neutral to save 10% on a BMW 320d. On a gasoline savings can be higher.

    1, 2, 4 & 5 do not require an investment in a new car.
    1, 4 & 5 can result in 10 to 15% saving.

  • Dom

    I’d change #1 to Drive the speed limit.
    We don’t need or want the government to reduce the speed limit – this country is too huge to be driving 55mph on the interstates!! But driving 65 or whatever is posted as opposed to 90 would help, and you’ll be keeping the law as well. And I agree with CJ – driving significantly slower than the rest of traffic is dangerous, selfish, and just a bad idea. I’m all about fuel economy, but let’s not get fanatic about it.

    Patrick on his #5 – with all that trickery to get an automatic to do your bidding – why didn’t you just buy your BMW 320d with a manual transmission????

  • Harold Huey

    Yes , I realize I have to get to my 3/4 tank fill up and get the number of gallons.

    I do fill up at the same topping point.
    but I do notice per qtr tank is about 100 miles for me when I drive.
    If I don’t achieve that 100 per qtr then I site my conservation or the gas was at fault.
    Getting above 100 is big deal.

    This experiment is going to be a long one.
    Yes , i read what other ppl say on the topic and will keep that in mind

  • young guy with hair

    Old baldy… You do realize, of course, that gas mileage is not strictly measured in miles per gallon. It is quite reasonable to compare how far you have traveled after a quarter of a tank is used. It is not as precise as MPG, but is nevertheless a reasonable comparison. But, thanks trying to share your old-guy wisdom, even though it is flawed.

  • Kat

    Driving slower is not dangerous on the freeway. The right lane is supposed to be for slower vehicles! I have found my gas mileage has improved to 41 mpg simply by reducing speed (non-hybrid civic). Using the cruise control to gradually change speed rather than using the brake and accelerator pedals also helps. We are finding less people passing us at 60MPH than last year, so more people are finally getting the message and taking action.

  • Hahiran

    “. . . you deserve whatever you get.”

    Good to know we have compassionate paramedics out there who think that some of their patients deserve death and dismemberment.

    Perhaps this is Toby Keith posting under a pseudonym. While, “We’ll put a boot up your a%$, it’s the American way,” has been working for us really well these past few years, along with our hyperconsumption, maybe it’s time to think differently.

  • Hotcarl

    CJ must be the worst kind of parametic there is or not a parametic at all!

  • CJ

    You’re right Hahiran. After 20 years and hundreds of car wrecks where I had to scrape up the pieces, I lost a bit of my compassion. That is why I retired and earned a degree in environmental science. It is just as frustrating trying to save the planet as it is trying and failing to save a human life, but the hours are better and you don’t get so bloody.

    I stand by my previous statement that it is criminally dangerous to drive significantly under the speed limit on the freeway. Deserve it or not, driving too much faster or slower than the normal traffic flow puts your life and the lives of others at risk.

    Many “hypermileage” tricks are just stupid. Get a Prius or install a vaccum guage on your present car. Air your tires to no more than 5 psi above what is recommended and get a tuneup. Don’t “draft” semi’s. People’s lives are worth much more than the few dollars you might save trying to stretch the MPGs unsafely.

  • TD

    I’m with CJ on this one. Its very simple.

    Slower vehicles on busy freeways cause backups.

    Backups cause car wrecks.

  • Ray Walker

    I drive a Tahoe 4WD and a Lincoln LSE. Tahoe gets 16 around town, 19 on hiway at 70. Lincoln gets 18 city & 28 hiway. I pay attention to RPM and traffic. The trade value of both is lowered due to gas prices. If I trade on a hybrid I’m stuck with less car and $400 a month payment. I can buy a lot of gas for $400 and drive a comfortable car.

  • Shane

    Slowing down really does work. I did some research and I documented it on for anyone to see. I’ve noticed that by going from 75mph to 65mph on the freeways I get about 4 mpg better. Doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up when you think about it. Use the calculator on my link to see how it stacks up for you.

  • reginab

    But it’s so tempting to step on the gas… Especially when you just got new mods. I love my new mods courtesy of