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 HybridCars.com, “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.