Imagine if automakers equipped cars with a gauge showing exactly how much money people were spending per second in direct response to their driving habits.

And think if such a gauge could be calibrated to also show dollars per day, per week, month and year. Do you suspect that would get peoples’ attention more than those instant mpg readouts some cars are equipped with?

Maybe. Maybe not? In any event, no such gauge is known to come with new cars, but you otherwise do have control over mpg and dollars spent – along with greenhouse gas emitted – depending on a number of factors.

Whether you have a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric vehicle – or an internal combustion powered car or truck – achieving EPA estimated mpg for your make and model largely depends on you.

Some things on the other hand are not as much in your control – like hot weather inducing you to turn up the AC, or freezing cold weather on slippery roads wasting energy along with climate accessory usage. Similarly, hills encountered en route also sap more energy than level or declining-grade roads.

The watchword in all situations be they under your purview or not is energy flow. Following are some tips to improve how much energy is required which does add up to money and emissions (even EVs not renewably powered can have upstream emissions, and more energy used may equate to more powerplant emissions).


EVs don't need all of these, but cars with engines sooner or later do.

EVs don’t need all of these, but cars with engines sooner or later do.

A car needing a tune-up, or with underinflated tires will off-the-bat not return its highest potential efficiency. The EPA estimates every psi of tire pressure, below optimal equals 0.3 percent of 1 mpg less than you would have gotten. So, if your tires are under-inflated by 10 psi, for example, that’s 3 mpg less than you’d otherwise get.


If you are filming a bootleg video of your Tesla beating a supercar on a public road, you may feel like ignoring this advice (though the police could have something to say about it, and might even give you some chrome bracelets and a free ride in a police car).


Otherwise, things like jack-rabbit starts use more fuel/energy than more sedate getting under way. And as a word to those in today’s stressed-out driving environments, if a car is in your way impeding you from going any faster, it won’t help to floor it up to their bumper even if you are feeling anxious to get to where you are headed.


Speeding above the posted limit can feel good for some people. However, it often does not get them to their destination much faster because the flow tends to average out even aggressive drivers in some trafficked scenarios. Further, even if one does cut and thrust well ahead of cars it passed, that’s less than 1 minute saved per entire mile gained in a 65 mph zone, and less time savings in higher speed zones.

Another fact is air resistance increases exponentially with speed. By the time you reach highway speeds your penny per second meter will be ticking higher if you wish to push the limit, say from 65 to 81, or what have you.


All cars benefit from braking smoothly, not suddenly, and this advice goes double for electrified cars with regenerative brakes. Electrified cars will recuperate more electric energy back to their batteries than a sudden or hard stop.


Part of being a proactive driver is looking ahead and anticipating what is happening in front of you – such as cars slowing, or the approach of a light or turn. Timing your braking to slow the vehicle progressively is easier on friction brakes and tires.

Also, assessing the terrain and situation may enable you to simply let your foot off and coast rather than staying on the gas to the last second. Fuel is saved whenever you can coast.

Roof Racks

Attaching a bulky roof rack to your vehicle may reduce efficiency by as much as 25 percent at highway speeds depending on how much of a virtual sail in the breeze it is. These racks can have great usefulness, but they are a trade-off in utility vs. mpg.

Reduce Excess Weight

Extra weight in the vehicle can reduce fuel economy by about 1 percent per 100 pounds.

Cut Parasitic Drag

Automakers today are doing all they can to increase efficiency of accessories and other systems driven from the vehicle’s main powerplant. Short of re-engineering your own vehicle, you can think along these lines and attempt to moderate use of energy sapping things like air conditioning, heated seats, and etc. Electrified cars will also save range pre-heating or pre-cooling while still plugged in, when possible. What’s more, if you have an “eco” mode, this will reduce energy usage at part throttle settings.


You get 0 mpg at idle, and engines may waste as much as a half gallon of fuel per hour.

In Sum

No doubt more could be said, but even if gas is now affordable, energy does cost dollars over time, and causes more emissions as well. All vehicles may do relatively better or worse.