Fuel-efficient driving is a challenge during the summer months when both fuel prices and temperatures are high. The best way to reduce fuel consumption is to drive fewer miles, but that is not always an option. Drivers who commute to work, transport family members to summer activities and complete numerous errands should combine trips, plan stops for efficient travel and, where possible, carpool.
Smart summer driving strategies include planning routes that avoid traffic congestion, leaving early when temperatures are cool and staying off the road during the hottest part of the day. When combined with the following suggestions, these strategies can reduce fuel costs.
- Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard braking. These can increase fuel use by up to 40 percent and significantly increase wear on the car’s engine and brakes. Gradual accelerating and stopping are easy ways to save money in fuel costs when driving in town.
- Reduce the amount of time the car is stationary and the engine is idle when driving in town. Getting stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the drive-through or running the engine to power the air conditioner are examples of fuel use that can be reduced and/or eliminated.
- For efficient highway and distance driving, stay at or below the speed limit, utilize the cruise control and minimize quick accelerations when passing other vehicles. Aggressive driving that includes frequent accelerations, lane changing and braking decreases fuel efficiency.
- Reduce unnecessary weight in the vehicle and remove exterior racks used to transport bicycles and other gear. Each additional 100 pounds of weight in a medium-sized vehicle can reduce fuel efficiency by 2 percent. Exterior racks alter the aerodynamics of a vehicle and when not in use, should be removed.
- Inflate tires to the appropriate pressure. Under-inflated tires increase the rolling resistance of a vehicle. Radial tires that are operated with low pressure can reduce fuel efficiency by 5 percent or more.
- Reduce power accessories in vans and other multipurpose vehicles. Reducing the use of such electrical equipment, specifically the air conditioner, will contribute significantly to improved fuel efficiency.
- Regularly maintain your vehicle. Regular maintenance is a worthwhile investment. Engines that are not serviced properly can use 50 percent more fuel than those that are properly maintained. Clean air filters and properly adjusted fuel injectors/carburetors are essential requirements for efficient fuel consumption.
- Eliminate one or more longer trips common to summer travel. The weekly out-of-town shopping trip, the vacation that requires long distance driving or the repeated daily trips to town are examples of fuel use that can be reduced or eliminated. The one sure way to reduce fuel costs is to drive fewer miles.
You can find more tips and even join in a challenge with the Clear the Air Campaign
Richard Beard is an Extension agricultural engineer and pesticide safety specialist. His is also a Certified Energy Auditor with the Association of Energy Engineers and has worked with agricultural safety and energy conservation and efficiency for the past 37 years.
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