Fair Weather Fuel Economy

The best way to save fuel, aside from purchasing a fuel efficient vehicle, is learning to improve fuel economy in your current vehicle by ‘fixing the nut behind the wheel.’  Minimizing fuel consumption takes work and knowing the quirks of your specific vehicle.  Luckily, as the warmer months approach, fuel economy automatically improves (decreased warm up times, warmer air temps, etc.).   But as warm borders on hot, we start using the air conditioning more often.  Cranking up the A/C (or rolling down the windows) can impact your fuel economy (FE), though by how much is debatable and varies by vehicle.   Overall, put windows down at lower speeds, and use A/C at higher speeds. (A good blog over the subject.)  Anyway, here are some tips to keep in mind during warmer weather.

If your vehicle has a recirculation function, use it in conjunction with your A/C to cool your car down faster.  This is known as MAX A/C, which counter-intuitively is more fuel efficient than regular A/C.

Once your car has cooled down to a comfortable level, with recirculation left on, power down your A/C for a while; turn the A/C back on when the air becomes noticeably warm again.  Your A/C really does decrease your fuel economy by 1-5%…so use it sparingly!

In the parking lot, do not linger.  Quickly find a parking spot and shut off your engine.  Park a bit further out and avoid the hassle of searching for a spot up close.  Or park in a central location and walk to nearby places (many stores are in strip malls).  Walking is good for you anyway.  Also, if you can, park somewhere in the shade to keep your car cool.  A shade tree or the side of a building may help.  Next, put up a sun shade to reflect light away from your windshield.  No need to bake your car’s interior and require more  A/C use.

Next, if you’re going inside, bring everyone in the car with you.  Leaving a car on with the A/C cranked in the parking lot gets you ZERO mpg and may put your vehicle at risk for overheating.  If they don’t want to shop (who wants to buy more clothes on a sweltering hot day?), find them a bench in the already air conditioned building.

Also, try to run errands in the morning or late evening when it might be just a little bit cooler.

 

Finally, these tips apply for any time of the year:

  • Coast as much as possible (downhill, yellow/red light, traffic)
  • Learn your routes and your stoplights (figure out light patterns)
  • Anticipate lights changing.
  • Run your errands with the furthest destination first, working your way back home.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated.  (Do not go beyond Max Sidewall Pressure on tire!!  And keep in mind that temperature changes effect your PSI)
  • In general, drive like your brake and gas pedals are hot as lava.  Use them sparingly. Learn how well your vehicle coasts.

For more, check out my slideshow on fuel economy.  Also, visit ecomodder.com for driving tips and learn about ecomodding!

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Fuel Economy Tips: Hypermiling and Ecomodding

(http://www.slideshare.net/themarkofpolo/ecodriving-for-college-students) (no audio)

I gave this presentation to fellow college students during an Earth Day event. I’ve followed the advice and example of several folks at ecomodder.com, who have taught me how to improve my fuel economy in my 2007 Pontiac Vibe.

I am able to do so by first, “Adjusting the nut behind the wheel,” by simply changing my driving habits. I am much more patient, much more aware of my surroundings, and able to squeeze MPGs by coasting (in gear) as much as possible.

Next, I’ve added instrumentation to track my progress (ScanGauge). By knowing my average and instantaneous fuel economy readings, along with other information like coolant temp and intake air temp, I am able to adjust my driving style on the fly to garner more MPGs.

Finally, I’ve slightly modified my vehicle for greater efficiency.  See the presentation for more information on “Ecomodding.”

Before visiting the site, I averaged 28.5 MPG hwy/city combined and ranging from 28 to 33 in city and on the highway, respectively. Now, my fuel economy ranges from 30 to 38 for city/hwy. For all fillups recorded since mid 2010, I am averaging 33+ mpg on a fairly regular basis.  (Sure, it would be better not to drive at all, however that is simply not an option in the Midwest.)

If you decide to visit ecomodder.com or similar sites like cleanmpg.com, check through their exhaustive lists of tips.  If you have questions, take them to the forums and join scores of people seeking to reduce their fuel consumption and save money in the process.