Fuel economy boosters are worthless. I wouldn’t think this would really be news-worthy, but apparently they keep selling like hotcakes. I imagine a lot of peoples’ reasoning goes something like this: “Hey, this MPG-O-Matik costs $30. That’s the cost for one tank of gas! What the heck, even if it only gives me an extra 1 mpg, that’s worth it, right?” Naturally, they don’t. If you don’t believe the news, and you don’t believe the Attorney General, and you’re positive that email forwarded to you where your coworker’s friend’s neighbor’s sister’s roommate’s cousin TOTALLY SWEARS that they really do work, well then, more power to you. Here’s what I do to crank my 2008 Fit — which has an EPA rating of 34mpg on the highway — up to 40mpg on a regular basis:
(honestly, when I first wrote this, I thought it was a ridiculous collection of unbelievably obvious tactics to cut your fuel bill 20%. But judging by watching people around me and/or how many people still buy into these gadgets, apparently I was wrong)
- Drive like you have a 10hp engine. This is the hardest part. Your dignity will suffer, people will race past you, and you will be That Guy. On the plus side, this alone can give you a 10% – 15% boost instantly. Start slowly from a dead stop. Drive the speed limit. Don’t pass unless you’re going downhill. If you get stuck behind a truck going 64, deal with it.
- Use the cruise control fanatically. Your car is more efficient when held at a steady speed. Exceptions are hilly terrain or when you’d be a hazard to surrounding traffic.
- Consolidate your trips. If there was ever a better excuse to go downtown instead of to That Lounge Out In The Middle Of Nowhere, I haven’t heard it. Park in the Walnut Street Garage and walk to any number of dozens of venues. Hey, look, you’re saving money!
- Use your air conditioner. True, using the A/C will suck away some of your efficiency. However, on the highway, opening your windows will hurt your car’s aerodynamic properties, which is even worse. Driving with your windows rolled up and the A/C off is best — and also impossible. Use your A/C on the highway or above 50 mph (give or take), and roll down the windows for in-city or slow driving.
- Carpool. Our mass transit here is awful. For a lot of people (I’d venture “most”), it isn’t a viable option. Carpooling isn’t always viable either. But if you can pull it off, it can instantly cut your fuel usage 50% or more. And your MPG will be effectively raised as well.
- Use the Interstate whenever possible. Whenever you stop, you’re wasting gas. It’s better to drive 10 miles on I-81 at 65 than to drive stop-and-go down Jonestown Road at 35 – 45.
By driving very conservatively, I’ve seen my fuel efficiency hover around 40mpg. A difference of 6 mpg may not seem like a whole lot, but that’s a boost of about 20% over the EPA rating. And with gas at $4 / gallon, a savings of 20% is like paying $3.20 / gal.
Wow. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d brag about paying $3.20 for a gallon of gas.