People often complain about the increase of gas prices. However, it is a fact that gas prices in US are lower then in the majority of the countries in the world. In fact, the only countries that have lower gas prices than the US are usually those that have large supplies of crude oil. The probability is high that gas prices will only continue to grow and we have to adjust to a fact of having permanently high gas prices.
There are several technological responses to this issue of permanently high gas prices. One great example is the general improvement of fuel efficiency noticeable across all the car manufacturers. Every car commercial you can see on TV today has some “fascinating” fact about the miles per gallon that car has. However, no matter the technological improvements, modern cars still use only 14% – 26% of the fuel energy for moving the car.
In addition to the response through technology, there is another approach to dealing with the issue of high fuel costs. And this approach comes in the form of driver adaptation. Previous research related to the increase of gas prices confirms that people are making behavioral changes during the times of high gas prices. This is especially manifested as reduction in overall driving. Studies of correlation suggest that much of this reduction is achieved through increased use of other travel modes or by chaining more trips together.
However, these behavioral changes are easier to make if people are living in more urban neighborhoods, closer to the central business district, that have transit- and pedestrian-friendly facilities. As we all know, urban areas of US cities frequently do not provide all these options and so sometimes driving a car is your only option from getting from point A to point B. In the case that you cannot make a shift to a bus or train, you can still make some modifications to your driving. This approach to driver adjustment is called ecodriving.
What is ecodriving? Ecodriving is a set of driving techniques intended to reduce fuel consumption, reduce environmental impact, and prolong a vehicle’s engine. These techniques are researched and implemented worldwide, usually consisting of a short list of principles that each driver can adopt in their everyday driving but achieve high benefits.
The complete list of ecodriving advice includes:
- Underinflated tires increase fuel consumption. Checking tires and keeping them inflated on a monthly basis is the easiest way to decrease fuel consumption.
- Idling is useless fuel consumption. There is no need to warm up the engine before moving, or leaving the engine idling for more than 30 seconds. A perfect example of useless idling is “fresh red”.
- Limiting air conditioning use can decrease fuel consumption by 5%. At speeds below 50 mph, opening a window can frequently work equally well without increase in the air resistance. However, opening windows if traveling faster than 50 mph, can increase vehicle’s air resistance, thus increasing fuel consumption, and is not recomended as part of the ecodriving techniques.
- Abrupt acceleration significantly increases fuel consumption. Driver can avoid sudden accelerations by looking further ahead and increasing following distance to anticipate changes in traffic flow. Accelerating smoothly, using constant cruise speed, and coasting to stops can reduce fuel consumption.
- Changing air filters as recommended by the manufacturer can improve the fuel consumption process and reduce fuel consumption.
- Avoiding unnecessary weight, and removing bike and roof racks can reduce resistance forces and reduce fuel consumption.
By using most of these advices in practice, you can achieve a substantive cumulative effect on improving your overall gas mileage. Looking at some of this advice, you might have some concerns about the impact of ecodriving on travel time or safety. However, previous research studies have actually shown quite the opposite. Ecodriving can often improve travel time since drivers avoid sudden braking and can maintain faster average speeds. In addition, ecodriving is safer since it discourages excessive speeding and encourages driver anticipation of traffic conditions, and can result in lower accident rates and fewer insurance claims among drivers that had taken ecodriving training.
Car manufacturers have also recognized the potential in this driving behavior change. Some car manufacturers such as Ford, Honda, Kia, Nissan, and Toyota are installing monitoring and feedback technologies that can be used to provide drivers with real-time fuel consumption information, correct their acceleration, or provide alternate routes to increase fuel efficiency. In addition, other companies have also recognized the potential for providing support information to help ecodrivers. Companies such as Digitalcube, Earthrise Technologies, Linear Logic LLC, PLX Devices Inc. are just some of those providing on-board vehicle statistics and real-time fuel economy, annual fuel cost, and CO2 emissions as instantaneous feedback for improved fuel consumption.
I hope that all this information have at least made you aware and thinking about ecodriving. Hopefully you will implement some of the above techniques thus reducing your fuel consumption and enviromental impact, and maybe even spread the word among your friends how much mpg you are getting after only a few minor driving modifications.
In the case you are interested in improving your driving techniques in general, there are plenty of videos that can show you some defensive driving techniques that might also prove to be extremely useful.