Sunday, January 04, 2009

Increase fuel economy without seeing an eco-driving expert

Awhile back, Fat Knowledge pointed to a report by Ford finding that drivers coached by "eco-driving experts" increased their fuel efficiency markedly:
Tests performed by Ford Motor Company and Pro Formance drivers found that 48 motorists coached by eco-driving experts saw results ranging from 6% fuel economy improvement to more than 50%, depending on their driving style and ability to master eco-driving behaviors. The average fuel economy improvement was 24%.

Eco-driving instructors coached drivers to employ smoother breaking and accelerating, monitor their RPMs and drive at a moderate speed. Among the eco-driving practices that drivers can begin practicing on their own are driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph, keeping tires properly inflated at the recommended pressure, and eliminating prolonged idling.

People are actually trained to do this? I presumed most people are aware their driving habits do not optimize fuel economy, but for various reasons (high time preference, not wanting to focus on something so seemingly trivial, image, etc) did not try to adjust those habits to lower fuel usage.

I need to finally get that damn bumper sticker I regularly wish I had when I'm on the road, especially when someone rides my tail, starts gesticulating, looks backwards over his left shoulder, zips by on my left while initially glaring in my direction before reacting in a host of ways to my best exagerrated Hillary smile gleaming right back at him, and then swings back into the right lane in a failed attempt to cut it close, since he's going faster than I am. The sticker will read "Relax, I'm teaching you to be a better driver".

A couple of years ago, I revealed my 'secrets' to obliterating the EPA listing for the stallion I've had since I depleted my savings to buy it on my sixteenth birthday. The EPA, notoriously known for being overly optimistic, states an average economy of 23 mpg. I get 31 by doing a few simple things (admittedly, I compromise out of courtesy when it is socially or professionally necessary to do so):

- Inflate all tires to 42 psi.
- Never top 55 mph.
- Keep engine rpms under 2,000 at all times.
- Never use the AC.
- Crack the driver's side window an inch, leaving all others up.
- Ease the accelerator slightly during accelerations to cause a premature gear shift (it's an automatic).
- Study traffic signals assiduously as I approach from a distance, attempting to minimize the use of braking by speeding up or coasting depending on the point in the intersection's cycle.

The EPA estimates that eco-driving techniques will increase the average driver's fuel efficiency by 15%. I've been able to realize more than twice that. It's really not something you need professional instruction to pull off. Just make a game of it. Among the most satisfying victories you will have is when someone does to you what I described previously, beats you by a few hundred feet to the next intersection at which he has to come to a complete stop, and then gets to enjoy you cruising by him at 45 mph as you anticipate the signal turning green and thus do not have to slow at all, leaving him behind with the opportunity for the process to repeat itself on your way to the next major intersection.


Sounds like a pretty crappy game to you? Well, do it for Mother Earth or to impoverish the House of Saud, then!

16 comments:

popularsymbolism said...

Eco-driving experts? It's almost becoming laughable by now - Gaea is creating her own army of defenders, and of course Ford sees the potential to make a buck or two.

This whole thing is almost bordering on a religion by now - while the overwhelming majority that believe humans are causing the majority of 'greenhouse gas emissions' is only inside the IPCC's collective mind - and when scientists speak up en masse and point out the fallacies in such arguments, they get ignored by the mainstream media.

Case in point:
More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims

You can read the 220-page report if you're feeling particularly brave.

Anonymous said...

Careful about driving less and doing your bit for Ma Earth, liberals will raise your taxes:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/04/IN6I1514IF.DTL&hw=Saunders&sn=001&sc=1000

Fuck 'em, you might as well put your foot down...

BGC said...

Drive For Space is my mantra. I got it from here:

"Solutions to everything - number 16. Given that you're living in a city where driving is necessary, learn to drive. You may think you know how, but my experience of the way you drive is that you probably don't. So here's how:

Drive for space, not for speed. Space in front of you is the safest thing you can have with a car. Darting in and out of traffic doesn't change anything, it just makes you older. You can't beat the average traffic flow on any given street or freeway by more than five minutes, which only makes a difference if you're having a baby. And don't you feel like an idiot when you've passed six cars and they pull up beside you at the next light? They're laughing at you. And they hate you. Which isn't good for you. Drive for space.

If the move ain't smooth, it ain't right. There's no excuse for a jerky turn, stop or acceleration. It's hard on the car, it's hard on the other passengers, it confuses other drivers, it's not aesthetic. Such moves are for emergencies only.

Ninety percent of the time you drive with your habits, not your head, so figure out what your bad habits are--gunning it through yellows? not signaling? tailgating? Your worst habit will turn into your worst accident. So stop it. Drive for space. End of lesson."

From: http://golftalk.coremedia.us/michael_ventura.htm (I don't like most of what he says - but the driving advice seems spot-on.)

Dennis Mangan said...

"Among the most satisfying victories you will have ..."

Ha! I do that all the time, I didn't know that I was "eco-driving" - I thought I was just a cheapskate. Now that gas has come down in price, it hardly seems worth it though.

Toronto realtor said...

I think first step should be - get yourself a low consumption car :) It's a huge difference. With good new car you can enjoy driving and still have decent consumption. Unfortunately, I am talking mainly about Japanese and European cars...
Elli

Audacious Epigone said...

PS,

The link doesn't appear to be working. I've read a summation before though.

Anon,

Yes, taxation on miles driven punishes people who live on the perimeter of the metro area (or in rural places) who have fuel-efficient vehicles the most, relative to the way gasoline taxes are currently collected. The latter is a better way to disincentivize gas consumption, but apparently it's too volatile for the state of Oregon. It just isn't fair that the government be forced to deal with economic uncertainty!

BGC,

Great excerpt. I agree with everything Ventura says.

Dennis,

I'm 25 and still driving the car I bought on my 16th birthday after three years of part-time work. It still looks like it just drove off the showroom floor (I might be exaggerating a little there, but it's definitely babied). I feel an almost spiritual connection with the vehicle, and so am motivated to treat it as gently as possible for sentimental reasons alone. The money saved and eco indulgence payments forgone are just gravy!

TR,

I will when my current car becomes a junker. But it has had a steering belt break and the driver's side electric motor go out. That's it. Would it be a prudent investment to scrap something that has a $1000 Bluebook value but is, in usability, worth several times more than that?

popularsymbolism said...

Audacious:

Strange, it works on my end.

Here's a shorter link:

http://tinyurl.com/88m77s

tommy said...

The EPA estimates that eco-driving techniques will increase the average driver's fuel efficiency by 15%. I've been able to realize more than twice that. It's really not something you need professional instruction to pull off. Just make a game of it. Among the most satisfying victories you will have is when someone does to you what I described previously, beats you by a few hundred feet to the next intersection at which he has to come to a complete stop, and then gets to enjoy you cruising by him at 45 mph as you anticipate the signal turning green and thus do not have to slow at all, leaving him behind with the opportunity for the process to repeat itself on your way to the next major intersection.

I love that experience. I even enjoy simply watching some jackass speed by only to arrive in approximately the same spot behind a light or stopped traffic as he was when he passed me. The more traffic and the more lights, the less it pays to speed.

tommy said...

Things that annoy me as driver:

1. Drivers who treat the use of turn signals as a courtesy not to be extended lightly to strangers.
2. Drivers who use turn signals as they are turning or switching lanes rather than prior to performing either act.
3. Drivers who brake before using turn signals instead of signaling before braking.
4. Drivers who are unable stay between the lines in their large vehicles.
5. Drivers who insist on riding the asses of other drivers who are themselves behind several vehicles.
6. Drivers who ride the asses of other drivers until they are in the lead. Once in the lead, they don't want to speed for fear of a ticket.
7. Drivers who don't understand that yielding doesn't mean jumping ahead of other vehicles at all costs.
8. Bicyclists who insist on straddling the white line between the sidewalk and the road--especially as you are approaching them from behind and turning a blind corner with oncoming traffic in the other lane.
9.. 90% of motorcyclists I see on the road. Motorcyclists are easily the most foolish drivers on the road.
10. Drivers who don't pay attention to pedestrians at crosswalks.

wongba said...

some ppl tested the mpg difference when using AC on low vs cracking the moonroof. at low speeds, moonroof was more efficient, but at high speeds, i.e. 50 mph and above, the AC was more efficient b/c of aerodynamics.

cracking 1 window might be better than cracking the moonroof, but i'd imagine u also get less air circulation.

i've noticed that in my car, the rpm drops when i turn the AC on when i'm in drive, so it appears to suck power from the motor rather than adding to the current motor load. so what i do when driving at highway speeds is accelerate to about 10 mph over the speed limit, put the car in neutral and turn the AC on and coast until i'm about 5 mph lower than the speed limit. then i turn the AC off and put the car back in drive.

obviously this requires a lot of driver attention, so i started this when gas was over $3. i stopped when gas dropped below $2 b/c it simply wasn't worth the effort at < $2.

Audacious Epigone said...

Tommy,

Great list. I really like #5. I'd also add drivers who don't maintain a constant speed on highways when the traffic is light. Since I'm always using cruise control, this occasionally forces me to slow down because of the vehicle that passed me, pulled back into my lane, and subsequently started crawling along (texting on a phone, messing with the radio, or whatever). The best highway lane to cruise undisturbed is the second furthest to the left (6 lanes+ highway)--you're not impeding faster traffic, but at 55-60mph, you rarely ever have to switch lanes to pass slower cars, nor do you need to yield for traffic coming from on ramps.

Wongba,

Impressive. I take it yours is a manual? Is that safe to do with an automatic?

wongba said...

i have an automatic, and i haven't noticed any ill effects on my transmission. i do try to rpm match to the speed i'm at before shifting back into drive however.

Fat Knowledge said...

I just came across this hypermiling.com site that seems to go along with much that is said here.

Looking at the comments, it reinforces my belief that a gasoline tax is the best way to get people to focus on reducing gasoline usage.

And I have no clue why Oregon wants to switch from a gasoline tax to a mileage tax. They are losing some definite whiterpeople hipster points with that move.

Fat Knowledge said...

Actually this cleanmpg.com site looks to have more information and a more active forum.

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