In advance of Earth Day, PR reps flooded Grist with “save the planet: green your driving” tips and press releases. In keeping with our “Screw Earth Day” theme, we just want to stress the need to drive like every day is Earth Day — TAKE THE BUS! No, seriously, if you’re going to drive, then you gotta know how to drive in an eco-friendly manner.
At the New York auto show this year, I had a chance to talk to the mileage experts at ProFormance Racing School and EcoDriving USA. Here are some of the less obvious tips they recommend:
Avoid sharp turns: Take turns gently. Sharp turns decrease speed and consequently force the car to consume more fuel when returning to cruising speed.
GristCheck your tire pressure: Consider checking your tire pressure to be something like flossing, it’s a small chore that can save you plenty. Especially watch your tires after cold snaps, as tire pressure tends to drop when the mercury falls. Depending on estimates, properly inflated tires can increase fuel efficiency by 3-10 percent.
Treat your gas pedal like a dimmer switch: Slowly bring it up, slowly bring it down. Get yourself some Marvin Gaye to set the mood.
Stay (in) neutral: If your car has a manual transmission, when sitting a stoplight, shift into neutral. Running your engine in neutral draws little fuel, whereas leaving the car in drive can consume lots more — an average of 1 gallon per hour, depending on the vehicle. But be careful with the N word: it’s illegal in some states to coast to a light in neutral. As for automatic transmissions, some experts say frequently disengaging the engine puts a great deal of wear on the transmission. Bottom line, unless you know the limits of your transmission, it’s probably best to leave shifting into neutral to the manual drivers.
Upshift early: This is a bit easier for manual drivers than people who drive automatics, but slightly under revving the car is not a bad thing. If you’re driving an automatic, listen to the revs and accelerate slightly to bump the transmission in the next gear, then lay-off on the gas. With this method, you can manipulate the car to upshift while minimizing the engine revs and thus fuel consumption.
Brake in advance: This falls in with the dimmer-switch tip, but it applies even more to hybrids that sport regenerative braking. Most hybrids can capture a large portion of the energy used while braking, and sustained braking maximizes the benefit of that system. “Brake early, and brake often,” should be your motto, hybrid drivers.
Clean out your car: When was the last time you cleaned out your trunk? Or, looked in it? Most of us drag down our fuel efficiency because we haul those forgotten cinder blocks or winter sandbags everywhere we drive. Extra weight equals extra fuel consumption, so clean out the junk in your trunk.
No roof racks: Even empty roof racks decrease fuel economy. One unofficial experiment found that an empty roof rack reduces fuel economy by almost 13 percent.
For Grist readers who can’t get enough driving tips, EcoModder has an exhaustive list of suggestions to increase your fuel economy.
And how about you? Post your “hyper-miling” tips in the comments section below.
Screw Earth Day: Check out tips #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 for more advice on how to make every day Earth Day.