Transportation accounts for 66 percent of U.S. oil use, mainly in the form of gasoline. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to improve gas mileage. The tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks account for almost a third of the air pollution in the United States. If these worrisome facts have you frustrated, there are things you can do about both.
It comes as no surprise that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is devoting all of its energy to finding ways to conserve energy. They frequently send out advisories reminding us that our choices in cars and trucks make a big difference for the environment and for our individual budgets. Acknowledging the fact that many cannot always purchase the latest and greatest fuel-efficient vehicles, the DOE urges Americans to be responsible about using and caring for their vehicles because doing so will allow the vehicle to pollute less and last longer. You might want to check out the DOE information on driving green at www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml.
Here are some of the DOE’s recommendations:
Choose a cleaner vehicle
Choose the cleanest vehicle available that meets your needs. The choice you make will affect the quality of the air we breathe because passenger cars and trucks are major contributors to air pollution. Even with continued improvements in air quality, almost 100 million people in the United States still live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, much of which can be attributed to the increased use of passenger cars and trucks. Children and the elderly are the most at risk from air pollution.
Choose a more fuel-efficient vehicle
The better gas mileage a vehicle gets, the less fuel it burns. Less fuel burned means fewer natural resources are used and less pollution is created from the extraction and processing of the fuel. Less fuel burned also means that less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is added to the atmosphere. Moreover, the less fuel you purchase, the more money you save. To help you select a more fuel-efficient vehicle, the EPA and the Department of Energy publish an annual Fuel Economy Guide, available at www.fueleconomy.com.
Drive fewer miles
Because we are driving more and more miles every year (up 127 percent since 1970), vehicles continue to be a significant contributor to air pollution. Whenever possible, take public transportation, carpool and combine activities into one trip.
Maintain your vehicle properly
Your vehicle is designed to perform best when maintained according to the instructions found in the owner's manual. A poorly tuned vehicle can pollute significantly more than one that's well-maintained. As your dealer, we stand ready to help you with factory authorized maintenance and competitive prices.
When the weather is warm, try to refuel early in the morning or late in the evening. This will reduce the amount of evaporative emissions being pushed out of the tank during the heat of the day when smog most easily forms. On Ozone Action Days, try not to refuel at all, and never top off your tank beyond the automatic shutoff point.
Green driving tips
While doing good for the environment is commendable, doing good for your budget is absolutely vital during these challenging economic times. You’ve no doubt seen and heard the advice about “driving green,” but these tips are worth repeating:
- Idling gets you zero miles per gallon. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. No more than thirty seconds of idling on winter days is needed. Anything more simply wastes fuel and increases emissions.
- Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking) wastes gas. It can lower your highway gas mileage 33 percent and city mileage five percent.
- Avoid high speeds. Driving 65 mph, rather than 75 mph, could cut your fuel consumption by 15 percent.
- When you use overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces wear.
- Use air conditioning only when necessary.
- Clear out your car; extra weight decreases gas mileage.
- Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roofracks. A roofrack or carrier provides additional cargo space and may allow you to buy a smaller car. However, a loaded roofrack can decrease your fuel economy by five percent.
- Check into carpooling and public transit to cut mileage and car maintenance costs.
Car maintenance tips
- Use the grade of motor oil recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Using a different motor oil can lower your gasoline mileage by one to two percent.
- Keep tires properly inflated and aligned to improve your gasoline mileage by around three percent.
- Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks to avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid or transmission problems.
- Replace clogged air filters to improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent and protect your engine.
- Combine errands into one trip. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.