Gas Prices Giving You Pains?
Last updated 2014.02.22
Rising petroleum costs have you looking for ways to reduce your
gasoline bill and the pain in your pocketbook? Leaving you wanting
to stage your own personal gas-out? Thinking you should trade in
your gas-guzzler for a gas-sipper? Get used to it. While there
will likely be price adjustments in months (and years) to come,
the trend line on gasoline prices is unmistakable; it's going to
continue to go up. Industrialized society is an oil addict, and
we're hooked on the rush! Withdrawal is never pleasant, but better
to have a plan than go cold turkey when the supply is taken away.
This page is intended to
provide you with some tips on how to reduce the amount of
transportation fuel you use. Most of these tips are applicable to
on-road vehicles, regardless of the actual fuel used (gasoline –
various grades, diesel, propane (LPG), natural gas (CNG) or
methane, ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen, electricity, whatever). For
the most part, the tips are not in any particular order. Remember,
the underlying reality is energy conservation. Move less mass,
less distance, less often, more efficiently.
The most important tip is simple: use your internal
combustion engine (ICE) vehicles less.
maintenance costs for ICE vehicles (Otto cycle and Diesel) are
related to the amount they are used. Short trips with lots of
stops and at low speeds (typical urban driving) are harder on
infernal combustion engines than longer, higher-speed trips with
few stops (highway driving). Insurance premiums increase with the
amount you drive annually. The resale value of your vehicle drops
as the odometer reading increases. Oh, and by the way, the use of
ICE engines is the single largest source of pollution on the
planet; air pollution, water pollution, groundwater pollution,
thermal pollution, noise pollution, production of greenhouse
gases, global warming. The ICE is the big source of all of these
problems, and a significant contributor to landfill with all its
consumable parts (air filters, oil filters, fuel filters, belts,
engine coolant hoses, spark plugs, ignition wires, distributor
caps, rotors and points, gaskets, exhaust systems, etc.). The
disposal of used automotive engine oil is the single largest
source of release of lead into the environment. A vehicle that
lasts longer conserves energy by not having to be replaced as
Walk somewhere. Anywhere. Its good for you and the
environment and pretty cheap - a pair of shoes will cover a lot
of miles. Just leave your guzzler parked. Moving just you
conserves a lot of energy compared to moving a car.
Get a bicycle. Preferably something used. Try your local
FreeCycle, or bike repair co-op, or a used bike dealer. Find
something comfortable and practical for your use - inexpensive,
reliable transportation. Then use it. Use an electric-assisted
bicycle if this makes using a bicycle more practical for you.
Car pool. Less gas, less wear and tear, less parking cost
all means less money spent, more energy conserved. Also less air
pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, thermal pollution,
greenhouse gases... Take note of possible insurance implications
from using your vehicle for car-pooling, although many insurance
companies are improving their policies regarding this practice.
If you commute without your car during the fair-weather
seasons, or reduce your annual mileage significantly, be sure to
tell your insurance company. You should probably get a reduced
Take the train instead of a commercial airline flight for
trips up to 400 km (about 250 miles) when this is practical.
Trains are about the most efficient form of powered land
transportation, conserving energy per passenger-mile relative to
air travel and even most cars. Train fares are usually quite a
bit cheaper, and the difference in time from origin to
destination is usually small, even with the slow trains common in
North America, for trips up to this distance. Surprised? Air
travel is not especially fast for short distances when you allow
for time to travel to the airport (usually outside the city while
the train station is usually closer to the city center), checking
your luggage at the airline counter up to an hour before flight
time (it usually stays with you on the train), passing through
security, waiting to board the plane, waiting for your bags on
arrival at the destination airport (bags are still with you on
the train), and then get from the airport to where you actually
want to be (train station is probably closer to your real
destination than the airport is). The train uses less fuel per
passenger mile, producing less pollution. Some trains are even
electric, producing no pollution while moving you from place to
place. Oh, and there is no cabin pressure problem (that makes
your ears pop) or increased radiation exposure on the train.
Learn to drive for fuel economy to conserve energy. This
is not just avoiding aggressive starts from traffic lights and
stop signs and hard braking. It is a matter of anticipating how
traffic will flow so that you can drive as smoothly as possible,
reducing the number of stops and fast accelerations as much as
possible. Your brakes turn the fuel you have paid for into waste
heat. It is better to coast to a stop than burn up that energy
heating your brakes. When there are multiple lanes available to
you, try to use the one that is less prone to stops (e.g.,
traffic having to slow dramatically to execute right turns from
the right lane, or coming to a stop to make a left turn).
When stopped, shut off your engine. You get 0 mpg when
your engine is idling. In a typical gasoline vehicle, idling for
more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than re-starting the engine.
There are many different options to reduce your
fuel consumption. Installing high end after market auto parts can be a great way to get more
mileage from your vehicle. There are also simple solutions that don't require you to be
an expert mechanic such as replacing dirty air filters, using a
fuel injector cleaner or even just keeping up on your vehicle's
Resist the temptation to use your remote car starter to
pre-heat or pre-cool your vehicle. The time spent on high-idle
consumes additional fuel. Consider using an electric box-heater
on a timer to warm the vehicle cabin prior to driving instead.
Use a sun-shade to reduce the solar gain through your vehicle
windows to help cool it while you are away from it. Leave a
window open a small amount to permit unwanted heat to escape
while the vehicle is not in use.
Plan your trips to reduce the distance traveled and
combine errands (trip chaining). This will reduce the total miles
traveled and your fuel consumption costs. Your fossil-fuel
powered engine works more efficiently and pollutes less when it
is operating warm rather than cold.
Plan your trips to avoid left turns as much as possible.
On average, you spend more time waiting for left turns (burning
more fuel), and left turns lead to a higher rate of collisions
than almost any other traffic maneuver.
Plan your drive to avoid periods of traffic congestion.
You get 0 mpg when idling in stopped traffic.
Check the air pressure on the tires on your vehicle(s).
Correct as necessary. Repeat monthly or more frequently if
required. Under-inflated tires increases fuel consumption and
tire wear. Overinflated tires can cause uneven tire wear, and
reduce the contact area with the road, and control of the
vehicle. Tires that wear out prematurely have to be replaced
sooner, costing you more money.
Slow down to the posted speed limit. The energy required
to overcome air resistance goes up as the cube of speed.
It takes about 10% more fuel to cover a given distance at 110
km/h than at 100 km/h. Driving at 90 km/h reduces fuel
consumption by 20% relative to driving at 110 km/h. (That's why
the U.S. introduced the national 55 mph speed limit during the
OPEC petroleum pinch in the 1970s; to conserve energy.) Use the
cruise control, if you have one, for extended highway travel.
Observing the posted speed limits won't just save fuel; you can
avoid speeding tickets, possibly a collision, higher insurance
premiums, injury or even losing your life.
Take extra weight out of your vehicle, as accelerating
extra weight uses more energy, and de-accelerating extra weight
increases brake wear. (e.g., sand and salt mixture for winter use
should not be in the trunk all summer as well).
Make sure your vehicle is running properly. Bad ignition
components, fouled spark plugs and dirty air filters will all
increase fuel consumption and reduce performance. Have your
vehicle tuned up on a regular, appropriate schedule. Check
owner's manual for details. Check for dragging brakes, emissions
control system problems, etc while you are at it.
When shopping for replacement tires, look for fuel-saver
types. These may carry labels like: energy, economizer, low
rolling resistance. By reducing road losses, they conserve
Drive with the minimum lighting required for safety. It
takes energy to have those lights powered on. That energy comes
from your alternator, which is driven by your engine, which
consumes additional fuel.
Remove all extraneous items from the outside of your car,
such as flags, radio aerial toppers, roof racks, bug deflectors.
They increase the air drag factor of your vehicle, and result in
higher fuel consumption. Reducing air drag obstructions helps
When it's time to buy your next car, buy the smallest,
most fuel-efficient vehicle that is practical for you. If that is
a moped or scooter or motorcycle rather than a car or truck, so
much the better. Please don't buy a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).
First, because of their popularity they are outrageously
over-priced - the average profit margin on a North American SUV
(as of mid-1998) is US$10,000. The recipe is, take a pickup-truck
chassis, stick a station-wagon body on it, then double the price
the manufacturing costs would normally justify. If you still have
to have one, it's your money, just don't drive it, because it is
a prime environment destroyer. They consume a lot of fuel because
of their weight, and they are not subject to all the same
emission controls as regular automobiles. Consider your real
needs and get the appropriate alternative.
If you have a heavy fuel-consumer now that is in good
condition, and your only issue with it is its high fuel
consumption, it is probably not worth your while to trade it in
just for the fuel savings. Fuel savings will likely be worth only
a small percentage (1-5%) of your total cost of ownership. Much
easier to follow some of the tips on this page to save more than
that amount while avoiding the hassles and costs associated with
trading vehicles. Building a new vehicle consumes a lot of
energy, so keeping your existing vehicle may actually help
When shopping, consider buying a "hybrid". The
current offerings are electric-assisted gasoline cars, but their
gas mileage can be phenomenal. The Honda Insight is rated at 3
liters per 100 km or about 70 miles per U.S. gallon. I have
friends that have reported getting 90 miles per U.S. gallon with
careful driving in the Insight. The first generation Toyota Prius
seats 4 adults, and boasts a 4 liters per 100 km (52 miles per
U.S. gallon - city driving) fuel consumption. I have driven one
of these, and can confirm these figures from personal experience.
The second generation Prius gets even better mileage. Please note
that most of the current "hybrids" achieve most of
their benefit in urban (stop and go) driving, conserving energy
primarily by regenerating into the batteries during braking, and
re-using that energy in the next acceleration. They get very
little advantage in highway driving from the actual hybrid
technology. If the great majority of your driving is on highways,
investing in the premium price for a "hybrid" may not
pay off for you.
If you are a multiple car household and use at least one
of those vehicles primarily for commuting, consider using an
electric vehicle (car, motorcycle,
scooter, bicycle) for your commuter vehicle and reserving your
ICE vehicle for the longer trips on which it will operate more
effectively. Reduced wear and tear on your gasoline-powered
vehicle will help it last longer and retain a higher resale
Consider whether or not a low
speed electric vehicle (LSV) or Neighborhood electric vehicle
could fit your needs and budget. Not all jurisdictions are
friendly to low speed electric vehicles, and may not allow
them to be licensed or used on public roadways.
Check all the rules for your area before making your decision.
If you use tools with small gasoline engines, consider
alternatives that are powered by
muscle or electricity to reduce costs and improve
Reduced Use of Fossil Fuels
Use biofuels, e.g. ethanol blend fuels - E100, E85, E10 instead
of normal gasoline as recommended for your vehicle. There are many
flex-fuel vehicles on the road in the U.S. due to CAFE dual-fuel
incentive, where the owners don't even know the vehicle is
flex-fuel capable. Check your vehicle manual. There are anecdotal
reports that you will get better gas mileage with ethanol blend
fuels (due a higher effective octane content), and a slightly
lower fuel cost per km (or mile). Try it yourself, compare your
mileage on a tank full of normal gasoline, and then with a tank
full of ethanol blend. Increased demand for ethanol should result
in economies of scale in production, thus eventually lowering the
cost below that of normal gasoline on a per unit basis. Some
jurisdictions now require that all road gasoline contain a percentage
of ethanol, and all road diesel to contain some biodiesel.
Use biodiesel blend instead of regular diesel fuel where
available or appropriate (or make your own, of course).
Don't waste your time on these. Most of them are hoaxes anyway.
Instead of wasting your time and energy on this futile gesture,
here are a couple of alternatives.
Instead of making a gesture for a day, make a change for
life. Find ways to reduce your energy consumption on a regular
If you want to make a political statement, boycott a
specific oil company. Personally, I recommend boycotting
Exxon-Mobil and all its subsidiaries (e.g. Esso, Imperial Oil)
due to their abysmal environmental record. If enough of us do
that, the message will be received loud and clear at the
corporate bottom line.
Speaking of hoaxes, don't bother with schemes that involve magnets, cars that run on water
or capsules you drop in the fuel tank to improve fuel economy. They don't work, and are
feeding on your desperation. Use your money on things that actually work.
Remember, the key to conserving energy (and your cash) is to
reduce the amount of mass you are moving, the distance you move it
and to move it as efficiently as possible.
An Automotive Engineer on the subject of
The Metro MPG page provides information on the very
efficient Geo Metro (and sister cars), and tips on modifications and techniques to reduce
Hypermiling is essentially using driving techniques to reduce your fuel consumption.
Even moderate changes can result in improvements of 20% and more. While I practice some
hypermiling techniques, I do not do some of the more extreme things mentioned by some of
the uber-hypermilers. Use these techniques at your own risk, and only those you are
comfortable with. Hypermiling is a skill, and takes practice to do well. Start by
taking careful notes on your fuel use, and use the fuel consumption computer on your
car as a guide. If you don't have a fuel consumption computer, check out the
Scan Gauge (for most vehicles after 1995
with OBD II capability), or a fuel system vacuum gauge (somewhat more primitive,
but still effective).
Eco-miling Web site
The hypermiling.com Web site
Mother Jones article on hypermiling
Squeezing gas for the very last mile -
Obsessive fuel savers can get impressive results — but at a cost in safety MSNBC 2008.07.01
This tip is not about reducing your gasoline consumption, just what you pay for it.
If you think gasoline prices go up just before long weekends, you are correct. So, try to
avoid filling up the Thursday or Friday before a long weekend, but rather gas up on the
previous Tuesday or Wednesday, before the price is jacked up.
Also, for Canadians, when you are close to needing a fill-up, and trying to decide if
you should do it late today, or wait until tomorrow, check out the
Tomorrow's Gasoline Prices Today
website maintained by Dan McTeague (former Canadian Member of Parliament). I am writing
this entry on Monday, May 16th, 2011 in Ottawa. Dan's site tells me that tomorrow's
gasoline price will be $1.232, where today the price I saw posted was $1.270. So,
when I fill up tomorrow (80 litres), Dan will be saving me about $3.20. Thanks, Dan.
If you have additional tips on fuel economy, please
e-mail them to me.
(No e-mails regarding magnets, fuel capsules or water cars, please.)
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