Curbing Your Consumption:
By John Ford
This space has mostly been dedicated to household energy efficiency,
but as gasoline costs rise and the summer travel season begins, the
media is filled with tips on getting more distance for the fuel you
pump into your vehicle.
The first few tips are the obvious ones: drive less, and use a
smaller, well maintained, more efficient vehicle. Plan your trips, and
combine errands. That also means doing what you can on foot or
While it depends on your vehicle and the season, you use about 10
seconds of gas starting it. Therefore, anytime you come to a stop
(when not in traffic – for safety reasons), you should stop your
engine. As of September, Ottawa's idling law comes into effect. Those
running the engine while stationary for more than 3 minutes could get
a $100 fine under most conditions for a first offence. Idling is not
only a waste of fuel, but is harmful to the engine, and produces
harmful (and needless) emissions. Most hybrid vehicles use the concept
of starting and stopping the engine, only when it is required, to
create large efficiencies in a typical urban driving trip.
Choose your tires carefully. The contact patch of your tire is the
only connection your vehicle has with the road. Cheap tires can not
only prevent you from getting traction for braking, they can also eat
up energy in the transfer of energy from your drivetrain to the road,
eating up your savings in gas costs. Contrary to what you might think,
more expensive tires can grip better, last longer, and be much more
efficient. Check the specs before you buy.
Once your new tires are mounted, keep them inflated properly. The
numbers in the manual or on the door post are usually much lower than
they should be for efficiency, and are set by the manufacturer for
ride quality. I tend to add 5 or more PSI above recommended. DO NOT
exceed the maximum on the tire sidewall, which is NOT the recommended
pressure. Each vehicle will have its own recommended pressure for
front and back based on the tire size, vehicle weight, and weight
distribution. Many new cars have tire pressure monitors. These are
often very inaccurate. Get a good gauge, and check pressures weekly
when the tires are cold. Buy your own pump to inflate tires at home.
Check out metrompg.com A combination
of techniques and technology has allowed this ordinary gas powered car
to achieve up to 2.9 litres per 100 kms, or 97 miles per gallon. Darin
has also tried various experiments to test what works, and what
doesn't work. For example: empty roof racks required 14% more fuel
than a bare roof, and a bicycle on the rack required 37% more fuel.
Use more throttle at lower revs and shift up sooner to get the same
acceleration. More revs uses more fuel. With some cars: lift the
throttle briefly with an automatic to force an up-shift sooner. Buy a
John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy
conservation business, a graduate of two advanced driving schools, and
the Energy Advocate for the Green Party of Ontario.