Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Apr 28, 2006 with no responses

I Can Drive 55

When I was a bit younger, and Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55″ would come on my car radio, I always found myself easing the speed up higher and higher. I would ease up to 75, 80, or more. Even when I wasn’t listening to songs encouraging me to drive faster, I had a hard time keeping my speed down. Not only did I get a lot of speeding tickets, but I wasted a lot of gas. But that was long before I began to challenge myself to significantly reduce my energy consumption.

If you want to make an immediate contribution toward lowering the demand for gasoline, and you don’t want to run out and purchase a new hybrid, there is a very simple answer: Slow down. I know it’s a bit of a sacrifice, but so is $3.00/gallon gasoline. Just leave a bit earlier for your destination. Ignore those elderly grandmothers who pass you and shake their fists at you. Be satisfied that you are making your own small contribution toward easing demand.

You may not realize just how much you can impact your gas mileage by slowing down. The following graph illustrates just how fast your fuel efficiency drops off above 60 mph:


Source: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

According to the site:

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

So, want to save $0.40-$0.60/gallon on gas? Ignore that 70 or 75 mph speed limit, and slow down. If you drive 12,000 miles a year, you can save over 100 gallons of fuel, which at today’s prices amounts to around $300. You can also feel good that you took some steps to personally reduce your fuel consumption, and it doesn’t hurt that you lower the risk of being in a serious accident.

Of course this a bit of a generalization, in that each car’s fuel efficiency will vary, and the particular “sweet spot” for gas mileage will vary from vehicle to vehicle. But it will generally be in the vicinity of 55 mph.

Other Tips

Properly Inflate Your Tires

Properly inflated tires reduce the rolling resistance between the road and your tires. The higher the rolling resistance, the more fuel you use overcoming that resistance.

Don’t Use the Air Conditioner

In addition to slowing down, I have also completely stopped using my air conditioner. It isn’t for everyone when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees, but I have found that I can cope with the heat by cracking my windows and turning up the air vent. However, I only do this when I am driving alone. It might save fuel, but driving around with 3 hot, cranky kids and a hot, cranky wife presents its own set of unique safety hazards.

Don’t Idle Your Vehicle

Idling wastes fuel, and should be avoided whenever possible.

Use Your Cruise Control

Driving at a steady speed saves fuel, and it avoids the “speed creep” that can occur if Sammy Hagar comes on the radio.

Drive Less

Of course this one is pretty obvious. Don’t hop in your car to drive 2 blocks. Walk, or ride your bike. Your car gets the worst fuel mileage on very short trips because the engine doesn’t have time to warm up.

Additional Information

There are lots of other resources on the Internet with tips for improving your fuel efficiency. But my favorite is http://www.fueleconomy.gov/.