Posted by: redforkhippie | January 31, 2008

Road Tip 6

This week’s tip: Sip, don’t gulp

Fuel costs are high, and they’re probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. But Route 66 has an advantage over many other road trips, in that the speed limits tend to be lower, and the gas prices tend to be a little cheaper at stations on Main Street than at the super-mega-truck stops next to the interstate off-ramps.

To make the most of our fuel economy, my husband and I — both erstwhile hypermilers — find the following techniques helpful:

1. Drive the speed limit — or slower, if you can get away with it. There’s no reason to speed on Route 66. Half the fun is seeing all the weird stuff you pass along the way, and you can’t see that stuff if you’re tearing around at 80 mph. If you’re “cruising and playing the radio with no particular place to go,” as Chuck Berry says, you can afford to take it easy on the accelerator. Cars are usually at their most fuel-efficient at speeds somewhere between 45 and 55 mph. You’ll have to play around a bit to find the sweet spot in your car, but in general, when you’re driving for fuel economy, slower is better. Besides … why take a chance on letting a speeding ticket spoil a perfectly good road trip?

2. Avoid jackrabbit starts. Accelerate slowly and smoothly from stoplights and stop signs. It’s safer and uses a lot less gas than taking off like a NASCAR driver. This may take a little practice, because many of us are used to flooring it when the light turns green, but smooth acceleration is a habit worth cultivating. It’s better for the environment, better for your pocketbook, and better for your engine.

3. Anticipate stoplights. As soon as you see a red light up ahead, start slowing down. Unless the lights are synchronized for a particular speed, slowing down will increase the chances of the light turning green by the time you get there. This is desirable from a gas-mileage standpoint because it takes less fuel to accelerate while you’re moving than it does to get the car going again from a dead stop.

4. Never pass while going uphill. If possible, slow down when you’re headed uphill. If you don’t understand why this helps, go jogging on a hilly course sometime. 🙂

5. Use your air conditioner wisely. At speeds below 50 mph, it’s more fuel-efficient to shut off the a/c and roll down the windows if possible. At speeds above 50 mph, you’re better off with the a/c on and the windows up, as the drag created by rolling down the windows at that speed costs you more gas than you saved by shutting off the a/c.

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