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More MPG info – highest ever in my car

Yeah, some people probably get sick of reading about my MPG exploits.  My wife says I’m an anorak, which I don’t think is a good thing.  :)

Took a long highway trip today, and managed 34.2 mpg round trip – 280 miles all told.  The only difference I did between this and other road trips was that I stuck to 60mph (well, I hit 63 briefly going downhill once).  Keeping that constant speed below the 65 or 70 on the various sections I was on gave me about a 10% boost above my extremely good records of 31-32 earlier.  Driving slower really does boost MPG.  That 10% is the equivalent of paying $3.50/gallon vs $3.85/gallon.

FYI,  I’m driving a 2004 Chrysler Sebring (4 door, not the convertible) – Automatic, 4 cylinder.  The federal data on the car (PDF) rates it as 21-28mpg.  Driving more cautiously is getting me about a 20% fuel efficiency boost over the highest rating, and about a 30% increase over what my regular driving habits of a couple years ago were netting (23-25mpg on average, 26 in a pinch).

Try slowing down, just for a few days or even a week, and see what it does to your MPG and your wallet.


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Driving speeds and $4/gallon gas – are you slowing down?

I currently don’t drive much, so when I do I tend to be more aware of others’ driving habits than I used to be.  Maybe it’s the speeding tickets I’ve had over the years, or maybe I’m just getting old, but I don’t tend to drive very fast anymore.  If anything my wife thinks I drive too slow sometimes.  With that said, with gas coming up to $4/gallon ($3.95 by my house today, and $4.69 for diesel!) I’m somewhat surprised by how many people haven’t changed their habits.

I was passed numerous times today by SUVs flooring it to pass me, apparently because they wanted to be first to slam on the brakes before the red light (which was already yellow when they were passing me).  I want to say I’m exaggerating this behaviour, but I’m not.  I was driving 60 on the freeway (yes, in the right lane), but was a bit stunned to see people obviously doing 75 or more.  While I realize that people need to get to places on time, it’s reported all over the place that driving slower reduces your gas usage by up to 10%.  That’s the equivalent of paying $3.60 instead of $4.00 for each gallon.

My mom told me a few weeks ago she’s paying $80/week to commute across town.  It’s likely now close to $100/week.  A 10% savings would be saving $10/week – $520 per year.  People switch car insurance companies for that, go out of their way to buy extra things to get ‘points back’ for ‘free’ airmiles and whatnot, but won’t just slow down to save money.  I don’t get it.

Back when gas was $1.10/gallon, it was much harder to make the financial argument for slowing down.  It’s been much easier the past year or so, but I haven’t really seen any difference.  Have you?  Do you drive slower now than you used to to save on gas use?


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Highest MPG yet

Not too much to say on this, but I filled up last night and calculated I’d managed 32mpg in the car.  Mind you, I had only gone through half the tank (but with gas prices continually going up, I figured I’d refill now) – 6.4 gallons took me 205 miles.  I had usually had anywhere from 28-30 – the highest I’d ever recorded before was 31.  What changed?  I had perhaps been a bit more aggressive in my coasting activities, and I’ve driven slower than normal.  I found myself hitting 70 a couple times on the freeway and dropped down to 62, for example.  I guess that really can make a difference.  What’s strange is that the car (2004 Sebring) is only rated at about 24mpg anyway.  I’d love to keep getting 32, or even higher, throughout the summer, but I’m not sure it’ll happen.

What mpg do you get, and what steps have you taken to increase your mileage (if indeed you’ve taken any at all!)?


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Buy my carbon emissions

I was reading up on carbon offsets – buying, selling, etc. – and got to thinking that I could let people pay me to not pollute.  I’m not sure I pollute all that much, but certainly between my wife and I we create *something*.  So I’ll stop, or reduce my footprint as it were, for a price.  Right now I’ll accept paypal – just paypal money to michael@kimsal.com and I’ll drive less, add more CFLs in the house and whatever else I can think of.  But then I started thinking that this might be a viable “small scale” business to start, except I’m not sure how you’d police it exactly.  But just like prosper.com and some other sites have gotten in to the micro-financing game, I could get in to the micro-carbon-footprint game.  So if you see “BuyMyEmissions.com” any time soon, it’s probably me. 

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Driving habits make big difference in my MPG

I test-drove some “mpg caps” last summer in an effort to determine whether they delivered any benefit. My results after one month of driving were pretty abysmal. Before the test, I tested my driving for a month and was getting around 23 mpg. During the test I got between 23 mpg and almost 25 mpg. It’s not bad, but not much difference. The cost of the pills negated any cost savings on gas. I tried to maintain the same driving habits during those two tests to minimize differences. Weather may have played a factor a bit, but the pills didn’t make enough difference to justify buying them (and I’m still not 100% convinced they had any real benefit anyway).

Fast forward a year. I’ve been concerned about changing cars. I have a lease which I’m ending, and I’ve been undecided as to whether I should just buy the car or turn it in and get something smaller. One of the primary factors in my decision was mpg With gas costs having gone up around 70% since I first got the car, the cost of driving, especially to my new job, are a lot more top of mind. So I’ve been reading up on ‘hypermiling’.

“Hypermiling” is a term coined by hybrid drivers focused on maximizing their miles per gallon. I thought I’d apply some of the same techniques to my driving habits to see the results. I know this isn’t necessarily all that statistically accurate, it’s the same mpg test math I did last year. I’ve gone from 22-24 mpg to 31 mpg by changing my driving habits.  (note: last fillup was 7.5 gallons and I’d done 230 miles – 30.7 mpg – previous fillup was 31.5 mpg).

  • I’ve slowed down. I obey the speed limit, and often go slightly under. I occasionally have to speed up to avoid annoying the drivers around me. :)
  • I look for any opportunity to ‘coast’ – any stretch where I can maintain the same speed within a few mph range without having to give any gas.
  • I turn off the car at stop lights where I know the wait time will be > 45 seconds. Some lights are 90 seconds or more, which seems to make sense. I’m not sure on the 45 seconds cutoff. Am I wasting more gas by restarting the car?
  • I turn off the A/C. This has been hard the last couple weeks. I don’t have it off completely, I just don’t run it the full time I’m driving. I’ll alternate between windows down during slow driving and stops, and toggle the A/C on/off every minute or so.

I think by October I won’t need the A/C at all, so that shouldn’t be a factor at all, and I’ll probably get consistently higher mpg.

I have been amazed at how much more mpg I can get in a 2004 Chrysler Sebring – rated at 18 city / 26 highway. This just makes me think of how much more gas we’d all be saving if all drivers followed these tips – slow down a bit, don’t race to red lights, etc. If I can realized a roughly 30% increase, couldn’t everyone? What if it was only 20%? Or 10%? What would that do to our dependence on foreign oil? To the rest of the economy given the extra money people would have by using less gas?


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Switching to CFL

I was at Home Depot today and picked up 4 CFL bulbs as a bit of a test.  4 “60 watt equivalent” cost me $7.97, so about $2 each.   I haven’t bought ‘regular’ bulbs in awhile, but Lesley did pick up a pack some time back.  If I recall, the GE ‘long life’ ones came out to about 70 cents each or something around there, so CFLs are about 3 times as expensive.

CFL – compact fluorescent light – is apparently a relatively new type of bulb which is much more energy efficient.  They are a little funky looking, to be honest.  Think of a long thing fluorescent tube coiled on to itself, with a ‘regular’ bulb socket fitting on the end.  Or just look over here to see what one looks like (look at the top left image).  I quoted ’60 watt equivalent’ before, because that’s how they’re labelled.  To produce the equivalent of a conventional 60 watt bulb, the CFL uses only 14 watts.   So, something that costs 200% more but uses 75% roughly less energy should pay for itself relatively quickly.  I tried to use one of the online calculators from the EPA to determine the cost savings over time, but couldn’t quite work it out (I dunno was my cost per kwh is, for starters).  I do know that it might only be a break even for me from a cash standpoint, but over time if it helps in some small way to reduce energy consumption, it’s probably a good thing.

This article was the one that brought CFLs to my attention, although having poked around some other sites it seems they’ve been around for a bit longer than I thought (someone on another site mentioned they’d been using them for almost 4 years).  It’s a bit frightening the power WalMart seems to be able to wield, and should give everyone some concern.  It’s also funny to think that they (WalMart) will claim there’s nothing they can do about getting better health coverage for their workers, or complying with environmental regulations, etc., but can reduce green house emissions around the world by stocking and price cutting some light bulbs.  Certainly there’s some degree of PR going on here, but it’s still good to see some positive environmental news once in awhile.

Interesting quote:

What that means is that if every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. One bulb swapped out, enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

So, it seems there are some easy things everyone can do to help reduce power consumption, besides the obvious ‘don’t use power’ argument.


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