Perhaps you are considering switching to an electric vehicle — that’s great! But if you haven’t made the switch yet, you can still make planet-friendlier changes to your internal combustion engine (ICE) driving routine. You’ll still be emitting up to 18 pounds of CO2 for each gallon of gas you burn, but you can get more mileage out of every gallon.
These simple, driving and vehicle maintenance tips aren’t just better for the planet. You are also likely to save money on fuel, vehicle repairs, and tire replacement. And these practices typically enhance your safety on the road. Yes, some of these tips offer subtle differences in fuel economy. Every bit is worthwhile to your wallet, and you can save up to buy that electric car, abandon ICE-based driving, and reduce your environmental impact on the planet.
Ease Up on the Pedal
Drive at a steady pace, and avoid unnecessary speeding and breaking. Aggressive driving, sudden acceleration, and heavy braking can lower your gas mileage by “15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic,” according to FuelEconomy.gov, a website affiliated with the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy.
When you’re approaching a red light or stop sign, ease off the pedal and coast, AAA recommends. Another AAA tip: “Accelerate smoothly with light to moderate throttle. This allows the automatic transmission to upshift into higher gears sooner, reducing engine rpm and saving fuel.”
Should you use cruise control for better fuel economy? The opinions are mixed. It may actually use more gas, particularly if you’re driving on hilly roads or in busy traffic. But for long trips on open highways with fairly level terrain, cruise control can help you maintain a steady speed and save gas — and may even save you a speeding ticket.
Consider Your Vehicle’s Aerodynamics
Remove cargo carriers and roof racks when not needed. Transporting items on top of your vehicle increases wind resistance and reduces fuel economy, according to FuelEconomy.gov.
Depending on the size and shape of the object on a car roof, the reduction in fuel economy may amount to between 2% to 8% when driving in town, 6% to 17% on the highway, and 10% to 25% at interstate speeds of 65 to 75 miles an hour, according to FuelEconomy.gov.
Another option is moving the cargo box to the back of your vehicle.
“Rear-mount cargo boxes or trays reduce fuel economy by much less — only 1% or 2% in city driving and 1% to 5% on the highway,” the FuelEconomy.gov website states. “If you need to use an external cargo container, removing it when it’s not in use will save fuel and money.”
And remember to remove heavy items you’re toting around in your trunk. Excess weight reduces fuel economy, especially in smaller vehicles.
Keeping your vehicle’s engine running while in park, especially for an extended period, wastes fuel. If your vehicle is stopped for more than 60 seconds, turn it off, AAA recommends.
The persistent myth that restarting your car uses more gas than you save by turning off the vehicle when idling is false. In fact, you’ll save gas if you turn off your car if you’re idling for 10 seconds or more. It takes the same amount of gas to start the car as running it for 10 seconds, so you can turn off the engine even in stop-and-go traffic to save gas.
Pay Attention To Your Tires
Keep tires properly inflated. It’s safer. It reduces wear. It maximizes fuel economy.
Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training for Tire Industry Association recommends checking your vehicle’s tire pressure once a month. Don’t wait for the indicator to light up on your dashboard, he says.
The appropriate tire pressure for your vehicle is usually posted on a sticker affixed to the driver’s door frame. It’s also in the owner’s manual.
In addition to enhancing fuel economy, properly inflated tires improve the longevity of the product, reducing the need to replace them as often — another planet-friendly perk. For longevity, rotate your tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles and make sure flat tires are properly repaired, Rohlwing says.
GreenerCars.org, a website maintained by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, states, “For every 3 pounds below recommended pressure, fuel economy goes down by about 1 percent.”
The importance of proper tire inflation is explained by this video from the Tire Industry Association.
When you need to replace tires, the website recommends thinking about low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tires, if they are available and suitable for your vehicle. LRR tires are designed to improve fuel economy.
Windows Up or Down?
A question on ConsumerReports.org discusses the well-debated issue of which uses less gas: rolled-down windows or air conditioning.
“We’ve tested this at various temperatures with multiple vehicles,” says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of auto testing. “We found that on an 85-degree day, running the A/C can reduce fuel economy by 1 to 4 mpg, depending on the car. But air conditioning dehumidifies the car’s interior, which can help keep the driver alert and safe. We think that’s a worthwhile trade-off.”
It appears that keeping the windows open doesn’t increase the car’s aerodynamics drag. “The effect of opening the windows at 65 mph did not measurably reduce fuel economy,” Fisher says.
Other Smart Driving Tips & Resources
- Park in the shade to reduce the need for air conditioning.
- Try to group your errands together on the same trip to reduce driving time. If possible, avoid the road during rush hour and heavier traffic.
- Find more tips on tire maintenance Tire Industry Association.
- Get more green driving tips on Greenercars.org and EPA Green Vehicle Guide.
Feature image courtesy of tortugadatacorp, Pixabay. Originally published on August 19, 2019, this article was updated in August 2022.