Most of us realize that automobiles are not very good for the environment. They burn fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources, and they release dangerous greenhouse gases into the air. Of course there are ways to minimize the impact of cars on the environment. Among the most touted suggestions are switching to energy efficient hybrids or electric vehicles, or better yet carpooling, using public transportation, or using bicycles and other motorless transportation. But for many of us driving a regular gasoline car to and from work and other destinations is simply the way that it has to be. The good news that there are actually things that you can do to make your current vehicles run in a way that is more energy efficient. Let’s look at some things that you can try:
1) Think before you drive. Too many of us just jump into our car every time that we need a gallon of milk or a scoop of ice cream. The truth is that for many of these smaller errands we could actually walk or take our bicycle. So, when you can get somewhere without revving up your engine, do it.
2) Keep your car well maintained. When you do have to drive you will get the best mileage and leave the least carbon footprint if you keep your car well maintained. This means doing whatever you can to ensure that you are releasing the cleanest exhaust and that you are getting the best mileage. To accomplish these things keep your air filter clean (replace it as recommended by the manufacturer), keep your brakes well maintained, repair any oil leaks immediately, and keep your tire pressure at suggested levels to increase mileage.
3) Be aware of how you drive. Some people do not realize how much of an impact their own driving habits have on the mileage that they get from a tank of gas, on their repair and maintenance costs and even on the life of the car and various car parts. For example, if you drive too close to the car in front of you then you are more likely to have to hit your breaks a lot. This does three things. First, it wastes fuel because you inject fuel into the engine to get up speed, then suddenly force mechanical stopping with your brakes, then have to inject more fuel to speed up again. Second, it wears out your brakes and engine parts, causing you to have to replace parts which costs materials, creates waste and costs money. Third, it may surprise you to know that excessive braking actually makes a noticeable difference in the life of our tail lights. It’s true. In fact, tail light life can be reduced dramatically by a combination of excessive breaking and standing while in drive.
4) Watch your speed. You may not realize this but your vehicle gets more miles to the gallon when you are driving at moderate speeds than it does when you drive at high speeds. In fact, anything over 55 miles per hour is using far more fuel than your vehicle needs to be using. While Sammy Hagar screamed, “I can’t drive 55,” he probably didn’t realize that this speed is optimal highway speed for energy efficiency.
5) Use technology to help you make the best use of your vehicle. While teens and twenty-something’s today are accustomed to using technology for everything, those of us who are a little older may be surprised to know that if you want to improve your gas mileage there is an app for that. Yes, that’s right, a variety of companies are developing smart phone applications that are designed to improve your car’s mileage and thus eco-friendly operations. Most of these apps do a few things. Some work like a GPS unit, but focus on finding a route that is likely to cause the least stop and go traffic, thus get you the best mileage. Other apps can also track your speed and braking habits, making suggestions for more efficient driving. If you want to give one a try check out GreenMeter, DriveGain, and EcoSpeed.