The Ecology Movement of the 1970s was very inspiring to my youthful mind. Aside from the anti-war movement, the Ecology Movement most fired-up my social consciousness. In 1972, I finally decided to get rid of my gas-guzzling Camaro and trade it in on a smaller, more fuel efficient economy car. Since then, the environment has been a top priority in my selection of transportation.
Hopefully I’m not just “preaching to the choir” as I remind readers that May is Eco Driving Month in the US. Many of us already seriously want to diminish our individual carbon footprints we make on the environment.
According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, The amount of greenhouse gases emitted when using internal-combustion engines, depends on the amount of fuel used. The “Eco-Driving Index” (EDI) is the national index that estimates the average greenhouse gases produced by individual drivers who have purchased light-duty vehicles in each month. The EDI depends upon two variables: the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and distances driven.
The University of Michigan has been keeping track of its EDI since October of 2007. From then until January 2015, there has been an 18% drop, per driver, in the US EDI since late 2007. The distances driven have remained more or less steady, the fuel economy has changed from a 2007 baseline of 1.00 to today’s index of 0.80 for a total EDI of 0.82.
Any way we can cut back on our environmental footprints will positively help our impact on global climate change. Even if you drive a conventional, internal combustion powered vehicle equipped with automatic transmission, you can adjust your driving style this month to practice your Eco Driving skills.
1. Make sure the tires on your car are properly inflated.
2. Make certain the engine air filter isn’t clogged with particles.
3. Be sure your vehicle is regularly maintained.
4. Be mindful of your driving style.
(If you practice these skills for at least three weeks, they will become engrained habits.)
Driving style includes:
1. Curbing our urge for “jack-rabbit” starts at intersections (don’t drag race at traffic lights). Watch the road or street as far ahead as possible and anticipate the flow of traffic.
2. Act don’t react. That is, increase your “field of action” to include appropriate distances so you can use momentum. Maintaining safe distances from the vehicle in front of you helps even out speed fluctuations in urban traffic, enabling more constant speeds.
3. Make maximum use of your vehicle’s momentum.
4. If your vehicle has cruise control, use it whenever practical. Cruise control can save up to 60-gallons of fuel for every 10,000 miles driven each year.
5. Observe the posted speed limits. If you can avoid the urge to drive faster than 60 mph/100 kmh, you can improve efficiency up to 23%.
6. Plan ahead. Plan and consolidate trips. Try to avoid the heaviest traffic times, and use shorter routes.
7. Consider changing traffic situations, safety requirements, and specific quirks of your vehicle.
8. Use air conditioning and other equipment mindfully.
If your car is equipped like mine, with a manual shift transmission, you can squeeze even more efficiency out of each mile driven.
1. Utilize your tachometer. Using the lowest, engine safe, RPM, shift to higher gears, sooner without “lugging” the engine. Going extended distances at high RPM drastically reduces fuel economy.
2. Make your up-shifts smoothly and steadily. I make a game of trying to keep a “fluid” increase in speed with no perceptable jolt between gears. I “match” engine RPMs with the next higher gear. I use my ears and watch the tach to ensure a flawless shift each time. It’s sort of a game I play to constantly improve my driving skills.
3. Make your downshifts smoothly and steadily, too. Whenever possible, I go through my gearbox from high gear, progressively lower as I change from country driving to town driving. (fifth down to fourth down to maybe third) Again, utilize the ears and the tach to make deceleration as smooth as you can. Play around with this technique so you don’t wear out the clutch.
4. Some European Eco Driving websites say to use neutral to save even more. I strongly disagree with this advice, because this can cause premature brake wear; you can lose control of forward motion quickly, increasing the risk of an accident; it’s also illegal in most areas of the US. So avoid the temptation to coast.
One of the most obvious ways to increase your driving efficiency and EDI is to own a fuel efficient vehicle. Some of us are fortunate to already own an electric car like a Tesla, or some sort of Hybrid vehicle like a Toyota Prius or ChevyVolt. I’m watching the swiftly evolving auto industry on other developments so I can more effectively plan for the time to replace the ‘ol Camry.
There are new versions of hybrid vehicles, some use “flex-fuel”. On the horizon, are such options as hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines, and super efficient electric propulsion. Right now, I’m investigating the new Elio three-wheeler, to figure out whether or not it is a practical enough vehicle for my needs.
Eco Driving is an incredibly interesting subject that provides plenty of material to investigate and try out. If you’ve been thinking about swapping gas-guzzling for Earth-friendly, now is the time to get in on the ground floor of this exciting new field.