MPG – You’re doing it wrong…
I’m getting real tired of hearing people whining about the MPG ratings of cars. I repeatedly hear that they’re unrealistic, supposedly nobody can get that good of gas mileage out of these vehicles. Those ratings have been recently redone to be more realistic than they used to be (with realistic meaning “pessimistic” in this context).
Well, guess what whiny people, I *always* get better gas mileage than the sticker suggests. Typically 25% better in normal city/commuting driving across all our cars, even on the oldest car in our fleet (now 22 years old, from back when the estimates were less in my favor), without doing any fancy hypermiling tricks! This suggests to me that perhaps it’s not the cars that have the issue. Observations of others while out and about as well as a few conversations seems to confirm those suspicions.
- If it’s really cold out, yes it’s bad to just jump in the car and take off at full power immediately. This does NOT mean that you need to use a remote starter and let it run for 15 minutes before getting in it. Start your car, brush the snow off, and listen to the engine to make sure it’s not still at some obscenely high RPM, then put it in gear and start driving gently until it’s warmed up. Keep the RPMs reasonable and the load low (as much as is practicable, do whatever’s necessary in the case of an emergency). The engine will warm up just fine that way and you won’t be wasting tons of gas sitting still.
- If you find yourself swerving in and out of traffic while alternately punching the gas and brakes, you’re doing it wrong… Most likely you are trying to force a speed that traffic is not able to maintain. You may make small gains in position, but at great costs in gas mileage (as well as frustration). Often you’ll see that the vehicles that do NOT do all this extra effort end up catching you or even passing you by later on anyways.
- If you’re using the brakes very much, you’re failing to plan ahead. Brakes take all that energy that you paid for (in gas) to get going and turn it into waste heat (and the need for new brakes eventually). Brakes are critical for emergencies and for making it to a stop without running a light/sign. If you’re using them at times other than this, you’re likely to just be wasting energy. In the case of obvious stops, most times you should be able to only use them lightly. If you find yourself roaring up to stop lights and jamming on the brakes, you’re failing at both looking ahead and planning. The penalty you will pay is in MPG and other mechanical costs.
- Speed in excess of the speed limit costs you more as well. Plan your trips with realistic enroute times. The drive won’t take but a small percentage longer, yet it’ll be much calmer, fun, and less expensive (in MPG, general operating costs, and tickets).
- Learn to use entrance/exit ramps and merge properly. It’s supposed to be a smooth flowing operation where you join in with other traffic. If brakes or heavy acceleration are involved, you’ve failed at planning ahead. This is a busy time, definitely not the time to be chatting on a cellphone. People that are way better drivers than you know to put the phone down, so you should too (no, you are NOT special in that regard, get over yourself).
At this point you should be catching on to a theme here… Plan ahead and avoid unnecessary distractions to minimize wasting energy. There’s certainly more little tricks available (you *are* properly maintaining your vehicle already, right?), but the bulk of the savings is right there in those 2 simple items.