Achieving Fuel Efficiency

Although vehicle manufacturers are doing their darnedest to create fuel-efficient vehicles—doing everything from reducing weight to deploying all manner of technologically advanced powertrain systems (e.g., direct gasoline injection, hybrids, electric motors)—it seems as though a huge factor in the fuel efficiency equation is. . .whoever is behind the wheel.

Although vehicle manufacturers are doing their darnedest to create fuel-efficient vehicles—doing everything from reducing weight to deploying all manner of technologically advanced powertrain systems (e.g., direct gasoline injection, hybrids, electric motors)—it seems as though a huge factor in the fuel efficiency equation is. . .whoever is behind the wheel.

Said Michael Sivak, research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “Driving a light-duty vehicle in the United States is currently more energy-intensive than using a bus or a train and even flying. How can we improve on this performance? Vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect—the best vehicle currently available for sale in the United States is nine times more fuel-efficient than the worst vehicle.

“Nevertheless, remaining factors that a driver has control over can contribute, in total, to about a 45% reduction in the on-road fuel economy per driver—a magnitude well worth emphasizing.”

Forty-five percent!?

First of all, selecting the right vehicle makes a difference. The researchers note that for 2011 vehicles, the average miles per gallon ratings are:

· Car, 23.7 mpg

· Minivan, 19.4 mpg

· SUV, 19.2 mpg

· Pickup, 17.2 mpg

Then there are other factors at play, like removing excess cargo from the vehicle (taking out 100 lb of ballast can increase fuel economy by up to 2%) or judiciously selecting routes that are flat rather than hilly, free-flowing rather than congested.

H

Taking care of one’s car is important, as well. Which brings us to the “Fall Gauge Index” conducted by Hankook Tire America Corp. Not surprisingly, this is about maintaining proper air pressure in one’s tires.

According to Henry D. Kopacz of Hankook, “Properly inflated tires, as opposed to underinflated, improve a tire’s rolling resistance performance, reducing energy loss and allowing a vehicle to use less fuel, which is better for the environment.”

The response to the questionnaire seems, however, a bit like what people tell their dentists about their brushing and flossing practices.

For example, 83% said they have checked their tire pressure in the past six months, and 58% say they “definitely” know what their vehicle’s ideal tire pressure is.

How about you?