Question of the Month: How can I improve my gas mileage while driving this summer?
Answer: Whether you are taking a summer road trip or just running errands around town, there are things you can do to improve your fuel economy and save money on fuel in the summertime.
You may notice an increase in your fuel economy as the weather gets warmer. This is because vehicle engines, transmissions and other components take less time to warm up and summer gasoline blends can have slightly more energy per gallon than winter blends. However, if you use your air conditioning (AC) a lot or drive with the windows down, you might actually see your fuel economy drop.
AC is the main contributor to reduced fuel economy in the summertime. In fact, using the AC can reduce a conventional vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 25%, or even more if you are driving a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV). Driving with the windows down can also reduce fuel economy due to greater aerodynamic drag (wind resistance) on the vehicle. Though this has a small effect on fuel economy, aerodynamic drag is more apparent when driving at the highway speeds typical for road trips.
The following tips can help you use the AC more efficiently and therefore improve fuel economy in the summer:
- Read the owner’s manual for detailed information on how your vehicle’s AC system works and how to use it efficiently.
- Park your vehicle in shady areas or use a sunshade to keep the interior from getting too hot.
- Do not use the AC more than needed. If you need to use the AC, avoid using the “max” setting for extended periods.
- If you are driving at high speeds, use the AC instead of rolling down the windows. If the vehicle is too hot, you may lower the car windows to expel hot air for the first few minutes. Once the hot air has left the vehicle, switch to using the AC.
- Avoid excessive idling. Idling can use a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour, and more if the AC is on. Do not idle the vehicle to cool it down before a trip; most AC systems actually cool the vehicle faster while driving.
- PEV owners, pre-cool your vehicle with the AC while still plugged in. Since PEVs use battery power to provide AC, it can drain the vehicle’s batteries and reduce the vehicle’s overall range. If you need to use the AC to cool down your PEV, try to do so while the vehicle is still charging.
The following tips should be used year-round to improve fuel economy:
- Use cruise control while driving on highways to maintain a consistent speed and conserve fuel.
- Remove any unnecessary weight from the vehicle. Vehicles with heavier loads tend to have reduced fuel economy. An additional 100 pounds in your vehicle can reduce fuel economy by 1%.
- Avoid transporting cargo on the rooftop of the vehicle. Traveling with cargo on the roof increases wind resistance and can significantly lower your fuel economy. Rear-mounted cargo has a much smaller effect on fuel economy than rooftop cargo.
- Avoid aggressive driving. Aggressive driving (speeding, quick acceleration and heavy braking) can reduce fuel economy by as much as 33% at highway speeds and 5% at city speeds. This informational video shows real-world effects of aggressive driving on fuel economy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zWXwqqqHm0.
- Ensure your tires are properly inflated. Tires that are not inflated to the proper pressure can reduce fuel economy by 0.3% for every one pound per square inch (PSI) drop in pressure in all of the tires. Having your tires inflated to the proper pressure is also safer and can help tires last longer.
- Pay attention to the speed limit. Not only is this a safe practice, but gas mileage tends to decrease when driving at speeds above 50 miles per hour.
For more information on how to improve your fuel economy, please refer to the following FuelEconomy.gov websites:
- Fuel Economy in Hot Weather - http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hotweather.shtml
- Gas Mileage Tips - http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drive.shtml
- Keeping Your Vehicle in Shape - http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/maintain.jsp.
Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team
technicalresponse [at] icfi [dot] com
The 2015 Clean Cities Region of Excellence Award is presented to the City of Concord for demonstrating leadership and excellence in clean transportation and fuel activities. Concord has recognized the environmental, economic, and national security benefits of reducing consumption of fossil fuels and has implemented programs and initiatives to lower their use of traditional transportation fuels. Through the Clean Fuels Advanced Technology (CFAT) grant, the City of Concord installed six publicly accessible Electric Vehicle charging stations throughout the City and two Ford Focus all-electric vehicles to replace older gasoline powered cars for City employee use. They also purchased a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) called the Firefly for their downtown parking enforcement officer to use.
Concord’s desire to decrease their dependence on petroleum goes beyond alternative fuels. They have decreased their fuel usage for the past five consecutive years, even though they have increased miles-traveled due to growth. This is due to right-sizing their fleet, keeping the vehicles young and fuel efficient, and other out-of-the-box techniques. One such technique is using smaller scout vehicles to locate yard waste and bulky pick-up materials at the curb and track the locations using a GPS. This allows the larger, less fuel-efficient trucks to go directly to these pick-up locations without wasting fuel traveling around the entire city. Concord has also implemented a customer service center in the Police Department to take routine police reports over the phone, negating the need to dispatch an officer to take them.
A congratulations and a thank you goes out to long time active Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition stakeholder, the City of Concord, for taking big steps forward in reducing petroleum dependence in unique ways that reduce costs and improve quality of life for their community.
A separate committee reviewed and selected the winner of the 2015 Clean Cities Region of Excellence Award. This committee included: Marcie Smith, CCFC Stakeholder (Gaston County Public Works), Megan Green, CCFC Stakeholder (Mecklenburg County Air Quality), and Dave Navey, CCFC Chair (Duke Energy). The Clean Fuels Coalition appreciates the work of this committee and thanks them for their time and participation in the awards program.
The CCFC would also like to recognize the runners-up, ReVenture Park and the Town of Matthews for the great work they're doing to reduce pertoleum dependence in the region!
In a recent article, "Big Oil is About to Lose Control of the Auto Industry," Bloomberg L.P. predicts the rise of electric vehicles and the decline of oil consumption. Here are some highlights of the article:
- Oil consumption has been flat for a decade – demand peaked in 2004 and has been falling ever since.
- Plug-in sales have quintupled in the last four years – global sales were 288,500 units in 2014 – and manufacturers are steadily introducing new models.
- EV battery costs have fallen 60 percent since 2010, and analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) expect them to keep declining at the same pace, bringing plug-in prices in line with those of legacy vehicles within a decade.
- Investment in biofuels, Big Oil’s preferred “clean” solution, has plunged 90 percent since peaking at $29.8 billion in 2007.
To read the full article, click HERE.
Maybe we’re just daydreaming here, but wouldn’t it be great if you could drive a car that has zero emissions and also didn’t need to be charged or plugged in?
Well, that’s no longer a dream! You can now purchase a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) that runs on hydrogen (H2) and mixes with oxygen in the air to power the vehicle. And guess what the vehicle emits? That’s right all of you who remember high school chemistry- WATER (H20).
But “how do we obtain this hydrogen?” you may be asking. There are different ways to strip the hydrogen from natural gas, but click HERE to watch a video on how to get it from cow waste!
There are 4 weekly prizes for electric leaf blowers and 1 grand prize of an electric lawn mower!
All you have to do is use the hashtag #mowgreenclt in your post, picture, video, poem, etc. explaing why you need an electric mower!
Sponsored by Mecklenburg County Air Quality. Click here for more information and rules.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), North Carolina has one of the strongest electricity markets in the country for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).
Read the full article here!
"Geography of Existing and Potential Alternative Fuel Markets in the United States" report here!
CCFC will be awarding a stakeholder organization that has best demonstrated leadership and excellence in clean transportation and fuel activities through the Region of Excellence Award. The awardee will have recognized the environmental, economic and national security benefits of reducing consumption of fossil fuels while implementing programs and initiatives to lower their use of traditional transportation fuels. These activities include but are not limited to:
- purchasing alternative fuel and/or fuel efficient vehicles
- using alternative fuels in their fleet
- implementing idle reduction policies
- improving fleet fuel economy
- partnering with fuel providers to expand alternative fuel availability
- generally supporting and participating in current Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition/Clean Cities programs and priorities, etc.
Please find additional information and the application form here. The deadline for all submissions is Tuesday, April 21 2015.
What are the key terms and considerations I should remember when discussing emissions?
Answer: When discussing emissions, it is important to use the appropriate terms, know the context, and present a complete picture. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a number of tools and resources available to understand and calculate the emissions benefits of alternative fuels and vehicles (see below). But first, let’s get back to the basics.
The Core-Stakeholder meeting held this past Wednesday was a great success. CCFC would like to thank everyone that attended the meeting as well as Megan Green of the Mecklenburg County Land Use and Environmental Services Agency for her informative presentation on emerging air quality rules.
The City of Concord, with the help of Daniel Nuckolls, has continued to make great strides in the clean transportation space. With 99% of the over 1,000 vehicle fleet using alternative fuels, Daniel has created a clean fleet to envy. Nuckolls attributes his success to various organizations and planning projects including the Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition, the NC Clean Energy Technology Center, the North Carolina Plug-in Vehicle Readiness Plan and various funding opportunities, including the Clean Fuel Advanced Techonology (CFAT) grant.The alternative fuels Nuckolls has implemented have proven to be effective for the city creating a positive change for both the residents as well as the environment.