Steady as she goes
A couple weeks ago, Aussies John and Helen Taylor smashed the World Record for “lowest fuel consumption on a U.S. nationwide drive,” completing their 48-state, 9,419-mile tour in 22 days. Their overall fuel efficiency came in at 58.82 miles per gallon, well above the earlier record of 51.58 mpg. Their vehicle: a 2009 VW Jetta TDI Diesel.
Meanwhile, the Willie Run attempted to send a 2006 Jetta Diesel from New York to Los Angeles on biodiesel without stopping to refuel. Though the Willie Run team made a great effort, they made an unscheduled pit stop in Flagstaff Arizona because their supplemental fuel jugs weren’t quite a full as they thought. Nonetheless, the cross-country continuous journey was completed in about one and a half days at an approximate 40 mpg. (Tip #1 for improving mileage: slow down!)
These efforts inspired me to think again about ways to improve driving efficiency. I’ve become practiced at nudging my Prius into stealth mode, but most of the time I drive a stick shift Scion xA which presents a whole different set of questions. While teaching my son to drive, I’ve seen him develop habits which are understandable but not good (example: in an effort to prevent stalling, the bane of all new stick shift drivers, he over-compensates by gunning the engine in first gear).
I’m not wild about serious hypermiling, but I wanted some practical tips which I could both practice and teach. Having tried several, I have to say the one tip I hadn’t heard but is making a big difference in my driving, is this little quote buried within Taylor’s list of tips:
“Fuel efficiency is all about smoothness.”
This reminder reinforces several other tips aimed at keeping both the car and the engine turning at nice, even, not-too-fast speeds.
Easy to say, harder to do. After several days of practice, I’m going to admit that one of the things I like about driving a stick shift is its responsiveness, the sense of power and control you get over the car. Yeesh. I can hardly believe I care about wielding control over a machine! Of course I can control it, right? Still, and maybe it’s because I grew up in Los Angeles, I really like the feel of pumping the gas pedal, rapid shifts, quick lane changes…sigh. I have not yet overcome my addiction.
But I am working on it. I am practicing making driving more like floating, with smooth, almost imperceptible changes in speed and motion. I am sure it will become addictive in its own right; I hope it’s soon!
Take the first step.
Start small. Be conscious of the impact your actions have on the environment and figure out what you can do to lessen the blow. Calculate, conserve, and offset.
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