EcoDriving Tips and Tricks
While it’s not as bad as learning that Santa Claus doesn’t live at the North Pole, we’ve got some bad news. A site that claims to be able to help drivers cut fuel costs by 15-percent is mostly hot air. Sorry we had to be the ones to break it to you about www.ecodrivingusa.com.
The site’s name says it all, and the highly-produced, politically-driven URL is packed with fuel-saving tips. However, the average driver won’t save nearly 15-percent on fuel unless they drive 13-percent fewer miles!
Visit the site and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger greets you with a pabulum-filled welcome. His message echoes hollow advice on tire pressure, jack-rabbit starts, engine tune ups, and the significant savings these simple steps generate.
For savvy, aware drivers, most of the fuel-saving tips offered on the site are (at their best) common knowledge, and (at their worst) simply ridiculous. Irrelevant recommendations fill in much of the continuum.
Unfortunately, there is no logical way for a driver of a relatively modern car to generate a 15-percent savings in fuel economy unless if they; drive less and drive significantly more slowly. All of the other tips combined are unlikely to produce measurable gains.
Here are some of our favorite recommendations and the reality surrounding them:
Tip #6 highlights the obvious, “Maintain an Optimum Highway Speed for Good Mileage.” The supporting words clue readers in to the fact that mileage drops as speeds increase. Now there’s a news flash. The site recommends driving only 60 mph where legal. Nothing short of reinstating the double-nickel will encourage this driving behavior on a large scale.
In contrast, Tip #5 actually presented some interesting information, “Use Air Conditioning at Higher Speeds.” We’re not sure where the efficiency and drag curves cross (or where the site got its recommendation) but ecodrivingusa.com recommends AC use above 40 mph and windows down cooling below 40 mph. We’d buy that as good advice for hypermiling on a hot day. Given their other tips, the site just as seriously could have recommend applying extra deodorant and just sweating out the drive, or driving at night when A/C might not be necessary.
Tip #1 stands as the poster child for the ridiculous, “Believe You Can Reduce Fuel Use and Emissions.” (Sigh.) This reminds us of Al Franken’s self-help character, Stuart Smalley. Stuart self-talked his way to emotional health on Saturday Night Live. SNL is a comedy show, ecodrivingusa.com isn’t. Positive thinking won’t make your car or SUV suddenly get 50 miles per gallon.
Ecodrivingusa.com also offers maintenance tips. Curiously, their tips list omitted the consideration of lighter-weight crankcase oil, or oils with friction-reducing additive packages. Just like using low-rolling resistance tires, a lighter oil can generate approximately one percent in fuel savings in engines capable of using the thinner blend.
The maintenance tips section is fatality compromised by the inclusion of “Engine Tune-ups.” No matter how many times politicians encourage tune ups, the fact is that modern cars don’t need tunes up like cars did when engines had points, condensers, coils, carburetors, and looms of spark plug wires. Today, drivers need to glance at their air filter every 15,000 miles, and that’s about it. Spark plugs need changing between 75,000-100,000 miles. Many drivers sell their cars before ever needing to change the plugs.
While the site might not offer experienced and mindful drivers much useful information, it might help less knowledgeable drivers save an occasional quarter.
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