Largely inspired by skyrocketing fuel prices, the U.S. has made great strides recently in terms of average fuel performance, an area where it has often been well below world averages. In fact, in August 2013, the average reached 24.9 miles per gallon (mpg), which was the all-time high.
Unsustainable High, Positive Trend
According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) in Ann Arbor, average mpg for September was down to 24.6, a considerable drop in the context of the entire driving population. Nevertheless, the overall trend remains quite positive. The year-over-year figure was still up a significant amount from the 23.8 mpg posted in September 2012.
A Correlation with Green-Car Sales
Although the overall trend was good, the experts at UMTRI were curious what caused the drop-off, and they found their answer in a correlation with the tapering sales of hybrids and other eco-friendly vehicles. There was also a connection with falling fuel prices, which fell nearly 18 cents from August to September.
The Shift in Context
It’s worth noting that UMTRI counted Labor Day, a national holiday with traditionally low traffic volumes, in the August data this year but in September last year. More poignant, however, is data that revealed demand for the Toyota Prius, which had been surging all year, down about 16 percent year-over-year, which is remarkable.
A Blip or a Trend
At this point, it is difficult for the experts at UMTRI to speculate whether the September data is a blip or something more. Outside of holidays and falling fuel prices, there are other factors in play here, such as less aggressive rebates and other discounts available for cars like the Prius. Overall, the American appetite for hybrids seems to be quite healthy and showing signs of continued growth.
Improving Your Fuel Economy
Fuel economy is not simply a matter of environmental and vehicle health; it is also a matter of personal economy. Better fuel economy means that you get more out of each dollar that you spend on fuel. Trading in your current gas-guzzler for an eco-friendly hybrid is certainly an option, but there are also small changes that you can make to your lifestyle to achieve better fuel performance consistently. With that in mind, let’s consider those steps.
1. Maintain Your Vehicle
Most vehicles on American roads perform below the ideal mpg for that model because of poor maintenance. For instance, something as simple as improper tire pressure can reduce fuel economy by as much as 3 percent. Another common issue is a dirty air filter. Always at least change the air filter per the manufacturer’s recommended schedule, but change the filter sooner whenever the vehicle drives through a particularly dusty area.
2. Fill Up More Efficiently
Most drivers do not realize that they are wasting gas simply by filling the tank, but fuel is heavy. Consider that 10 gallons of gas adds about 60 pounds of weight, and that additional weight causes the vehicle to achieve a significantly lesser fuel economy. As a rule of thumb, you will achieve an ideal fuel economy by stopping for fuel at the one-quarter mark and only filling up to the halfway point.
3. Drive More Efficiently
Do not carry any unnecessary weight, and maintain the speed limit. The 60 mph mark is the ideal. Keep in mind that driving slower than 60 mph will not increase fuel performance. On the other hand, driving above 60 mph will certainly reduce it, and speeding combined with air resistance can lower fuel economy by as much as 33 percent. Use cruise control when possible, and remember: speed limit laws are much more important than achieving the ideal fuel performance.
4. Plan Your Trips
Finally, planning your routes can have a significant effect on the amount of fuel you consume driving. Consider investing in a GPS device that can help you identify the shortest path to your destination. Also, consolidate your driving. For instance, if you consolidate your weekly errands to Monday after work, you save much more fuel than if you spread those tasks out over the entire week.