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Pedal to the Metal: Easy Ways to Save Gas and Drive Green

Did you know that regardless of the vehicle you drive, there are ways to drive more efficiently that can yield big savings over the course of a year? This means savings not just in your pocket from the gas spared, but also saving the resources of the planet and creating less pollution in the place we all live.

The number of miles driven has steadily increased over the years. With that growth comes the increasing impact of our driving habits on our planet, which makes now a better time than ever to practice driving more efficiently.

There are some easy things that we all can do to save fuel. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways that everyone can test-drive to drive greener.

Control accelerations.
By accelerating slowly and steadily to our cruising speed, we let the vehicle work more efficiently at becoming an object in motion from an object at rest. If we gun the gas and try to get to speed quickly, then we stand the greater chance of needing to slow down again, losing all of that momentum.

Empty the trunk.
An extra 100 pounds in the trunk will reduce your fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent in the typical vehicle—Edmunds

So you’re still carrying around that camping gear from last summer in the trunk and the golf clubs have taken up permanent residence in the back seat? For every extra pound you carry, you pay the price to accelerate it and slow it back down each time you drive. By cutting down on the extra unneeded junk in the trunk, we save all that energy required to drive it around town.

Turn off the air conditioning.
Using the air conditioning in a vehicle can increase fuel consumption by up to 10 percent. This is an easy way to save fuel. And just imagine if you suddenly had 10 percent of all the money you spent on gasoline last year in your hand.

Keep the vehicle maintained.
It’s important that a vehicle gets serviced at regular intervals. Dirty oil is not only bad for your vehicle, but it requires more energy to work an engine through sludge. Also, maintenance can save you from having large repair bills down the road. Not to mention that a non-serviced vehicle may leave you stranded on that road when it suddenly fails. Vehicle maintenance saves money, saves the environment, and could save you from being stuck in the middle of nowhere-ville.

Lose the clown shoes.
Driving footwear must have a sole thin enough to feel the amount of pedal pressure needed to meet the necessary braking and accelerating. One of the most important tools you have in driving greener is making the connection between your foot and the response of the car. A big shoe with a few inches of padding removes the sensitivity of the foot, making that connection harder to make. Is it any wonder that racecar drivers like wearing extremely thin-soled shoes?

Keep the vehicle streamlined.
A vehicle that moves through the air more efficiently takes less energy to push, and this translates to less fuel consumption. One good way to do this is to keep the windows rolled up. Open windows create drag, and drag cuts fuel economy. The same can be said of sunroofs at highway speeds.

Another way to keep the vehicle streamlined is to remove those roof and bike racks when not in use. Such racks interrupt the flow of air, again creating drag. Another thing to consider is that the racks add weight to the vehicle, costing more in energy to move the vehicle.

Finally, if your vehicle tends to look like it has won the mud bog championships, then give it a bath. An irregular surface from caked mud and dirt can create drag as well. Plus, you’ll actually know what color the vehicle is instead of just guessing.

Slow down.
In a typical family sedan, every ten miles per hour you drive over sixty is like the price of gasoline going up about fifty-four cents a gallon.—CNN Money

The faster your vehicle moves through the air, the greater drag it creates in the surrounding air. By slowing down, the vehicle encounters less resistance and uses less energy for the same amount of work. A reduction of twenty miles per hour in your regular highway speed can yield measurable savings in a short time.

Coast to a stop.
When you see a red light or stop sign coming up, let off the gas and coast to the stop instead of remaining accelerated and hitting the brakes when you get there. By doing so you not only save gas, but your brakes get less of a workout. You save money in both gas and brake replacement, and the planet saves on valuable resources.

Know when to use cruise control.
Cruise control can be a valuable tool on the highway to maintain a steady speed (and to save from speeding), but it lacks the tools that you have in your head. That is, cruise control does not see the hill looming up ahead. Instead, it will coast until you are halfway up the hill and slowing down, then it nails the throttle, demanding that the vehicle speed increases.

By anticipating the hills and valleys, you can drive more efficiently by slightly increasing the vehicle speed as required to climb the hill without a major loss of momentum. In areas where the roads tend to be up and down or crowded, it makes more sense to turn off the cruise control and drive smarter.

And as you’re driving smarter, keep looking ahead to anticipate events that require changes to your vehicle momentum. You might anticipate the need to decelerate in order to coast to a needed stop, plus it makes for a safer driving experience.

Choose the best route.
It’s interesting to note that the most efficient route to take in your driving may not be the shortest. Basically, you want as smooth a trip as possible while being relatively short, and you want to avoid as many stop-and-go scenarios as you can.

If you’re doing multiple chores, then consider driving the longest leg first. This lets you use a warm vehicle for the bulk of the stopping and restarting, which is more efficient at it than a cold one.

Turn it off.
If you’re stopped on the road for an extended period of time—such as a train passing, road construction, or an accident—then consider turning the vehicle off after twenty seconds or more. This saves the idle time fuel as well as potentially saves your vehicle from overheating. Plus, it stops the emissions from the idling vehicle, which is always nicer for our planet.

Avoid the Drive-Through
A fast-food drive-through requires you to waste fuel as you wait in line for the pickup. But parking the vehicle and walking allows you to save that fuel. Plus, the trip in to eat might be safer than the alternative, even if you were only sneaking a few fries from the bag.

Check your air pressure.
Properly inflated tires can reduce fuel consumption by up to 3 percent.—WikiHow

This a commonly known item to check, but it often gets overlooked. A low tire creates more drag on the pavement, and consequently reduces your miles per gallon. By keeping your tires properly inflated, your vehicle literally rolls more efficiently. Please bear in mind that excessive air pressure in tires is dangerous and should be avoided as well.

Make driving count.
One of the best ways to drive greener is to simply not drive. By combining chores into one trip, it can save greatly on the fuel requirements as well as saving your valuable time. Plus, it’s less wear and tear on the vehicle itself, and it makes the roads less crowded for everyone. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Make it a game.
Make saving gas a game. Track fuel used or miles driven this week, and see if you can beat it next week. Set goals for yourself along with rewards. You can even involve your friends and have a weekly or monthly Green Driver award. Nobody said that being a smarter driver had to be boring.

By following a few of these tips along with others, you may find that you create direct savings for yourself and a healthier planet for everyone.

Related articles:
Ten Tips to Improve Your Gas Mileage
Twelve Greenest Cars of 2009
How to Green Your SUV

Originally published on EcoSalon

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