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Cruising to Energy Savings This Summer Driving Season

May 11, 2010 - 7:30am

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My dad is obsessed with fuel efficiency. I joked with him on a recent road trip that when he retires, he'll have more time to pursue his dream career as a fuel-economy promoter. Well guess what, I just found the treasure trove of information on smart driving that's going to make his whole week—it's at fueleconomy.gov.

Now, I know we've blogged on this in the past. But it's been a while, and this stuff is good to keep fresh in your mind as the price of gasoline creeps up this summer. The site provides information on everything fuel-efficiency related, from side-by-side comparisons of fuel economy ratings for cars and trucks, to driving and maintenance tips. It also has a cache of data on fuel use provided by drivers like you for specific cars (which you can sign up to participate in), facts on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution related to vehicles, and info on so-called "energy impact scores" for gas consumption. It even has a downloadable fuel economy guide to make all of this information more digestible and a tool to calculate gallons and dollars saved by better fuel economy.

The side-by-side mile-per-gallon comparison tool is one of the coolest things on the site for people looking to buy a car. I drive a 1991 Nissan Pathfinder when I drive, which amounts to about one big shopping trip every two weeks. So I was curious what the MPG rating of my car is compared with a new, smaller-sized vehicle. My car, it turns out, gets 17 miles per gallon on the highway. Yikes! That's one reason why I rarely drive!

Compared with a 4-cylinder economy car like a 2010 Chevy Cobalt Coupe that gets 35 MPG on the highway or with a 2010 Toyota Prius that gets 48 miles per gallon (and 51 in the city), I'm really guzzling when I drive. The comparison tool lists the cost to fill up the tank and the cost to drive 25 miles, among other interesting data. It also shows how many gallons the average driver would consume in the car each year and the car's carbon footprint, and it provides an air pollution score on a scale from one to ten.

And finally, here's the one my dad's going to get excited about: tips for driving more efficiently. Number one is driving sensibly. You can save between 5% and 33%—which could add up to about a dollar per gallon—just by taking it a little easier on the road. That means taking a little longer to get up to speed and never racing up to red lights as so many people like to do. And actually, it makes the biggest difference on the highway, where driving too fast can quickly cost you beaucoup bucks. In fact, for every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph, you pay roughly $0.24 more per gallon. The site has other fuel-saving pointers as well, including maintenance tips such as tune-ups and tire checks and approaches to smart-driving such as combining trips—my personal saving grace.

The site also has some fantastic stuff you don't see every day such as the world record car for fuel efficiency, tax incentives on energy efficient vehicles, and links to current gas prices in your area.

Happy and safe travels wherever you drive (or take public transportation) this summer! My dad and I hope to see you out there saving energy on the road!

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