Save some green on gasoline this summer

The typical Missouri vehicle uses approximately 600 gallons of fuel and is driven more than 16,000 miles each year. With more than 4.2 million registered vehicles in Missouri, according to the Missouri Division of Energy, that’s a lot of miles driven, gasoline consumed and money spent at the gas pump. gas pump showing declining $$ in a field of sunflowersThe following tips, taken together and followed consistently, can help you save some green on gasoline this summer and year-round.

  • Try alternatives. There are many ways to reduce fuel consumption and save money. The most basic is, don’t drive! Instead, telecommute, bicycle or walk.
  • Try transit. Where available, public transportation may be the least expensive way to commute. If there isn’t a stop nearby, drive and park somewhere you can board the transit service. Just one person switching from driving alone to riding the bus or train to work can reduce transportation costs up to $1,500 annually, according to the division. For more information:
  • Try sharing. Even if it’s just once or twice a week, carpooling can save you money and reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Regularly sharing rides to work with a coworker effectively cut commuting costs in half. If there’s no coworker nearby, local Rideshare programs can help connect you with prospective carpool partners.
  • Try driving mindfully. The light turns yellow, so you roar through the intersection. Or if it’s red, you sit impatiently, revving the engine until it turns green then race through. Is this safe? Is it cost-effective? Mindful driving can yield 20 percent more miles per gallon and 50 percent more than impatient, wasteful driving. Also:
    • If you have more than one car at your disposal, use the most energy-efficient one as often as possible.
    • Drive at a steady pace.
    • Plan driving routes to avoid congested areas. Avoid rush hour and peak traffic times when possible, too.
    • Avoid extended warm-ups. Don’t rev the engine! Instead, accelerate gently and drive slowly for a mile or so until you achieve the desired speed, then keep steady pressure on the accelerator.
    • Do not let the engine idle for more than a minute. It takes less gasoline to restart the car than it does to let it idle.
    • Minimize braking. How? Try to anticipate speed changes. Ease off the accelerator after noticing a red light or slowed traffic ahead. Observe the posted speed limit, too, and consider driving below it. Most automobiles get about 20 percent more miles per gallon at 55 mph than they do at 70 mph.
    • When the air conditioner is on, make sure the air is being recirculated instead of bringing in hot, outside air. If it is cool enough, use flow-through ventilation instead of rolling down the windows.
  • Maintain your vehicle. Regular car maintenance can mean greater fuel economy and dollars saved. Regular tune-ups extend engine life and improve performance, so make the time to bring it in. A poorly tuned car can use as much as 3 to 9 percent more gasoline than a well-tuned one. The tune-up will pay for itself in gasoline savings and car reliability. Also:
    • Change your air filter. Clogged filters waste gasoline.
    • Use the gasoline octane and oil grade recommended for your car. Most cars run just fine on regular. Regular grade fuel generally costs 10 percent less than premium grade. Look for the best price, especially if you’re traveling, and limit fill-ups when prices are especially high.
    • Check tire pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires increase gasoline consumption. Every pound of pressure under the recommended pounds per square inch can cause a 2 percent loss in fuel economy.
  • Vacation
    • Consider vacation destinations where a car just isn’t needed to get around.
    • Pack carefully. Unnecessary weight in the trunk cuts fuel economy. And avoid baggage on the roof rack, which creates massive air resistance and decreases miles per gallon.
    • Take a train, bus or plane instead of the family car. Let someone else do the driving for once.
    • Don’t take vacations because you’re too busy? See this article on why vacations are important.
  • Other considerations
    • Automatic transmissions generally use more gas, especially in small cars.
    • Top-quality radial tires, particularly steel-belted radials, will usually result in 5 to 20 percent savings by reducing rolling resistance.
    • A light exterior and interior color and tinted windows will reduce heat build-up.
    • Plan, plan, plan. Plan driving routes and combine errands, plan regular car maintenance and plan vacations, all with fuel economy in mind.
    • If you have cruise control, use it! Doing so will maintain a steady speed and save fuel.

Visit the Environmental Assistance Center’s Efficiency and Renewables page for more energy savings tips.