I realize hopping into a car isn’t exactly the time and place where one feels the most environmentally responsible and thoughtful. But, when we are on the road, it doesn’t mean we should abandon all thought about the environment—and our wallets—altogether. In fact, a little thinking could save your wallet and the environment big bucks in the long run.
Recently, I conducted my own unofficial experiment while driving on the highway to work. I reset my average miles per gallon (MPG) on my dashboard and let the research begin. The goal, to drive a constant 65 miles per hour and document my average MPG. Simple enough, or so I thought. I noticed that over time it was difficult to keep my foot on the pedal with the same amount of pressure, which resulted in my speed fluctuating between 63-68 miles per hour. It turns out this fluctuating speed wasn’t good for my gas consumption—or for my wallet. The average MPG monitor finally clocks in at a depressing 22—two miles fewer than what the Environmental Protection Agency had estimated for the car. The constant push and release of the pedal left its mark on my gas tank, my average MPG monitor, and my pocket, but I was determined to change that.
On the same ride, I again reset my average MPG on the dashboard. While waiting for the car to approximate the MPG, I utilized a function of the car most people hardly touch: cruise control. I was curious to know if the constant speed of 65 on cruise control would have any effect on my average MPG.
Did it ever.
A few miles later and my average MPG monitor read a whopping 27, five miles greater and nearly a 23% increase in gas mileage over driving without cruise control. I was shocked. I immediately started running figures in my head about how much money was going out the exhaust pipe for not using cruise control more often. I calculated, if I used cruise control, for every five gallons of gas I used, I essentially got one gallon free because of the cumulative effect of five miles saved on each gallon my car consumed. I was dumbfounded. I began imagining what sort of savings could be acquired over the life of the car—or my driving life. If I buy five gallons of gas, but really have the luxury of six gallons due to my driving habits, then I could save 20% on my lifetime highway fuel expenses. That’s something we could all use savings on.
So, next time you hop into your car and think it’s impossible to conserve and be efficient, think again. There’s plenty of time to think about our wallets and the environment on the drive. As a word of caution, in inclement weather, cruise control is not the safest option due to the likelihood of hydroplaning. If the roads are dry and the sky is clear, though, cruise away!