My wife and I went on a bit of a drive. We have some friends that live in a bordering province, so when we had some time off work we decided to go and visit them. We had always hesitated because it is a bit of a drive (8-9 hours), and with fuel prices being the way they are these days, we weren’t sure if we would be able to afford to go. However, because the timing of the trip worked out so well, we decided to just go for it and see what happened. Surprisingly, the trip cost, in fuel, about half what we were expecting. See, I knew our car’s fuel economy from driving around the city that we were living in, and while I knew that I would get a little better fuel economy driving on the highway, I never expected it to be such a dramatic difference.
Our trip was to be about 850km. I knew that we were usually filling up for gas every 450km or so, so I figured two tanks would get us there, and an additional two to get us back. In actuality, it only took slightly over 1 tank of fuel to reach our destination, and because gas prices are lower where we ended up, filling up was also cheaper than expected. In the end, we averaged 7.2L/100km for our fuel efficiency, which is quite good for our vehicle, considering the hills/mountains we were climbing throughout our journey. Here’s a couple of fuel economy tips and tricks we used to maintain decent fuel economy.
Use Cruise Control
While it depends on the type of terrain you are driving over, I found that in my scenario using cruise control saved us some money. There was a lot of long, flat stretches, and because my car is an automatic, I let the vehicle decide exactly how much fuel to use to maintain my speed. Every vehicle will get slightly better or worse fuel economy at differing speeds. There should be a “sweet spot” of speed to economy. Once you know approximately where that is, you can simply set your cruise control to that speed, and let the vehicle do the rest of the work. This way you aren’t wasting fuel speeding up and slowing down, something that can happen when driving manually.
Use the Terrain to Your Advantage
If you are driving somewhere that using cruise control isn’t as realistic (mountainous driving), then use the terrain to your advantage. Let your car speed up on the downhills (while maintaining safety, obviously), and don’t speed up the hills. My car has a tachometer, so instead of looking at the speed of my vehicle while driving up hills, I watched the tachometer. I didn’t bother trying to maintain a steady pace up the hill, and instead tried to maintain steady RPM. Keeping my engine’s RPM low (two to three thousand) meant I drove up the hill slower, but more economically. If I allowed my RPM to climb (four to five thousand) to maintain my speed, I crested the hill faster, but spent more fuel doing it.
The beauty of having a smartphone with data is that you can reap the benefit of certain websites and apps. On this trip, I often employed Gas Buddy, a website that allows me to search for the cheapest gas in any given area. We ended up using it a couple of times to decide where to stop for fuel. This sometimes meant I filled up with gas when the car was only half empty, but I often saved a few cents per litre doing so. Other times, it just meant that I could find the cheapest gas in town, even though I had never been to town before. It might mean getting off the highway and going around the block, but the savings more than made up for the additional kilometre or two of driving.
Do you have any other fuel economy tips that helped you save money on your fuel economy?