Learn tips for conserving your energy usage and making a difference for the environment when you're on the road.
- Carpool or take mass transportation whenever possible. This can also reduce your commute if it gives you access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, available in some communities.
- Combine errands to reduce trips.
- Try to live close to your work or school.
- Avoid peak time travel.
- Research whether your employer can offer a subsidized mass transit program. Many municipalities have grants for employers.
- Some communities have car-share programs. With these programs, you pay an annual fee and then have access to a vehicle without incurring the costs of owning a vehicle. Most programs are in urban areas.
- If you need to rent a vehicle, rent the smallest one available. Sometimes you can even rent a hybrid vehicle.
- Support industries that recycle tires by buying items made from tires. You can find doormats, roofing, playground material, and asphalt.
Your Driving Style
- Learn how to properly start your vehicle. Fuel-injected vehicles do not need to have the gas pedal pumped.
- Avoid quick acceleration or sudden braking unless your life is in danger. Avoid tailgating because it requires more braking and accelerating.
- Use cruise control when highway driving.
- Improve your fuel efficiency by going the speed limit. For example, your efficiency improves about 15 percent by driving at 55 miles per hour rather than 65 miles per hour.
- Avoid idling. It uses more gas then stopping and re-starting your vehicle. Avoid drive-thrus. Instead park and go inside.
- Put items inside the vehicle rather than on roof racks to reduce drag. If possible, remove roof racks when you are not using them.
- Avoid rough roads where possible. Smooth road surfaces can reduce fuel consumption.
- Refer to the owner's manual to determine optimum gear shift points for manual transmissions. They are usually listed in miles per hour.
- When you use overdrive gearing, your car's engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear.
- Avoid riding your brake (i.e. having one foot on your brake and one on the gas pedal).
General Vehicle Maintenance
- Remove any extra weight in the vehicle, such as items you don't need to use that are stored in the trunk.
- Give your vehicle a regular tune-up. Keeping your vehicle in top condition means it will run efficiently and get more miles to the gallon.
- Regularly check your vehicle’s tire pressure – poorly inflated tires waste gas and cause more pollution.
- One way to tell if your vehicle needs servicing is to keep track of your gas mileage. It should match what is listed in the manual. It will vary from season to season, but it should be close.
- Change your fuel filter at least once a year. A fuel filter can get plugged with debris. This slows the process of gas getting to your engine.
- A dirty air filter can cause an engine to consume more fuel. Rural vehicles traveling on dusty roads will need air filter changes more often. You can also purchase washable air filters to reduce waste.
- Re-refined oil performs as well as motor oil from original sources, and you should ensure that it is used whenever the oil is changed.
- Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil for your vehicle.
- If you change your own oil, put it in a clear container with a screw-on lid and bring it to a hazardous waste center.
- Purchase oil with the Energy Conserving II label which contains additives that help fuel efficiency.
- Invest in a filter that can be used for many oil changes. This varies from vehicle to vehicle.
- Check your driver's manual to see if you need high octane gasoline. If not, buy lower octane gas.
- If it's available in your area, purchase ethanol or "gasohol" instead of gasoline.
- Don't top up your tank when filling because it causes air pollution and spills.
Pump Your Tires to Save Gas and Wildlife
When your tires are pumped to their recommended inflation rate, you save gas. This helps wildlife because the more gas we conserve as a country, the less likely we will drill in wildlife-rich places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
According to the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, American motorists may waste $2 billion annually because their tires are not properly inflated. If your tires are pumped to even four or five pounds per square inch lower than recommended levels, it increases your gas usage by 10 percent.
Find out your recommended tire pressure in your owner's manual or on the sticker that's found on most cars near the driver's seat (visible when you open your car door). Many gas station air pumps automatically tell your air pressure as part of the pumping process. You can also get a tire gauge for a few dollars to check the pressure at home.
- Emissions from a cold engine are much higher than from a engine that is warmed up enough for the catalytic converter to be working at high efficiency. However, in a well-tuned vehicle, you should not have to idle your vehicle to warm it up.
- Instead, you should start out slowly, not revving your engine, accelerate and slow down gently. Idling increases engine wear and emissions.
- Bring sand or non-clumping kitty litter in your trunk to get out of icy situations, but remove these heavy items in other seasons to avoid useless weight in the vehicle.
- Use antifreeze that contains propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. The latter is very toxic to pets and wildlife. The sweet taste of the antifreeze attracts animals.
- If you live in a cold climate, get a vehicle with a block heater. This will help your engine reach peak efficiency faster.
- If you drive a truck for a living and need to keep warm in the winter, you can avoid idling by getting a small auxiliary heater.
- If at all possible, turn off your air conditioner and drive with your windows open a bit instead.
- Cars older than 1995 often have systems which contain chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which threaten the ozone layer. It's even more important to have air conditioning systems maintained in these vehicles.
- Park in the shade to reduce the need for air conditioning.
- Remove snow tires in summer to improve fuel efficiency.
Purchasing a Vehicle
- Buy the most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs. This will reduce your gas consumption, cut carbon dioxide pollution, and save you money at the gas pump.
- Purchase a hybrid or electric vehicle. You can get tax benefits for purchasing these vehicles.
- Purchase a lighter colored vehicle to reduce air conditioner use.
The Most Fuel-Efficient Vehicles
Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy makes a report of the fuel economy of the cars for that year. Visit their site to learn the fuel economy of your car or find the most efficient cars you can purchase.