Life in the green lane

Cars that protect the environment – and save you money.

With gasoline prices volatile and largely out of a motorist’s control, is there anything to help relieve pain at the pumps? Taking a few small steps might add up to surprisingly big savings, according to experts. Fuel conservation has three basic components: driving habits, and vehicle selection and vehicle maintenance.

Driving habits
Here are some practical tips to put the brakes on gas guzzling:

1. Lighten up on the gas pedal. According to the US Department of Energy, every five miles per gallon that you drive in excess of 60 mph (96km) is about the same as adding 10 cents to every gallon of gas. Use cruise control to maintain constant speed on the open highway.

2. Use high gear or overdrive when driving at highway speeds. Switching to high gear will reduce engine speed, thereby saving gas and cutting wear to the engine.

3. Avoid aggressive driving. Jack-rabbit starts following by abrupt, screeching stops can cut both highway and city mileage. Such reckless driving also puts unnecessary wear and tear on your tires.

4. When idling, shut the engine off, even if you expect to be waiting for even a short period.

5. Be sure to buy the right grade of gasoline. Consult your owner’s manual: if your vehicle is designed to run on regular, filling the tank with more expensive mid-grade or premium fuel will not make your car run any better.

6. Buy on price and convenience. Gasoline is a commodity product and one brand is as good as another.

7. Try to avoid the roof rack. For vacation driving, pack as much luggage as possible in the car. A loaded roof rack can cut fuel economy by as much as 5 per cent according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

8. Roll down the window. Heavy use of your air conditioner can increase gas consumption by 10 – 20 per cent.

9. Switch to a vehicle that offers better gas mileage. Options include opting for a smaller car or a gas-electric hybrid vehicle.

Fuel efficient vehicles
Looking for a more fuel-efficient car? Here’s Natural Resources Canada’s list of top fuel-efficient vehicles (for the 2007 model year).

Two-Seater: Mazda MX-5.
Subcompact: Toyota Yaris
Compact: Honda Civic Hybrid
Mid-size: Toyota Prius
Full-size: Hyundai Sonata
Station wagon: Honda Fit
Pickup truck: Ford Ranger
Pickup truck: Mazda B2300
Special purpose: Ford Escape Hybrid
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Large van: Chevrolet Express Cargo/GMC Savana Cargo

For more details, click here.

Vehicle maintenance

Pay attention to maintenance. Change oil, engine coolant, filters and spark plugs at intervals recommended in the owner’s manual. Keeping your engine tuned will reduce gas mileage by as much as 10 per cent. For greater fuel efficiency, tires should be maintained and properly inflated.

Sources:; Forbes

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