By on October 17, 2011

A University of Michigan study [PDF] shows that, in the 85 years between 1923 and 2008, average on-road fuel economy in the US has improved a mere 3.5 MPG. In fact, the study shows that driving a car is even more energy-intensive (per occupant-mile) than flying on an airplane (3,501 BTU per mile versus 2,931 BTU per mile). Some will blame weak government regulations for this unimpressive result, but the study found that the convenient government scapegoat is not completely to blame.

This report presents information about the effects of decisions that a driver can make to influence on-road fuel economy of light-duty vehicles. These include strategic decisions (vehicle selection and maintenance), tactical decisions (route selection and vehicle load), and operational decisions (driver behavior).

The results indicate that vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect: The best vehicle currently available for sale in the U.S. is nine times more fuel efficient than the worst vehicle. Nevertheless, the remaining factors that a driver has control over can contribute, in total, to about a 45% reduction in the on-road fuel economy per driver—a magnitude well worth emphasizing. Furthermore, increased efforts should also be directed at increasing vehicle occupancy, which has dropped by 30% from 1960. That drop, by itself, increased the energy intensity of driving per occupant by about 30%

So, the industry (and its government regulators) still have a huge impact on overall on-road fuel economy, as there is still a major swing between the most and the least fuel-efficient car. But, as the chart above shows, even if you do pick an efficient vehicle (36 MPG in this example), it’s still possible to operate it at a serious penalty to fuel economy. According to the report, consumers have the power to cut emissions by a much as 45% by paying closer attention to the following issues:

Maintenance: Keeping your engine tuned, using fuel-efficient tires, and using low-friction engine oils.

Route selection: Maximizing highway use, optimizing the route’s grade/elevation profile, avoiding traffic

Driving techniques: Minimizing idle time, minimizing engine revolutions, using cruise control, minimizing a/c use, and driving less aggressively

And this emphasis on personal responsibility for fuel economy even touches lifestyle choices you never associated with driving. For example, the study notes

the average adult in the U.S. in 2002 was about 24 pounds heavier than in 1960 (Ogden, Fryar, Carroll, and Flegel, 2004). This weight gain results in a reduction in fuel economy of up to about 0.5%.

In other words, fuel economy as a holistic goal is a partnership between the industry and consumers. After all, even if the government mandates super-high fuel economy standards, it’s still up to consumers to operate their vehicles such that they actually achieve their promised efficiency. The power is in our hands to ruin our own fuel economy by as much as 45%, whether we drive a fuel-sipping subcompact or a gas-guzzling pickup. The only problem is that consumers no more want to drive super-efficiently than manufacturers want to make super-efficient cars. But sooner or later, something’s got to give… especially since on-road fuel economy has improved by .04 MPG per year since 1923.

 

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52 Comments on “Fuel Economy: It’s Your Problem Too...”


  • avatar
    tced2

    Not discussed.
    safety of that 1923 car.
    pollution of the 1923 car.
    I suspect the 2008 is much better in both respects.

    How do I “tune” a 2008 engine? In 1970, you replaced the points and spark plugs every 5000 or 10,000 miles but in 2008?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Spark plugs are still relevant. O2 sensors, too. (I don’t think the documentation is saying a 10k mile interval tuneup, but if you have 2 cars, each with 100k miles, the one with new plugs and sensors will run better than the one without.)

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Also what the graph seems to overlook, is that the tonnage able to be hauled by a medium/heavy truck has increased significantly over the years, such that the graph of this data, should be uniquely adjusted to reflect this.

      • 0 avatar
        RedStapler

        +1 on Mr. Walters comment

        The relevant metric for freight movement is fuel consumption per ton/mile. If I get 4mpg pulling a 120k lbs set of triples with my Sterling A9513 I’m doing better that a conventional semi getting 7mpg with a single 53′ at 80k.

        Over the past decade as the EPA has heavily turned the screws on emissions technology heavy vehicle fuel economy has regressed. If I put a circa 2000 non EGR engine into a current aerodynamic tractor like a Volvo VN or KW T660 I could get 8-9mpg. With the emissions control tech currently required you’re lucky to break 7mpg.

  • avatar
    67dodgeman

    I think congestion is a big issue here in terms of time spent idling, times spent at sub-optimal speeds, time spent acceleration then deceleration as opposed to continuous cruising. And here’s the bitch – there’s not a lot I can do about it. There are no alternate routes, my timetable is fixed, and the traffic is there.

    The local govt. could improve roads, lights, light timing, etc. to ease this, but instead keep the lights at VERY sub-optimal settings. Given the increase in red-light cameras and fees collected along the way, you have to wonder about that.

    • 0 avatar
      rem83

      I live on the south side of Houston, and it’s really quite amazing how well optimized the light and traffic system is to increase fuel consumption. There are many “city” streets with 45 mph speed limits and lights every few hundred yards with timing staggered such that you have to come to a complete stop at EVERY intersection. I’m not sure if this is to improve ‘safety’ (after all, a stopped car can’t get in an accident, right?) or if it has to do with the petro-chemical companies dabbling in local politics, but it’s downright infuriating when a 3.5 mile commute takes me 20 minutes.

      • 0 avatar
        A Caving Ape

        Part of my commute is just like you’ve described. And the lights are timed and don’t utilize induction loops, which is incredibly frustrating when I’m coming home after working late and the roads are empty.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        And the lights are timed and don’t utilize induction loops, which is incredibly frustrating when I’m coming home after working late and the roads are empty.

        In situations like this I see nothing wrong with (carefully) treating red lights like stop signs, as long as visibility and conditions permit.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Houston’s problem is there is no high-level vision to plan for these things. There is no zoning. There is no motivation to make traffic work. You’ll also notice that there are either no or inadequate turn lanes. Entire lane/intersection set-ups are made to look good on a sheet of paper instead of doing their intended job with the applied traffic patterns. Some intersections are controlled by the city while others are controlled by the county–and I can say from personal experience–those two entities will do anything in their power to avoid talking to each other.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    How much more fuel do we waste now than in past years because of traffic calming efforts? Roads here that should have right of ways have 4 way stops and traffic lights are timed to stop every car at every intersection in off peak times. All that unnecessary idling and acceleration is only good for the oil companies and psychiatrists.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The amazing thing is that the quicker you can get a car from point A to point B, the more efficiently it will happen. It also reduces stress & agressive driving.

      When I lived in Denver, after a certain time at night, the lights on major roads would just blink amber & the side roads blinked red. You didn’t have to stop & wait at empty intersections that didn’t let anyone through. The same thing goes for left turn lights. Preveneting cars from turning when there are gaps in oncoming traffic just means you have to stop everyone more often & for longer times, which makes transit times & efficiency worse.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Enduring a 100-mile R/T daily commute, fuel economy is paramount, and I drive my Impala accordingly. Fortunately, it’s mostly highway, so I set the cruise – when it is safe to do so – around 64 mph, and only speed up if traffic is heavy that day. Sometimes, if time is good, I’ll just settle in behind a semi and putter along at 60 or 62. This affords me the ability to relax, of sorts, and keep a close eye on the road. So far, it’s not been too bad. Winter? Well, stay tuned, as that’s a different story yet to be written.

    Am I just bing an old geezer? No. I only have one good eye, and I need to concentrate exclusively on my driving, not taking phone calls either, so don’t call me! and as my reaction time has slowed a bit due to circumstances with my vision, I don’t want to be a hazard to others or myself. Hope that makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Just curious, have you managed to check your fuel mileage since you started this lengthened commute? What have you been pulling down?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @tankinbeans:

        Sorry for the delay in answering. My latest mpg was 30.945. But then, I have reserved the Impala almost strictly for work, and on weekends we use my wife’s 2002 CR-V, which gets 21-22 mpg around town.

        When we took that vehicle on road trips to St. Louis, we averaged 26-27 mpg.

        Our 2007 MX5 consistently gets anywhere from 29-32 mpg. I do drive that on occasion.

        That’s more info than you asked for, but I don’t mind sharing info that may be useful to someone.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        @Zackman

        No worries. I know that there are lives to be lived off of the interwebz.

  • avatar
    JMII

    About 1/2 of those factors I have no direct control over:
    - route taken/traffic: I’d love to avoid traffic, just tell my boss I’ll be in at 11AM once the traffic clears, and that I need to leave at 3PM to avoid the mess on the way home too.
    - idle time: its not my fault there is a traffic light on every block.
    - AC useage: I live in FL, its either hot or raining… or both!
    - cruise control: down right dangerous on a congested highway.
    - aggressive driving/speeding: on my daily commute there are two speeds – 10 mph stuck in traffic and 90 mph rushing to get off the highway in order to avoid another section of 10 mph traffic. I just go with the flow.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      You have control on where you live and work so that effects the route. I am not recommending you move but just pointing out there is some control there.
      As for aggressive driving, high speed is an issue but you can drive at a high speed (90mph in your case) and not be aggressive – which I thought was defined by rapid changes in speed, tail-gating etc. Cruising at 90mph would only have a modest adverse effect (perhaps 6% vs 25%).

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I think it’s a combination of things, increased traffic, traffic calming, additional lights and excess idling are all to blame, but the biggest thing I see is WHAT we drive and HOW we drive it.

    That means those who “think” they need a big ol’ SUV that gets maybe 22mpg highway is a huge part of the problem for a variety of reasons, most of which aren’t justifiable IMO.

    If we ALL drove cars in the B-D segments that at minimum get upper 20′s highway, a lot of the issues of mileage will be moot.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    How about they mind their own business.

    “England, however, as it has never been blessed with a very parsimonious government, so parsimony has at no time been the characteristical virtue of its inhabitants. It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.”

    a href=”http://www.adamsmith.org/smith/won-index.htm”>
    An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations;
    By Adam Smith, LL.D. and F.R.S. of London And Edinburgh:
    Formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University Of Glasgow
    Edinburgh: 1776
    BOOK II. Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment Of Stock.
    CHAPTER III. Of the Accumulation of Capital, Or Of Productive and
    Unproductive Labour.

    And what was said of England and its King, can also be said of the USA and its governments.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Studies have shown that the better the fuel economy of a car, the more miles it is driven annnually. So who is worse? The guy in the Suburban that can get a discount on his insurance because he drives under 7500 miles a year, or the guy in the Corolla that racks up 25K a year easy becasue that’s the lifestyle they choose. You decide, but I’ll take the guy in the ‘Burb!

    • 0 avatar
      nuvista

      Studies have shown that the better the fuel economy of a car, the more miles it is driven annnually.

      Correlation doesn’t equate to causation. It’s more likely that people choose cars with better fuel economy because they drive long distances (for work, etc.) than the reverse.

      Excessive driving is a bad thing, regardless, and the effect is worse when done in a Surburban versus a Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      VA Terrapin

      What studies are those? Maybe it’s the other way around: the more miles you drive, the more likely you’re going to choose a more fuel efficient car. If I have to drive 25k miles a year and pay for my own gas, I know I’d rather have a Corolla than a Suburban.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    We’re requiring people to start thinking again. Naughty TTAC writer. :)

    I’ve been trying to maximize the economy in my car by varying my shift points since I finally bought that manual after all. Lately I’ve been trying to shift at 2,000 (this is especially difficult since my engine is relatively quiet – to my hearing impaired self -and I don’t like to look at the tach often) in town and 3,000 getting onto the freeway. Just eyeballing my fuel gauge, it feels like it’s not really helping that much. I’ve also been keeping my car out of 6th unless I’m at 50 mph or above, since I’ve been getting conflicting reports, and reading differing opinions, about whether I should have the RPM at 1,500 or 2,000 for best fuel economy or not. I also read something about higher/lower optimum RPM range by engine size, for best economy.

    If everybody thought that hard about achieving the best mileage, I’m not going to get into efficiency since that’s a whole other semantic ball of worms that I don’t in which I don’t want to try and compete, things might change.

    It would be nice if many of our workplaces would allow more telecommuting (I’ve asked about this and have been denied the opportunity a couple times). My job, and I’m there are many others, is one where I could easily get everything finished at home without stepping foot in the office. This, like many other things, will probably happen, but very slowly.

    I hope I haven’t rambled too much, and have made myself vaguely clear.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    The problem with this article is that it assumes “minimize fuel consumption” is a priority for the driver, or that it should be.

    The potential savings that their recommendations offer are not worth the trade-offs to me, so I’m not going to implement them. This isn’t because I disagree with their math or their conclusions – I’m simply not willing to make the compromises they recommend.

    For example, I will not be using “fuel efficient tires” because the small amount of money they would save is not worth sacrificing grip or steering feel.

    Same goes for AC usage, “aggressive driving”, and route selection. The potential savings from driving a hotbox down the freeway at 55 are not large enough to sway me from fast, comfortable travel on a scenic back road.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Route selection probably favors the backroad, actually, because going down the freeway at “55″ can turn into “15″ quite quickly, and when you’re stopped in traffic you get zero miles per gallon.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      That is your choice, and I am minded the same way with some things like a/c use or high speeds. However aggressive driving (if that is tail-gating, speeding up/down rapidly and being dangerous is a different matter). Some of the other items like proper maintenance are just common sense.
      No-one is saying by a “hotbox” – you pay to play. So you get what you want and pay for it. Just like anything else in life.

  • avatar
    jtk

    What is this traffic calming?

    Even if I tried, I go through too much traffic to be too concerned about my mileage. No matter what I do it’s going to be overshadowed by the fact that I have to slow down from 65 to 15 because of sun, or come to a complete stop because someone on the other side of the road got a flat. And this sort of thing happens 6-8 times during an 18 mile commute.

    If I thought there was even a minute chance that I could go a steady speed for more than 10 minutes, I might be more inclined to try to get the best mileage.

    As it is now, I pretty much just get whatever I get.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      You must live out in the sticks somewhere if you don’t know what “traffic calming” is. All over this country in urban areas, it’s one of the darling children of the planning and street departments in their escalating war on cars.

      Some may remember when they used to make nice, straight, wide streets in neighborhoods where you could park on both sides and still have room for two opposing lanes of traffic? Well, they don’t do that any longer. Now they make narrow, winding, speed-bump-laden, tree-choked center-divided paths with traffic circles at every intersection and roundabouts, and many of these “improvements” are known as “traffic calming” (you know, because straight, wide streets are so 1950s).

      To the drivers that have to put up with it, it’s anything but calming. As a parent with two young children, I do not like cars speeding through my neighborhood, but I dislike the attempts to modify this behavior even more. In my area the city road departments are actively implementing NARROWER streets (one of many traffic calming tools) in new developments, and calling it progress!

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        As a frequent bicyclist, let me just say that most traffic calming is horrible for cyclists. Stopping every block while climbing a long hill is insane. Going through traffic circles in tourist areas is taking your life in your hand every day. I’ve changed my daily route in order to avoid about 5 traffic circles that replaced a stop light and 4 right a ways for the street I rode on. Now, I can count on at least one close call with someone who isn’t familiar with roundabout navigation per trip down that street. Death is too good for traffic calming advocates.

  • avatar

    I wonder what “excessively high speeds” are – it doesn’t seem to be spelled out in what you’ve shown us.

    I switched from a Honda Fit to a Mercedes E320. Cost me only about 15% in real world mileage.

    If you think about how much fuel economy is emphasized in the news, I think it’s a bit shocking how little it seems to mean in real world performance between an economy and midsize car, with the midsize being a lot more enjoyable to spend time in (at least for me).

    D

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    But sooner or later, something’s got to give… especially since on-road fuel economy has improved by .04 MPG per year since 1923.

    That’s ridiculous. Every single angle regarding this issue has been addressed daily for generations. This is the supposed result. With a result like that after considering the vast improvements made since 1923, then it seems that all this carping has been for absolutely nothing.

    So the sooner or later should mean we just shut the hell up about this, as nothing can really be done.

    Or, we just all become robo-puppets in order to boost that figure to 1 MPG, which would have larger more serious consequences.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    You have to wonder about these hoary bromides from the 1960s like “keep your car in tune!” Hello? Other than servicing at the required intervals and when the CEL light comes on, what else can you do? Same thing with tires. A better reason not to have under-inflated tires (assuming that’s even possible with today’s gummint-mandated TPMS) is that under-inflation hurts handling and stopping capability and may even lead to tire destruction as owners of a certain generation of Ford Explorer found out. Keep the a/c off? Open windows create enough aerodynamic drag at speeds over 40 that you’re better off with the windows closed and the ac on. That said, there appears to be a lack of standardization as to how manufacturers use the a/c compressor in the car. Many cars with automatic climate control seem to run the compressor even when ambient air temperatures are in the 40s, and then re-heat the air before it goes into the cabin. This lowers humidity which avoids fogging the windows, but often is excessive. There appears to be a lack of standardization in the control that allows the driver to shut the a/c compressor off while admitting fresh air to the cabin. Simple systems (like that on my ’01 BMW) just have a button that engages the a/c compressor all the time, which has its good and bad points.

    However, your government has a lot do with some of this. For example, allowing single occupancy hybrids in HOV-2 lanes subsidizes per-occupant inefficiency. Assuming its not in stop and go traffic, just about anything with two passengers beats a single-occupant hybrid on per-occupant mileage. Likewise, the propensity (at least here in DC) of putting 4-way stop signs at every street intersection must use gobs of fuel for those people driving on secondary, through streets.
    “Aggressive driving”? puh-leeze. The regulator’s latest shibboleth. In my observation, there are very, very few people I observe that would fit this description which, I assume, includes people who accelerate aggressively from stop lights and then slam on the brakes for the next red light or burst of traffic in front of them. Yeah, that sort of stuff does waste fuel . . . but I don’t see but a handful of people doing it.

    Driving fast on the highway? People’s time has a value — and not just those of us who charge by the hour. That’s why no one wants a highway with a 45 mph speed limit . . . or a 55 mph speed limit.

    Congestion? You bet, but what driver voluntarily chooses to jump into congestion? Blame that one on the anti-car crowd that diverts road money to mass transit projects.

    The reality is that the greatest factor affecting fuel economy that is subject to the individual’s control is his/her choice of vehicle. I still give my wife grief for replacing our Saab wagon (30 mpg real-world on the highway) with a Honda Pilot (22 mpg real-world on the highway driven carefully) in 2008, with only one kid at home and one (admittedly large) dog. Not to mention the Pilot is a big, ponderous slug to drive compared to the Saab . . . and the 4wd system isn’t that impressive, either, in snow. AFAIC, station wagons offer all the utility I need, with significantly better fuel economy and driving characteristics than any of these cute-utes or crossovers.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “The only problem is that consumers no more want to drive super-efficiently than manufacturers want to make super-efficient cars”

    Minus the ‘super’ prefixes, I strongly disagree. It’s not that drivers don’t want to drive efficiently, it’s that most don’t really know what a difference even small changes in driving habits can make. With the gas price spike post-Katrina, I started paying more attention to fuel economy and I’ve kept it up ever since. I’ve seen a nearly 20% boost in mileage simply by accelerating gently, coasting up to red lights and keeping the cruise control set at 65 or less on all but the longest drives (and, yes, I stay out of the left lane unless passing). This costs me virtually no time on my 20 mile commute to work, and so little time on the occassional 2 hour drive that it’s not noticeable. Once I stopped driving as tho I was competing with the other drivers I found that I was also in much better mental condition when I arrived at my destination. If more people would give it a try they would likely find the fuel saving well worth the effort.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      I don’t see the savings as being very significant.

      Let’s say an imaginary motorist drives 15K miles a year, gas is $4 a gallon, and their current driving habits average 25mpg.

      If they drive as you suggest and their fuel economy increases 20% to 30mpg they would save $33 per month, or just over a dollar a day.

      Individual drives can decide whether the savings are worthwhile to them, but in absolute terms and in comparison to the other costs associated with vehicle ownership the amount that can be saved by changing driving habits is pretty small.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        While almost $400 annually ($33 * 12) may not be a major part of the cost of car ownership, I’ll happily keep that money in my pocket for almost no effort (and no addl expense) on my part. Also, saving fuel is not only about money for many drivers. Reduced pollution and fewer dollars to places like Venezuela are worth something to many of us.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      “Once I stopped driving as tho I was competing with the other drivers I found that I was also in much better mental condition when I arrived at my destination.”

      I’m with you on this. I decided to stop competing with everyone a few years back. Let others be first at every red light. Let the other drivers “win”, only to see me catch them at the next point of congestion anyway. It’s better for my fuel mileage, brake and tire wear, and blood pressure.

  • avatar
    protomech

    This is a good comparison point when discussing historical electric car range, too. The 1923 (gas) car is much lighter and operated at much lower speeds than the significantly heavier, significantly safer modern vehicle.

    Same comparison applies to electric vehicles. Around the turn of the century electric cars boasted some 40-60 miles of range.. not bad compared to the Nissan Leafs of today. But again, the electric cars of the time were much lighter and operated at much lower speeds (15-35 mph).

    Battery technology has improved about 5-7x today over the technology in the early 20th century (lead acid: 30-40 wh/kg, the best commercially-available lithium ion: 200+ wh/kg). We don’t see a commensurate range increase in the mainstream electric vehicles of today for the same reason gas vehicles are (on the whole) have balanced significant efficiency increases in the engine with significant weight gains and significantly more intensive operation.

    The Model S will be significant outlier if it makes good on its promise of 320 miles in the largest capacity.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    As DCBruce notes, many modern cars run AC when it isn’t needed. My Honda doesn’t have automatic climate control, but it does engage the compressor any time the defroster is on. While AC does help defrost the windshield more quickly, I don’t usually need it on all the time in the winter. Fortunately there’s a way to change this behavior, not documented in the manual though.

    Regarding tire inflation, back in the olden days every gas pump had an air valve next to it, making it convenient to fill up your tires while you fill your tank. Haven’t seen that in years, now you have to drive to the back of the station and pay a buck. Wish they’d bring back the the ubiquitous air hoses.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Yeah, my Tacoma does the same thing, and there’s no way to stop it from using the AC when defogging without actually modifying the climate control switches. Which, I mean, I have no problem doing that, but the average motorist isn’t going to start screwing with their cabin electrical system just to have greater control over what the hell the car is doing.

      Also, what happened to gas stations that at least had free air? Back when I was in upstate NY, there was a chain of gas stations called Stewarts that had a free air pump at each station and I filled up there basically exclusively. (They also had a full-service ice cream parlor in every station, open year round. I don’t even know how other gas stations existed up there.) Now where I am sometimes there isn’t an air pump at all.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      You may want to investigate the power required to run an AC compressor under the (typically cool/cold) conditions where you’re operating the defroster. It is absolutely not the same as the power required to cool the cab.

      The power requirement drops off very quickly as the condensing temperature falls, especially with a low evaporator heat load.

      Offhand, I’d expect that running the compressor in Defrost in Winter uses less than a third of the power of running the same compressor in Summer cooling mode.

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Wow, tons of denial about personal responsibility in many of the comments. Here in LA, I see the worst at all times for no good reason. Single drivers in gas guzzlers racing up to red lights to gain absolutely nothing except further wear on brake pads.

    I am impatient too about the congestion, and very poorly timed signals but it sure helps to just relax a bit behind the wheel, and costs you nothing.

    Even the Prius drivers piss away tons of fuel in this way and no doubt destroy the advantage of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “Single drivers in gas guzzlers racing up to red lights to gain absolutely nothing except further wear on brake pads.”

      In congested cities, if you don’t race up to red lights, a few dozen cars will squeeze into your lane (in front of you, of course).

    • 0 avatar
      VA Terrapin

      The Prius is ideal in stop and go traffic: idle stop, ability to run on electricity alone at low speeds. Leaving aside plug-in hybrids and electric cars, the Prius is about as fuel efficient a car larger than a subcompact that you can get for city traffic.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    This study is wrong on so many fronts… I don’t know where to begin?

    So I won’t… instead we’ll focus on the one pseudo-stat that really got me…

    “Furthermore, increased efforts should also be directed at increasing vehicle occupancy, which has dropped by 30% from 1960.”

    I agree with this wholeheartedly! Now I just have to get my wife to agree to the same thing.

    Hmmm…. having one more kid vs. zero population growth vs. increased wasting of the planet vs. having one more well educated person on this planet.

    Do we ‘do’ it?

    Do we carefully calculate the tapes and measures to yield yet another child of God into this world?

    Would that be the Christian thing? The Jewish thing? Our kids are half-Catholic and half-Jewish. So maybe it’ll be a Cashew thing.

    Think about it. Do we want to bring one more nut into this rocky watery abode?

    The mind ponders…

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Roundabouts reduce idling.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Not when they’re used in tourist areas and on a road that should clearly have the rightaway. The result is unnecessary backups and peril for cyclists and pedestrians. I saw it every stinking day until I changed my route by 4 miles to avoid it.

  • avatar
    alex159569

    There’s another aspect that hasn’t really been discussed that I feel makes the quote “… especially since on-road fuel economy has improved by .04 MPG per year since 1923″ misleading…

    If you look at the graph the category of ‘medium and heavy trucks’ only enters the picture in the mid-60′s. Their 6 MPG average, combined with how much they get used today, means they really drag down the collective average, yet I’m sure no one here would want to get rid of them and rely on freight trains to get cargo everywhere. In a society where stuff needs to get transported as fast as possible there’s no getting around their use, and I’d be interested in an average that does not take into account this category for a more realistic picture of how much personal cars have improved.

    • 0 avatar
      zambaq

      Yes, I agree that it’s misleading. If you look earlier (to the left) on the time-line, you’ll notice that cars are separated from “all trucks” starting 75 years ago. So avg. MPG data for cars alone (i.e. without the negative drag of heavy diesel vehicles, which of course we cannot do without at present) has existed from that time on. It looks as though fuel economy for cars reached its nadir — about 13.5 MPG — around 1973. But from that time, which coincided with the rise of OPEC, through 2008, it improved by a factor of 67%. On that basis, Mr. Niedermeyer might have put a more positive spin on things by pointing out that, over that period of 35 years, fuel economy for the kind of vehicle most of us drive has improved by an average of .26 MPG per year. Could be better, but not bad…

  • avatar
    redav

    Not mentioned in the article (but highlighted in the comments): Where to live & work.

    I live in the suburbs; I work in the suburbs. My commute is thus very short–probably half of the typical length. Such a commute therefore cuts my gas (and other products, e.g., tires, oil changes) consumption proportionately.

    Another hidden benefit to short commutes: Reduced interaction between cars (traffic). Since I drive only a short distance, I never get on most of the roads that others use, so I never get in their way. If others do the same, they never get in my way.

    I suspect that when the math is worked out, there is a factoral relationship (increases faster than exponential) between miles driven & amount of traffic. Thus, even a small overall decrease in everyone’s commute would make a significant difference in everyone’s efficiency, time, & stress.


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