Who Says You Can't Have It All? Not the EcoDrivers!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I drive a Mercedes GL450: a vehicle that struggles to get 18 mpg. On the highway. Downhill. Downwind. Unladen. At the posted speed. But here’s the thing: I don’t drive my Merc much. I work from home; I live in a “walkable” community; I walk; I ride a bike; and I got rid of our second car. In other words, like many Americans, I want my gas guzzler and a clean conscience too. God bless America; when the market perceives a need, someone fills it. In this case, it’s our friends at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM). The industry lobby group is providing the juice behind the trendily hyphen-aversive EcoDriving movement. Which, to my mind, is a bit like the pre-nascent DietFeasting movement. I may be guilty but I’m not stupid. Or am I?

Today’s AAM press release leads me to believe I may well be EcoIntellectuallyChallenged. To mark the slow-down-you-selfish-planet-killing-bastard program’s one-year anniversary, the AAM provides a list of all the governors who never, ever ask their drivers to put pedal to the metal: Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Bill Ritter (D-CO), Riley (R- AL), Haley Barbour (R-MS), Jay Nixon (D-MO), Martin O’Malley (D – MD), Bev Perdue (D-NC), Luis Fortuno (R – PR), Mark Sanford (R- SC), John De-Jongh (D – USVI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sonny Perdue (R-GA), C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-ID), Steve Beshear (D- KY), Jennifer M. Granholm (D-MI), Brad Henry (D-OK) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT) .

Although only one governor gets a nickname, all of these state house dwellers have shown tremendous courage by asking motorists to drive like an octogenarian—rather than, say, recommending a return to Nixon’s double-nickel. Then again, why wouldn’t the govs support EcoDriving? Not only does the PC admonition not piss off any members of their constituency—from hard-core environmentalists to soft-core Suburban pilots—it’s the right thing to do:

“If just half of all drivers nationwide practiced moderate levels of EcoDriving,” the AAM contends. “Annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be reduced by about 100 million tons, or the equivalent of heating and powering 8.5 million households.”

Define moderate. Meanwhile, free miles!

“If all Americans practiced EcoDriving, it would be equal to 450 billion miles traveled on our roadways without generating any CO2 emissions. That’s 1,500 CO2-free miles for every man, woman and child in the United States each year.”

And we wouldn’t need CAFE, CARB or EPA tailpipe regulations! Uh, would we? So, anyway, how do Catholics, Jews and other guilt-ridden carbon positive people do this EcoDriving thing, then? The Alliance offers fourteen tips:

1. Believe You Can Reduce Fuel Use and Emissions – ‘Cause when you wish upon a greenhouse gas, makes no difference what you drive.

2. Avoid Rapid Starts and Stops – I drive around them as quickly as possible, me.

3. Keep on Rolling in Traffic – Rhode Islanders have been practicing the rolling stop since the octagonal sign was first introduced (without graffiti I’m told). Oh wait, they don’t mean EZ Wider style rolling do they? Sure, I drive much slower when I’m high, but the AAM can’t recommend that for people without a prescription, can they?

4. Ride the “Green Wave” – I’m still looking for the green flash. But it’s a good point: by going slower you can catch all the green lights and end-up going faster. Or, more precisely, get there at the same time as you would as if you were driving like a mad man. In theory.

5. Use Air Conditioning at Higher Speeds – Done. In fact, I also use AC at slower speeds. You know, when it’s hot.

6. Maintain an Optimum Highway Speed for Good Mileage – “According to the U.S. EPA, every 5 miles over the 60 mph level is equivalent to paying 20 extra cents per gallon for gas.” The faster you go the worse your mileage the more you pay at the pump? Who knew?

7. Use Cruise Control – Not me. I find myself slamming on the brakes when I use cruise control. That can’t be good for my mpg. Maybe I should try setting it a little lower. But then I end up swerving in and out of lanes to avoid hitting the car in front of me. Clearly, I need some more instruction.

8. Navigate to Reduce Carbon Dioxide – Can’t I just program my sat nav to do it for me? Let me see . . . Yes ,I can! Brilliant! Where’s the EcoDriving setting?

9. Avoid Idling – I’m never idle. Talk to the guy who sings “Adam in Chains.” He’s always Idol.

10. Buy an Automated Pass for Toll Roads – And don’t cheat on your wife.

11. Use the Highest Gear Possible – Sure but—where’s the fun in that?

12. Drive Your Vehicle to Warm It Up – That makes NO sense. Why would I drive around to warm-up my vehicle? Shouldn’t I just fire it up and head to my destination?

13. Keep Your Cool – Like I said, AC rules.

14. Obey your Check Engine Light – Obey? That’s a bit draconian isn’t it? What if environmentalists take control of my OBD and it flashed-up “CAP AND TRADE”? What then?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • Mrschwen Mrschwen on Aug 28, 2009
    wsn : August 24th, 2009 at 6:25 pm Robstar : August 24th, 2009 at 12:14 pm I think it’s hilarious people tie mpg directly to emissions. ———————————————- Why not? There is only so much clean burning and muffler can do. If X% of the ICE spit out is considered bad emission (NOx etc), then, for the same distance, you do have more emission if you use more gasoline. Thats not entireley accurate. There are some people who do NEED diesel pickup trucks, for example farmers. On modern diesel pickup trucks that use a diese particulate filter for emissions, the dpi actually reduces fuel economy. The dpi is a soot filter built into a combustion chamber in the exhaust pipe. When the filter gets dirty, the trucks ECM sends a signal to spray fuel into the pistons on the exhaust stroke. This causes the engine to pump diesel fuel into the dpi in the exhaust pipe. The dpi then ignites this fuel to clean the engine. This process, called Regen, occurs frequently, as much as every 200 miles, and can take between 15 and 30 minutes. During this time, the trucks engine produces less power, and the gas milege decreases significantly. Many owners of these trucks are removing the dpi and the trucks EGR and are going from 10-13 mpg to about 16-20 mpg or more. In addition, these systems are causing severe reliability problems. Many drivers are seeing the MIL lamps turn on within weeks of purchasing the vehicle, because the dpi doesn't always fire, thus clogging the filter, or the EGR, which routes exhaust gasses into the combustion chamber to burn up, will clog. These engines also require a different way of driving. Many dealerships reccomend "driving it like you stole it". In city traffic, the dpr can go into an endless Regen cycle, thus instead of cleaning the filter, its simply burning diesel. In addition, the process only occurs when Exhaust Gas Tempertures are high, therefore drivers must run the truck at high RPMs to ensure that Regen occurrs and a trip to the dealership won't be necessary. Tempertures in the exhaust on these trucks can reach as high as 1400 degrees. Ford recently had a recall involving dpf equiped trucks due to fires. This technology is also known as Bluetech.
  • ZoomZoom ZoomZoom on Sep 01, 2009

    Nice tongue-in-cheek treatment Robert. As you know, many of the eco-driving things on that list are impractical or impossible. Poor road design, cities' bad traffic management practices (mis-timed or un-timed lights or green lights that are too long for low-traffic directions), and our society's insistence on letting bad drivers drive all prevent us from doing the things on that list.

  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!
  • Slavuta More hatchbacks