I Can’t Drive 55!
6/15/2005 02:21:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Challenge of the Week #2

Yes you can… It’s my second “Challenge of the Week”. Cars made for use in North America are designed to operate optimally at 55-59 miles per hour. The EPA bases their highway MPG based on tests at this speed under minimal acceleration. That is why there is a push to reform how that number makes it on to the sticker on your new car to “reflect more accurately” the true MPG under “normal” conditions.

However, my challenge is this: For one week, or at least one fill up of your gas tank, we are going to [gasp] drive the speed limit.

Here are the details:

  1. Go to the local gas station and fill your tank all of the way up. Write down your starting mileage on your gas receipt and save in the glove box.
  2. For the rest of the week, or until refueling (at approx ¼ tank), you are going to be a transformed driver. [I am hypnotizing you now…] You will not treat the speed limit signs as a suggestion. You will ignore the fact that the local police will give you 8-10 mph over the speed limit before pulling you over. You will stop at all stop signs, and accelerate slowly from all traffic lights. You will drive 55-65 mph on highways with your cruise control on (as conditions permit.) You are not getting sleepy. You will reawaken more aware of how fast you are traveling, and will cease “peeling out” from a dead stop.
  3. Why? Doing all of the above actions, and some others suggested below, you may increase your cars mileage by 10-20%. What does that add up to? Several gallons of gas per fill up saved, and several gallons of gasoline that doesn’t have to be refined and/or imported.
  4. At the end of the week and at the completion of your “Driving with Awareness”, fill up your tank completely again and write down your mileage on your second receipt.
  5. Take your receipts home, and take out your abacus or adding machine of choice, and find out your mileage for the week. The way to do that is:

Mileage at 2nd fill up

-Mileage at 1st fill up

= total miles driven

total miles driven (divided by) # of gallons on 2nd fill up receipt = MPG for the week.

Now go here and compare your mileage to what the EPA believes that your car/truck/SUV should be getting. Post your comparison in the comments section, include the model and year of your car. Don’t be ashamed if you drive a Chevy Suburban or van, post anyways. You will have the highest ability to save gasoline.

I’ll post the most improved on the front page, along with the other results. Remember, it’s not the total MPG that I am most concerned with for this exercise. It is to show how much you can increase your mileage by driving conscientiously and obeying the speed limits. Kudos if you already drive a vegetable-oil bio-diesel 82 VW Rabbit. More kudos to you if your ’98 pickup used to get 250 miles to a fill up and now you get 310.

Other tips:

Purchase a tire pressure checker, and properly inflate all your tires at each fill up if needed (correct pressure found inside driver’s side open door on frame of car, usually). DO NOT IDLE. Turn car off. Don’t “drive thru” get your butt out of the car and walk in, every time. Leave 10 mins early to each destination, you will be much less likely to speed if you are not running late. Follow your cars recommended service schedule – if you missed an oil change, go get one. Run AC only as needed.

This challenge will take plenty of patience, and be prepared for a few dirty looks. (and if you find yourself on the LIE or Belt Pkwy, you get dispensation from not speeding – for your safety sake!) Try to change your mentality regarding driving this upcoming week. Think of driving as a privilege. Get yourself out of the rat-race mentality. You are not Jeff Gordon (he is the only race car driver I know, sorry I didn’t pick someone cooler.) Get a good CD out, or a good book on tape, sit back, take a deep breath and relax.

Ahem, but Baloghblog, “I live in X (big city) and I don’t drive. What is my challenge?”

Well, if you truly take public transportation everywhere (no taxi’s, gypsy cabs, etc.) Congrats, you are contributing much less to America’s oil dependency.

Your challenge will be to write a paper letter to your congressional representatives encouraging higher mileage standards for new vehicles*. Sure you could email, but to have a better chance of human eyes taking the time to read it, buy a stamp and mail your letter to your local office of your politician.

Good luck and let me know how it’s going, any anecdotes as the week goes on.

* or any topic of your choice along those lines

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On 9:45 AM , NYCO said...

This is great except my gas gauge is very wonky and cannot be trusted, therefore I usually don't use up a whole tank of gas before I fill up again (because my gauge tends to read high for some reason). So I'm not sure how I can participate in the mileage thing. Except that that's how I drive ANYWAY...

On 12:31 AM , Liz Logan said...

Great idea! Today I was writing an entry that I plan to use shortly about how much I wish they would reinstate the 55 mph speed limit on the freeways because the truckers go 70+ where I live and it is very stressful to drive.

Another thing to consider is that the force of impact goes up exponentially with increased speed. Driving 55 really does save lives.

On 8:48 PM , RomeHater said...

Even though I drive a big angry SUV, I keep to the speed limit most of the time. But since it just turned another 1000 mile point and I got gas, I'll keep track of milage.

I wonder how much some of these other suggestions help, though. You should let your car idle about a minute before you peel out of the driveway for the sake of the engine. The whole drive thru thing would seem to depend on the length of the line. Restarting the car kills the momentum the engine has built up.

On 10:37 PM , baloghblog said...

here is information for you on myths of idling. And guidelines for when you should idle and when you should shut off the car.

A good rule of thumb for smart, idle-free driving is this:

* If you are going to be parked for more than 10 seconds, turn off the engine. Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it

and on engine wear and tear:

Another common misconception is that it's better to let an engine idle than to continually shut off and restart the vehicle. Research has shown that frequent restarting has little impact on engine components such as the battery and starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that can be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling.

On 4:41 PM , Ianqui said...

OK. We drove out to go hiking in New Jersey today, and stayed under 60 the whole way. And we'll do it tomorrow when we take the car out again.

(Yes, embarrassingly, we do have a car...It comes in handy sometimes, but we really only drive it about 1x a month. Except during the summer, when we go out a lot more.)

On 4:42 PM , RomeHater said...

Point taken on letting your car idle at a stop. Althought there is no specific reference to the research that proves this, I can't find anything to counter it on the web.

However, even that article says that the a car needs about 30 seconds (I'd say more like 45) to idle at the first starting of the day. That was my first point.

On 10:45 AM , Jason Koulouras said...

Thanks for these reminders - I have been trying to transform my habits with some success - slow accleration, anticipation of lights etc...

These tactics make a big difference in my car - Pontiac Vibe with a highstrung Toyota 1.8L motor that loves to rev (and of course swallows gas when revving)


On 9:26 AM , Anonymous said...

I own a MINI Cooper S, which is a terribly fun car to drive. I recently took a 1.5 hour trip on roads with tourist traffic that made me go the speed limit. Got an amazing 42mpg. A MINI is not as fuel efficient as most would think.

Also I did a full day performance driving school at a racetrack and got 8 mpg. This was an amazing experience, not just driving fast, but driving safety & competance is the emphasis.

What does this really say? Simply the more you use the gas pedal the worse your gas mileage is.

On 11:42 PM , Lillian said...

We travel from Texas to our farm in Oklahoma once a month during the spring/summer. Recently we changed our route so we wouldn't have to drive on I35 - too much construction/congestion. We now take the *back way*.

Results? Our speed has declined due to lower speed limits and going through small towns. This route is 18 miles further but it takes us 20 minutes less time to go this way AND - tada! - 20% less gas (due to the reduced speed). Not only that, we arrive more rested because the route is prettier (not a super highway; just small highways meandering through countryside and small towns) and it's much less stressful.

A real win-win for us.

On 6:12 PM , Anonymous said...

I hope most of you idiots that think going the speed limit saves gas and lives stays out of my way and keeps to the right. Speed limits were NOT designed for safety,but for revenue. I am a trucker and know a lot about roads and traffic laws. The 55mph limit on most inerstates is artificially slow and ridiculous. Most interstates were designed to hold speeds up to 80mph.,not 55-59mph. If any of you are one of those self-appointed traffic cops that lingers in the left lane going the speed limit, MOVE OVER. Left lane is only for passing. Most of the traffic laws and speed limits in
the U.S. really SUCK.