Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You Can Cut Your Fuel Costs

Not by finding cheaper gas at imaginary stations (though gas is cheaper in neighboring states that have lower taxes and don't artificially raises prices with stupid "minimum markup" legislation) - - but by driving the speed limit.

I went to meetings yesterday in Waukesha and New Berlin, and I'd estimate the average speed on I-94 west of Milwaukee at no less than 75 mph. Someone gave me the finger when I was accelerating too slowly for him where the speed limit increases from 55 mph to 65.

Based on his driving, that fella will have an unhappy visit to the gas pump when he needs to fuel up his Ford 150 pickup. You often see people with inefficiently-designed vehicles driving the most aggressively, then complaining the loudest in now-standard TV news interviews about pain at the pump.

It's unlikely that government will somehow lower the price of gas (though Wisconsin could if it got rid of that onerous and costly minimum markup law), or mandate a lower speed limit (imagine the mean-spirited Jimmy Carter references), but drivers could stretch a gallon of gasoline farther by slowing down.

The Internet is filled with references to fuel economy and speed: The US Department of Energy estimates that for every 5 mph you drive above 60 or 65 mph - - accounting for vehicle variables - - you need to burn 7% more fuel.

We recently drove round trip to Santa Fe, NM, in a Honda hybrid, and by driving the speed limit - - and that takes attention and some discipline, and of course, our speed sometimes went into the 70's - - we averaged 51.8 mpg according to the dashboard read out.

At roughly $3 per gallon, we figure the fuel cost us around $200.

We know we were lucky to have a hybrid vehicle to drive, and that we were not on the road with business or medical or childcare schedules to meet.

But it showed us that adhering to the speed limit does make gasoline consumption more affordable, and adds to a trip's safety, too.

The other thing I noticed about my day in Waukesha County yesterday was the total absence of speed patrols on I-94.

Drivers familiar with the tightly-enforced and reduced speed limit along Milwaukee's lakefront know that speeding there will get you a ticket these days, and traffic along Lincoln Memorial Dr. now moves along pleasantly and safely at the posted rate.

No comments: