Gas Price Still Doing Okay

So far so good ... national average gasoline prices are still under $3.00. Let's hope that horizontal trend we have been seeing lately in the price stays nice and flat and doesn't start going up with the idea of crossing three dollars per gallon.


What We Measure Is Important

What we measure is important. It shows the things we are preoccupied with as a society and it enables individual action. We don't measure that which we consider unimportant. It is impossible to act consistently if you have no feedback on what you are doing. The fact that our cars all have odometers for measuring distance traveled and speedometers for showing how fast we are going but no instrument to show the instantaneous gas mileage (ie gallons per hundred miles or GPHM) shows how little Americans think about fuel. Gasoline is considered to be something which will always be so cheap and available that it is not worth measuring. The lack of such an instrument makes it hard to adjust your driving habits to improve fuel economy. However, throughout the world attitudes are starting to change. For example, in Britain all homes are going to be fitted with new electricity meters that show the instantaneous consumption, so that homeowners can see the energy cost of turning on an appliance or activating the air conditioning. You can upgrade the instrument panel of your car to show you instant fuel usage by installing something like the scangauge. I believe that all cars should be required to include in their instrumentation a meter showing instantaneous fuel economy. That would both make us think about saving on gas and make it a lot easier to learn how to do it.


Food Miles

In the modern world, some things can be done by communication without ever leaving your house. For example, to read a book you can download it without the need to go to a bookstore and pick it up. Family members can communicate over the telephone without having to travel to physically meet up in the same location. However other things still require and always will require physical transport. A perfect example of this is food. To eat something, it has to be on your plate in front of you. The distance that a piece of food travels from farm to kitchen plate is known as its "food miles". The typical food has gone between 1,500 to 2,500 miles before you get to eat it.


High Oil Prices and Airlines

Here is a guy who says that even oil prices up to $200 per barrel are not a problem for the survival of the airline industry. What do you think?


Convert Your Pickup to Diesel - With a Tractor Engine

Here is a fellow who replaced the engine of his pickup with the diesel engine from his tractor. One way to get a more efficient diesel in your vehicle!


Jake Brake

Ever wondered why it is that big rigs sometimes make a lawnmower like sound as they slow down? That is the Jacobs Brake, named after its inventor, often called a Jake Brake. It is a system that uses the engine to brake the vehicle instead of using friction at the wheels. This reverses the usual role of the engine, which is to accelerate or maintain constant speed. The Jake Brake works by using the cylinders in the engine to compress air. This compressed air is then vented to the atmosphere. There is no power stroke, and since it takes energy to compress air, this energy is bled out of the kinetic energy of the vehicle. The rotating drive train and wheels are the source of the energy which is used to compress that air. The distinctive sound is the result of venting that compressed air to the outside atmosphere.


World Map of Peak Oil Production

Many of the oil producing regions of the world are in decline. The moment at which their oil production was greatest was in the past. The video shows a presentation which includes a time sequence showing oil production versus time for the major oil zones of the world. The hollow part of the bar at the top is the amount of production less than the peak production. Looking at the video you can see a lot of bars with hollow space at the top. Not a good sign for the future. Better that we learn to save on gas now before too many more of those bars go hollow.


Tactical Parking

When you are picking out a place to park, don't try to find the one closest to the door of your destination. Instead of thinking to reduce how far you have to walk, think of reducing how much gas you are going to spend. There are two basic tactics to use. One is to park such that you drive the least distance. Generally this means choose a spot on the outer edge of the parking lot, one you can drive directly to from the entrance and exit. Another important point is not to orbit the lot looking for a close spot. Quite often the outer fringes will have plenty of spots just waiting to be taken.

The second thing to think about is choosing a spot you can easily drive out of. Try to pick a spot you can drive into and out of with no reverse necessary. Jockeying around in reverse will use extra fuel. A go above and beyond hypermiler tip is to look for a spot that is up a little hill, so that you can coast away in neutral when you are leaving. When you are leaving your engine will be cool, and warmed up engines are a little more efficient. So if you can coast away, you are giving your cooler engine a little break and saving some gas.


It's Tough to Get Oil

It is pretty easy to fuel up your car. You just pull into a gas station, grab the pump handle and that is about it. Makes it look easy. But it is not at all easy to get the oil that the gasoline is made of. Oil production involves working in some extreme conditions. And the conditions are getting worse and worse every year as the easy oil is just about all used up. The video below shows an oil rig in a storm in the North Sea. The idea is to try to portray the immense challenges facing us as we extract oil. Hard and getting harder challenges mean one thing is for sure: oil is going to get more and more expensive.



In days gone by, cars had simpler transmissions with fewer gears, sometimes only three. It was possible to add a separate overdrive which connected between the transmission and the driveshaft. This overdrive could operate in two modes: one in which the output rotational speed was the same as the input speed, and an overdrive mode where the output speed was greater than the input speed, with corresponding decrease in output torque.

All modern transmissions have the equivalent of overdrive built into them. Whenever you are running at highway speed, you should always go into overdrive. Put your car into the highest gear. At highway speed, you don't need a lot of torque and a high gear ratio lets the engine turn over at the slowest possible speed for your traveling speed. That allows the engine to operate in a regime where it is more fuel efficient. So in highway cruise, go into overdrive to use the least gasoline for each mile!


Super Lightweight Car

The more weight that a vehicle has, the more kinetic energy it needs to reach a given speed. Kinetic energy that is all lost again when the vehicle brakes to a stop. Weight reduction is one of the most important and effective ways to make a car more fuel efficient. The University of South Australia developed an ultralight car that has space for two people. The car has a mass of only 64kg, which corresponds to a weight of only about 140 pounds! Imagine that. In a normal car, almost all of the weight is just the car. In this case, the majority of the kinetic energy is going to move the passengers and not the car. And after all the point of a car is to move people, not metal.

This low weight was achieved by building the car using panels made of layered fiberglass and aluminum. These panels were used to build a basic box like shape. Then an aerodynamic form was constructed by layering styrofoam cut to an aerodynamic shape on top. A layer of fiberglass was then placed over the styrofoam to secure and protect it.

This is another example of a vehicle that would be perfect for neighbourhood driving or one person commutes. The heavy steel cars we drive are overkill for a lot of uses to which they are put. This overkill has a cost that shows up at the gas pump. Choosing the smallest, lightest vehicle that can serve a given function is one of the best ways to save on gas.


Wind Powered Car in Action

We talked before about wind powered cars. Although there is no question that wind cannot be used to power the cars of today on the roadways we now have, there could be a place for land sailing vehicles in specific roles in the future. This video is just to show off the fact that it is possible to get around on land using nothing but the wind for power.


Fight For Your Right to Hang Laundry

What could be better than taking advantage of the energy the Sun freely provides to dry your clothes? But it seems that in today's wasteful world there are people that don't want to see clotheslines. To them clotheslines with hanging laundry symbolize a backwards, poverty stricken way of life. This is another perfect example of the lack of hypermiling culture in the US. The American population treats energy as though it is guaranteed to be cheap forever. But that is not true. We will be facing permanently higher energy prices in the near future and to deal with it we need to kick this "wasting energy is cool" mindset. Clothes drying in the wind under cost free sunlight are a great demonstration of self sufficiency and wise energy use.


Careful With "Aerodynamic" Body Kits

Body kits are often described in their marketing literature as being "aerodynamic". And indeed, the variety of spoilers, dams and sideskirts often do look very sleek and aerodynamic. But aerodynamics is a complex subject. It is very difficult to know what the actual air resistance of a car shape versus speed will be without doing actual road measurements or wind tunnel tests. It is also possible to calculate using supercomputers and office buildings full of PhDs.

Very few body kit manufacturers actually have the resources for testing or calculations. The result is that the supposedly aerodynamic kits might not actually lower your car's drag. They do add weight to your car and they do lighten your wallet. So if the goal is to spruce up your car's appearance, go ahead. But if you are making the purchase to save on gas via better aerodynamics you owe it to yourself to double check. Specifically ask the body kit manufacturer about measured drag coefficients. If they can't tell you, then the kit is probably just eye candy like most of the ones on the market.


Oil Producers Consume Too

Most countries of the world depend on oil imports to meet their needs. For imports to be available, there must of course be a few exporting countries to supply that demand. And of course those exporting countries have populations that want to use oil in their own cars as well. There is the rub. The handful of oil exporters are experiencing increasing internal consumption as well as stagnant or declining oil production. That means the amount they can export must drop.

Consider for example the case of Saudi Arabia, the world's foremost oil exporter. The following statistics from 2005 show their growth:

Growth in GDP
Growth in Oil Consumption
Growth in Population
Median Population Age
Growth in Auto Sales
Trade Surplus
$120 Billion

Clearly Saudi Arabia is a young country and they are flush with cash from selling all their oil. And they want to buy cars and use some of that oil for themselves. As would anybody. The result is clear. A rich country that is increasing auto sales by 10% and internal oil consumption by 11% a year as its young kids seek the modern lifestyle will not be able to keep up its exports. Examples like this make it clear that we can expect permanently higher oil and gasoline prices in the near future. So let's start learning how to save on gas now while the pain level is low!


Dutch Big Brother Saving on Gas

The Dutch government is planning on installing GPS devices on all cars in their country. The idea is to measure exactly how far each car drives and charge a distance based tax. The idea is that you pay as you go instead of paying a car sales tax or ownership tax. That would have the effect of directly rewarding people for driving fewer miles thus helping to save on gas. The motivation given is environmental. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the goal. It is also expected to help out with congestion.

The tax will go into effect in 2012 if the Dutch legislature passes the bill, which has already been written and tabled by the government. The tax will be 7 cents per mile in US terms to start and will increase over time reaching 16 cents per mile in 2018. Certain vehicles, such as taxis and buses will not have to pay.

While the motive is good (reducing emissions can only be good for the climate) and the idea of a tax that you pay as you go is fair, I hope we never see something like this in the US. Giving the government power to monitor exactly where every car is at all times is just too much into the world of Big Brother. It always starts out benign. "We will only use this data to calculate the mileage tax." But then after a decade or so it will be routinely used by law enforcement agencies "in the public good." And a decade after that, when the government has decided that the public good includes (for example) suppressing certain social movements the data will be used to track down, break up and arrest the people in them. Never forget that the US government is the very same government that invented the term "extraordinary rendition". Do you want a government that arranges for the kidnapping and torture of its own citizens to know exactly where every car is at all times? I know I don't.

Take this as a warning. If we the people can't control our own gas use and we start seeing extremely high gas prices and resulting social unrest, the government could use that to impose a copy of the Dutch GPS monitoring system "to encourage lower fuel consumption". One more reason to save on gas.


Electric Car Logistics

Switching a significant portion of the national car fleet over to electric power will not be as easy as making the cars. Just manufacturing those millions of electric vehicles is a job in itself. The infrastructure needed to support them is also huge.

If everyone wanted to charge their vehicles at the same time no city's power grid could handle it. On trickle charge where everybody draws a little power at different times it could be possible. Arranging systems to support burst charges by everybody when they come home after the commute is another story. Also lacking is a national infrastructure of rapid recharge stations or battery swapping programs.

There are also political and economical issues. For example, if everybody wants to plug in at their employer's parking lot, who pays and how do you know how much? The infrastructure we have now, gas stations, makes it clear who pays and when. But if people can start plugging in anywhere there is an outlet that will change.

These are questions that we are going to be confronted with soon, judging by the steady increase in assembly lines turning out plug in hybrid vehicles and pure electric vehicles. The sooner we start to think about them and resolve them as a nation the easier the adoption of electric vehicles will be.


Solar Powered Cars

Although solar powered cars have been built, they are clearly not common. Why is this? Given that sunlight is a free source of power, why have solar powered cars not taken over the garages and highways of the world? The answer lies principally with power.

The rate at which an engine can provide energy is the power output of that engine. Usually automotive engine powers are measured in horsepower. A bog standard car engine will generally be able to generate 200 to 300 horsepower. The power output is a function of engine RPM for internal combustion engines and thus is not a constant specification of the engine. Now let us compare the power output available from solar. The Sun is of course putting out effectively infinite power, but we can only use the power that comes from light we can catch. Solar panels thus give a power output per area. Sunlight hitting a surface straight on delivers about 1000 Watts of power per square meter. Typical solar panels are about 20% efficient. So a solar panel of one square meter in area directly facing the Sun will generate about 200 Watts of power.

One horsepower is a little less than 750 Watts. Thus a typical one square meter solar panel in the optimum orientation relative to the Sun will generate about one quarter of a horsepower. A typical car will expose the most surface area to the Sun when the Sun is directly overhead, shining straight down on the roof of the car. Seen from above, a big car might be 18 feet long and 8 or so feet wide. That gives a surface of only about 13 or 14 square meters. Covering the entire surface of the car with solar panels would then generate about 3 horsepower.

Those 3 horsepower are when there are no clouds, the car is not in shadow and it is noon with the Sun directly overhead. You can see that there is no way solar power can deliver anywhere near the two or three hundred horsepower a gasoline powered internal combustion engine can. Solar power has a place in the future arsenal of silver BB energy solutions. But we are not going to see the cars of today run straight off of solar power!


Build a Bicycle Trailer

The best way to save on gas is not to use your car. Alternative means of transport are walking, taking the bus or riding a bicycle. However, one big advantage of a car is all the cargo capacity it gives you. This can be replaced when bicycling with the use of a bicycle trailer. For short trips to pick up a bag of groceries say a bicycle trailer is all you need. Moreover, it is pretty easy to make your own trailer if you don't want to buy a new one. The video below gives a little tour of a homemade bicycle trailer.


Compression Ratio

The compression ratio of an internal combustion engine is an important operating characteristic. It is the ratio of the volume inside a cylinder when the piston is at the very bottom (opening the most space) and the volume in the head when the piston is at the top of its range of motion. For typical automotive engines the higher the compression the more efficient the engine can be. This is fundamentally because a high compression ratio gives the hot combustion gases more opportunity to expand and do work. Imagine a compression ratio only a little above one. That would mean the energy filled gases, flush with heat from the combustion of the fuel would have barely any space to expand. They would thus do very little work. Then on the exhaust stroke they would be expelled to the air taking most of the energy with them. On the other hand, a very high compression ratio means that the hot expanding gas can do work over a much greater distance. That allows to extract more of the energy and waste less trapped in the exhaust gases. Miller cycle engines take advantage of this extra expansion without requiring a high compression ratio.

Secondarily to this is the fact that under compression, the fuel and air is tightly packed into a small space. This can help ensure complete combustion. It also helps control the combustion timing so that it is optimally phased relative to the piston position.

The limiting factor preventing high compression ratios is pre-ignition. This is commonly called knocking or pinging. The high temperatures generated during a high compression can cause the fuel to self ignite too early in the cycle. Such early ignition or detonation ruins the careful timing and reduces engine efficiency and power. Fuels that are more resistant to pre ignition are able to be run at higher compression ratios. This is the reason for the higher efficiency of Diesel engines. Typical automotive Otto cycle engines run at compression ratios of about 12 to 1 while Diesel engines with their different fuel run at around 25 to 1. Thus Diesel engines get more work out of their hot gases as they expand 25 times instead of just 12 times.


Types of Electric Vehicles

Electric cars are becoming more and more common. Indeed in a world of persistently high oil and gas prices people are looking for alternatives. With a new drivetrain and energy source comes a new lingo. The motoring public over the decades has adopted a vocabulary suited for internal combustion engines. A new vocabulary is starting to shape up to describe the electric world.

We can see three basic electric drivetrain configurations emerging. They lie along a continuum going from a pure electric vehicle to a normal gasoline powered vehicle. Going from the most similar to conventional cars to pure electric, we find these common configurations.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)
Hybrid is the word used to describe a vehicle with both an electric and an internal combustion engine. The electricity is generated by the gasoline engine and there is no provision for plugging in the vehicle or otherwise charging it. The electric engine is used to capture energy generated by the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) that would otherwise go to waste. One example is regenerative braking, in which the electric engine captures kinetic energy to slow the car down. In other designs the ICE is run at its most efficient speed and used to generate electricity which keeps the battery charged. Then an electric engine feeds off the battery to provide motive power for the vehicle. This works because the efficiency difference between running an ICE at its peak efficiency and average efficiency is greater than the losses involved in transferring the energy to electricity. Another technique is to switch the ICE off when idling. An electric engine feeding off of a battery does not have to turn over and waste fuel to idle. From the point of view of the driver, a hybrid is like a gasoline powered vehicle. The only way to fill it up is at the gas pump. All of the efficiency gains are internal and invisible.

Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
Plug in hybrids are like hybrid vehicles in that they have a dual power train with both electric and internal combustion engines. However, the electric engine is designed to directly provide motive power instead of just help out the ICE. The gasoline powered ICE is present to extend range. It is possible to externally charge plug in hybrids. They have a capability to be plugged into an electricity socket. By charging the battery in this way and not exceeding the battery range, it is possible to avoid filling them with gasoline. This makes their electric nature obvious to the driver, who can tailor his driving and refueling habits to drastically cut back on the amount of gasoline pumped. Unlike hybrids, which take only gasoline as fuel, plug in hybrids give the owner the power to trade off the type of fuel to be used between electricity and gasoline.

Electric Vehicles (EV)
True electric vehicles do not have an internal combustion engine. They have a single power train based on one or more electric motors. Some designs have a single motor and others have individual motors for each wheel. The only way to refuel these is by plugging them in and charging them up. The design space for electric drive trains is quite large and still being explored. On the scale from ICE to electric EVs are the most advanced step furthest from our automotive engineering experience. Expect to see lots of progress here.

This seems to be the current vocabulary relating to the different electric configurations available and in development. Just so you can keep your EVs and PHEVs straight!


Snazzy Motorcycle Sidecar

A motorcycle can save a lot of gas relative to a car. This is fundamentally because it is much lighter. Choosing the right vehicle for the job can be a great strategy to up your fuel economy. A lot of people hold back on a motorcycle due to two big issues: safety and space.

As far as safety goes, if you use your motorcycle for local trips and avoid heavy traffic situations it will not be as risky. For passenger and cargo space, a sidecar could be just the thing. Now a lot of people say they do not like sidecars, that they look bad. Well, just to dispel this excuse, I have posted here a picture and a video of a motorcycle with a tricked out sidecar. This sidecar looks like a car!

Here you go: proof that a motorcycle can carry passengers or light cargo and look snazzy doing it! So consider using one when appropriate to save on gas.


Regenerative Braking Video

In this video a Toyota representative explains how the regenerative braking system in a modern Camry sedan works. The brake system uses both electric and mechanical parts. They say that 80% of the braking is done by the recoverable electric system, with the last 20% provided by a standard mechanical pressure based system. Although when he says that the regenerative braking works by converting heat in the brakes to stored energy, I am almost certain he is oversimplifying. Normally regenerative braking systems work by using the rotational kinetic energy stored in the drivetrain to run a generator, which then charges the battery.


Regenerative Braking

Motion requires energy. To overcome inertia and add speed to a body, energy must be added. The energy a body has by virtue of its motion is called kinetic energy. The formula giving the amount of kinetic energy K that a body of mass m will have at a speed v is K = ½mv2. Note the occurrence of the square of the speed. That means doubling the speed does not double the energy needed but rather quadruples it. Now energy cannot be created or destroyed. So to get your car up to speed the required kinetic energy has to come from somewhere. In a standard internal combustion engine driven vehicle, this energy comes from the chemical energy that was stored in the fuel, in the gasoline or diesel.

When you want to slow down or stop the kinetic energy will be lower at the new lower speed. Since it cannot just be destroyed, this energy must go somewhere. In a normal vehicle it is converted to frictional heat in the brakes. This heat then escapes and the energy is lost forever. Every time you slow down, you are throwing away all of the chemical energy that came from the fuel. Your brakes slow you down and in the process turn gasoline into heat.

What if it were possible capture the kinetic energy that is lost as you slow down and store it for reuse later? Obviously it cannot be converted back into chemical energy in the fuel. Internal combustion engines and standard brakes have no way of capturing the kinetic energy and it must be lost as heat. This is the reason that the Golden Rule of Hypermiling is "Maintain Momentum". Every time you slow down and speed up again, you have turned some fuel into heat.

Electric engines, such as used in hybrid vehicles or NEVs can capture some energy while slowing down. This is because electric engines run off of batteries, which can both provide and store electric energy. Compare that to liquid fuel, which can put energy out but it is impossible to pump energy into. Also an electric engine run in reverse is in fact an electric generator. Depending on which direction you run it, an electric engine can draw stored energy out of a battery to provide work or it can accept outside work, generate electricity and store it in the battery. Regenerative braking basically switches the electric engine to run in reverse, in generator mode. It makes the spinning wheels and drivetrain do work on it. As the drivetrain torques against the electric engine, it slows down, thus slowing your vehicle down. The drivetrain torquing the engine allows it to generate electricity, which is then stored in the battery.

Although regenerative braking is not capable of capturing all of the kinetic energy due to inevitable losses, any percentage it does recover is available to accelerate you back up to speed without needing to put in fresh energy. Unlike normal internal combustion engines and standard braking systems, not all of your motion energy is lost when you slow. And that means you save on energy.


Freight Bikes

During the American golden age that followed World War II, plentiful cheap fuel and the spanking new interstate highway network ushered us into the rise of the personal automobile and “18-wheeler” trucks. As a result, every other method of transport was at least partly neglected. In that world, this made economic sense. But in a world of consistently high fuel prices it is not good to have all your eggs in one overpriced basket.

In a world of high gas prices it makes more sense to diversify transport. Each particular function served by transport can be more efficiently served by a specialized mode. For example, we have looked before at Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles and considered the use of a motorcycle instead of a much heavier and fuel hungrier vehicle. In the long distance point to point hauling of bulk freight specialized trains can be the most fuel efficient solution. And so on.

Freight bikes are bicycles designed to carry a light cargo over local distances. They are almost always tricycles, necessary for stability while loading, parking and unloading. Normally a large box or wire frame basket is attached to the front or rear. Special relatively heavy duty gearing is installed. The frame is also heavier and sturdier.

Although they seem symbolic of underdevelopment to many people, freight bikes are actually a very good solution in situations of fuel unavailability or high fuel price. Obviously their range and cargo load are limited by the human power source. It is also very difficult to operate them in hilly terrain. But for local delivery over flat ground they are perfect. I suspect that as the price of gasoline rises relative to labor we will see more and more of these on the streets of the United States. And if that helps us save on gas, it is a good thing.


Wheel Covers Can Reduce Air Resistance

Racing bicycles have flat disc wheels instead of the open spoked type found in everyday bicycles. The reason is because flat disks have less air resistance. And as speed increases, air resistance quickly increases until it becomes the limiting factor.

The same principle applies to your car. Smooth wheel covers will help streamline the airflow around the wheel well area, lowering the air resistance. Less air resistance means you will get better fuel economy. The next video demonstrates a simple homemade wheel cover. It doesn't have to be fancy. From the point of aerodynamics it only has to be a flat surface. You can even use pie plates!

You can also try to earn a little advertising money with your wheel covers. There are companies like CapAds which sell smooth wheel covers that carry advertising. The wheel cover is designed to stay still and not rotate so the ad can be clearly seen. From the point of view of aerodynamics the important point is that the flat advertising space acts to reduce air resistance! The following video shows a car equipped with advertising wheel covers.

There is a saying that there are no such things as magic silver bullets but there are silver BBs. The idea is that in the real world you can't just push a button and solve big problems like reducing your fuel consumption. But often there are a lot of little things you can do that add up to a solution. The silver BB solution requires work because each individual BB requires a little effort to implement. Just as the benefit of the BBs adds up to a solution, the work required adds up too and can be in total quite an investment. But at the end you have the problem solved. So if saving on gas is a problem for you, consider adding aerodynamic wheel covers to your list of BBs.


Tractor-Trailer Fuel Economy

The trucking industry has paid a lot of attention to fuel economy. For them, their bread and butter depends on it. In fact, for them the word "performance" doesn't bring to mind high speeds or fast accelerations but rather good fuel economy per ton of cargo moved. Therefore looking at what they do to save on gas lets you take advantage of decades of tried and true tips and strategies. Caterpillar has published a report on Understanding Tractor-Trailer Performance which lays out the best ways they know to save gas with a big rig.

Their list of most significant factors affecting fuel economy includes these:

  • Driver

  • Route Selection

  • Vehicle Speed

  • Frontal Area of vehicle

  • Aerodynamics of vehicle

  • Hill Grade

  • Climate

  • Idle Time

  • Tires

  • Transmission

Caterpillar is very clear that the most important factor is the driver. The driver has direct control over many things including speed, accleration rate, usage of the brakes, shifting technique and time spent stopped with the engine idling. According to the report, fleets of identical trucks reveal fuel efficiency differences of 25% between the best and worst drivers. And even a bad trucker will probably drive more fuel efficiently than the average car driver. Truckers naturally develop a hypermiling culture amongst themselves due to the economic pressures in their industry.

The second factor they discuss is route selection. Caterpillar notes that driving in heavy traffic on congested roads notably increases fuel consumption. They find that a route of which 25% of the distance is congested leads to a 15% increase in fuel consumption. A route of which 15% is congested increases fuel consumption 8%. Roughly extrapolating to other percentages of congestion will allow you to estimate the mileage penalty of congested routes. In turn this lets you trade off the fuel penalties of distance and congestion. Choosing a longer route that avoids traffic could actually use less gas.

So Caterpillar is telling us that the most important factors determining your fuel usage and fuel economy are how you drive and where you drive. Read over the report if you have a few spare minutes. If it helps you save on gas, it will be time well spent!


The Aptera Guided Tour

The Aptera is a highly aerodynamic electric powered vehicle made from lightweight composites. It is designed from the ground up to be a gas sipper. The Aptera is built like an aircraft rather than a normal car or truck. That includes careful attention to safety. The Aptera has crumple zones, airbags and hardening against side impacts. The Aptera is a tricycle wheeled vehicle. That was done to reduce the contact area of the wheels with the ground, which reduces rolling resistance. The Aptera also boasts solar powered air conditioning. That is a little less energy that you would otherwise have to load into the batteries. The use of carbon fiber composites lets the Aptera get away with about half the weight of a typical car. Composites also permit the construction of the sleek aerodynamic body. The same body built of steel would be much more expensive. The composites don't sacrifice on strength: they are 10 times stronger than typical car steel.

The video gives you a guided tour of an Aptera. Take the tour and then plug in an Aptera and save on gas!


A Pantry Can Save on Gas

Remember those not so far gone years when everybody kept a well stocked pantry? Or a shelf or two of preserves in the basement? Keeping a stock of food can help you save on gas by reducing the miles you drive. If you find yourself going to the store every day to pick up a couple of things you will rack up the odometer pretty fast, burning gas while you do it. Consider instead going shopping less frequently and buying more. Make one big grocery run every week, or even every couple of weeks.

Maintaining a store of food and other consumibles in your house has gone out of fashion in today's just in time world. But it brings more benefits than just reducing gas usage. You will save on time too. All of those "convenience" trips add up to more time than one big monthly run. And you will always have an emergency supply. For those unpredictable times when something happens, like a big storm or the power system goes down you will be ready.


Tonneau Covers Help Pickups Save Gas

For about $600 you can install a hard fiberglass tonneau cover on your pickup. Tonneau covers improve pickup aerodynamics so you will see a drop in your fuel consumption. Especially if you frequently drive at highway speeds. This is because at higher speeds aerodynamic drag becomes more and more important. If you are used to taking your pickup with an open bed up to speed on the highway, you could easily find yourself saving back the $600 investment in less than a couple of years.

The video shows the steps involved in the installation of a hard tonneau cover. As you can see it is basically simple. Clean the cover off, apply alcohol to the rails and corners to prepare it for some protective waterproofing tape and then apply the tape. The tape is basically a seal. Then it is a matter of tightening down some C-clamps, brackets and bolts. Done! Something simple and cheap to do can make a noticeable difference in your pickup's gas mileage. So go ahead, install a tonneau cover and save on gas!