Conserve fuel, save money, and reduce your individual carbon footprint with these simple ways to use less gas this summer.
For many Americans, summertime means road trips and hot, sunny days spent driving with the windows rolled down, and the promise of a beach in the distance. But with gas prices hitting record highs, and analysts predicting that prices at the pump may reach an average of $5 per gallon by July, summer travel is slated to be more expensive than ever.
And as energy insecurity continues to rise, emerging technologies and green fuels will be key to reducing global reliance on gas and overall carbon emissions. (According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Quality, every gallon of gas burned produces more than 20 pounds of greenhouse gasses.)
The silver lining? Soaring gas prices may be the kickstart we need for expansive decarbonization, faster adoption of electric vehicles, and an incentive for consumers to drive less to conserve fuel — and save their wallets.
If you’re looking to use less gas and lower your individual carbon emissions this summer, here’s how to extend the life of a full tank, make more sustainable choices, and save a few bucks while you’re at it.
Read more: Why We Need to Go Beyond Electric Vehicles
Keep Your Car Running At Its Best
A well-maintained car has the most efficient gas mileage. To keep your vehicle running at its best, the American Automobile Association recommends performing regular car maintenance — like oil changes — at the intervals specified by the car manufacturer, which can be found in the owner’s manual or by the dinging reminders on your dashboard. Don’t ignore them!
When you do get an oil change, make sure you’re using the proper type of oil for your vehicle — most newer cars require low-viscosity, energy-conserving, or semi- or full-synthetic oils. Clean out the engine air filter — which can decrease fuel economy in older cars — and check the tires for proper inflation at least once a month. Limp tires slow down the car, reducing its overall fuel efficiency.
Interestingly, keeping the inside of your car tidy is also important. Discarded coffee cups, water bottles, old sweaters, the box of items in your trunk that never seem to make it to Goodwill — they all weigh down your car. And according to the AAA, “an extra 100 pounds can reduce fuel economy up to one percent.”
Follow the speed limits. Optimum gas mileage peaks at around 50 mph, then drops off as you drive faster. If you’re prone to speeding on the highway, slowing down by as little as five to 10 mph can improve how efficiently your car uses gas by seven to 14 percent. And avoid rapid acceleration or hard braking, which can lower fuel economy by 15 to 30 percent at highway speeds.
Idling your car wastes gas, too. So the next time you’re sitting in the drive-thru, picking up a friend at the airport, or double-parked, turn off the engine. Not only does idling your car waste up to half a gallon per hour, it releases harmful chemicals, gasses, and particle pollution into the air that contribute to ozone depletion, regional haze, and global climate change. Air pollution is also linked to respiratory diseases such as asthma and even cardiovascular disease.
Read more: The True Cost of Air Pollution
Choose a Different Mode of Transportation
Instead of driving to your destination, take a train or bus. And if where you’re headed is close, walk or bike. Not only will you save on gas money, you’ll also support your own wellness and reduce your environmental impact.
Traveling by rail has a significantly lower energy and carbon footprint than driving a car or truck, which are among the largest sources of emissions in the U.S. You can use local or national trains to get almost anywhere — in fact, the U.S. has the longest freight railway system in the world, and Amtrak hosts a robust network of passenger train lines across the country. Plus, most cities have affordable public bus systems, which is another great way to reduce reliance on your personal vehicle.
When you can, walk or bike. About 28 percent of Americans jump in the car to travel distances that are less than one mile — trips that, in many cases, can be easily walked or cycled. Of course, there are large swaths of the U.S. that are essentially unwalkable. So if you must drive, carpool and minimize multiple trips as much as possible.
If you’re in the market for a new car, eliminate your reliance on gas altogether by purchasing an electric vehicle. Powered by batteries, electric cars have no tailpipe emissions and are generally cheaper to recharge than refueling a gas car. And with major car companies like Ford, Volvo, GM, and VW investing millions in electric vehicle fleets, making the switch is easier than ever. Another bonus? No oil changes and limited maintenance.
Not ready to go all-in? Hybrid-electric vehicles, which run on a combination of fuel and electricity, are another sustainable option that use significantly less fuel and emit far fewer emissions than gas-powered cars.
Read more: Coming Soon: Electric Trucks
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