I've scoured the internet for the last year (plus) looking for mileage and fuel economy related sites. One of the "rules of thumb" I've seen quoted is that "you will lose 1% to 2% of your gas mileage for every 100 pounds of excess weight you carry" (see here for example). Since I tend to be a pack rat and that tendency extends to the cargo area of my Grand Cherokee, it's one of the areas where further savings may be possible.
First, suppose it is true. In that case if I removed, say, 200 pounds of stuff from the car I could expect to improve from the 23.6 m.p.g. I am currently averaging to about 24.1 m.p.g. In the course of the approximately 20,250 miles I drive per year, I could expect to save about 17.8 gallons. At current Southern California prices, that represents a savings of a little over $43. Maybe dinner at Islands for two, but no movie afterward. Of course, long-term readers of my blog (lol) will realize that this likely exceeds the savings realized by eschewing the drive through window. That means I MUST do it if I can demonstrate that it's a plausible number. Let's see what we can do.
A couple of posts back I discussed mass as it relates to mileage. As related there, I think there are probably three detrimental effects of a more massive vehicle on gas mileage. Only two can be controlled by eliminating weight from a given vehicle: the energy cost of lifting mass up hills and not receiving full repayment on downhills; and tire rolling friction.
I will make an educated guess that increased dissipative losses on hills due to increased weight are a so-called "second order effect" and that the primary effect of increased weight on fuel economy is based on the increased rolling friction. I have cited a web site several times where the author discusses the physics of automobiles, and on that site the author contends that rolling friction is approximately 1.5% of vehicle weight at freeway speed. His discussion is actually more detailed, but that's my estimate based on the information he provided. In another post I've shown that his calculations agree with the ones I've made based on fuel consumption, so I think it's reasonable to use his figures.
Thus, I can estimate that 200 extra pounds would result in 3 extra pounds of rolling friction. Since fuel expended to maintain speed is proportional to the total resistive force, which I calculated using the rate of fuel consumption in a previous post as approximately 139 pounds, and that I will calculate in a subsequent post using a different method as 170 pounds, 3 pounds represents somewhere between 2.2% and 1.8% of total resistive force. The "second order effect" mentioned above will only add to the savings, though likely by a minor amount. But that's pretty close to the 2% to 4% predicted by the rule of thumb, so, out comes the junk.