“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The low hanging fruit

I've been driving to maximize fuel economy (minimize fuel consumption) and keeping detailed records of the effort for almost four years. I've been blogging about this and related topics for over three years. I've done all this while driving what would be considered "gas guzzlers." Some may scoff at such efforts, and the following is not meant to encourage people to trade in their fuel sippers for SUV's with big engines.

But I'm driving a vehicle (the Land Rover LR3 HSE) that is EPA estimated to achieve 16 m.p.g. combined. This is pretty close too, in the early days of driving it when I gave up on hypermiling attempts and drove it normally, that was about what I got. I now have a 10 tank and combined moving average of 21 m.p.g. A five m.p.g. difference, big deal, you say. Ah, but it is.

We discuss m.p.g., but the key here is g.p.m., the inverse. In a typical 10,000 mile year, at 16 m.p.g., a vehicle would use 625 gallons of fuel. At 21 m.p.g., it uses 476 gallons, 149 gallons less. If you're currently in a vehicle that gets 30 m.p.g., you'd have to drive in such a way as to achieve 54.2 m.p.g. to save a similar amount of fuel. And each of those saved gallons means about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide is not emitted.

If a driver can change his or her habits to increase mileage from 14 m.p.g. to 15 m.p.g., in a 10,000 mile year that driver will save approximately the same number of gallons as a driver who increases mileage from 25 m.p.g. to 28.4 m.p.g.

The point here is not to justify gas guzzlers, nor is it to pat myself on the back. Rather, it is to point out that there are an awful lot of gas guzzlers on the road, and they are the "low hanging fruit" for fuel savings. Unfortunately, few of the drivers of such vehicles share my craving for maximum fuel economy so the trick is in getting people on board this fruit truck.

And the same rationale that applies to individual drivers applies to car companies as well. Dramatically more fuel is saved if Ford improves the mileage of 20,000 pickup trucks from 14 m.p.g. to 17 m.p.g. than if they change the mileage of 20,000 compact cars from 32 m.p.g. to 35 m.p.g. I know that I'm not the first to come to this realization, but I think it receives far too little attention in the hypermiling and fuel economizing communities.


steelworx said...

In some thing slightly relevant but definitely off topic have you heard about the man who kept all his trash for a year?


Pretty interesting.

King of the Road said...

Most interesting, thanks for that!