Gas Mileage

Don't be fuelish: Here's how to boost your fuel economy and save money at the pump

There are some easy ways to get more miles per gallon.

Photo by Getty Images/boonchai wedmakawand

If you own a car and are among the 99 percent of Americans not driving an electric vehicle, you likely spend a considerable amount of time and money at the fuel pump. And, unless you plan to purchase an electric car, this continued fuel consumption is not going to stop — even Toyota Prius owners need to fill up occasionally.

However, there are some easy things to do, as well as habits to change, that will at least make your trips to the gas station less frequent. So not only will you be using less of the planet's finite gas reserves, you'll be spending less cash, too.

Proper inflation

Midsection Of Woman Inflating Tire

Photo by Getty Images/Siam Pukkato/EyeEm

Make sure your car's tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Don't use the maximum-pressure number on the tire sidewall, look for the sticker or plaque on the driver's side door jamb – these will show you the correct inflation numbers for your vehicle.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI that a tire is below its optimal pressure. In addition to the fuel savings, properly inflated tires are safer and will increase tread life.

Junk in the trunk

Dog by car full of luggage

Photo by Getty Images

If you're hiking with a heavy backpack, you're going to run out of energy a lot sooner than if you're carrying a light daypack. The same reasoning applies to your car. If you're carrying around a 50-pound bag of dog food, the pile of books you keep forgetting to return to the library or your pristine collection of every print edition of the Weekly World News (BatBoy Lives!), your car has to work a lot harder, and therefore uses fuel more rapidly.

According to the DOE, every 100 pounds can drop fuel economy by one percent. So clean out the trunk, removing anything you don't need in there (best to keep the spare tire and jack, though), and you may find that your car actually has better performance as well as improved fuel economy.

​Lead foot or light foot?

Low Section Of Man Wearing Shoes On Pedals In Car

Photo by Getty Images/José Luis Salinas/EyeEm

Are you one of those people who sees every red light as a signal that a race is about to begin? The light turns green and you put your foot to the floor to beat the car next to you off the line. Although pretending you're a racecar driver can be fun, as those revs ramp up your gas gauge is quickly going the other way. Instead, be light and smooth on the accelerator and you will quickly see positive results in fuel mileage. There's also a lot less wear and tear on your car and tires when you take it easy on the throttle.

No speeding

Roadside sign in desert landscape

Photo by Getty Images/Gary Yeowell

A typical speedometer will indicate that the vehicle can go 120 mph —or more — and most modern cars are fully capable of going well beyond most posted speed limits. Not only will that practice get you an expensive speeding ticket or worse (a big repair bill, an extensive hospital stay, or a lavish lawsuit), it will also make your car guzzle gas like it's going out of style.

As your speed increases over 50 mph, your fuel economy rapidly decreases. This is especially true with many of today's smaller, fuel-efficient engines — with less power they have to work much harder as speed increases. Stick to the posted speed and you'll make it a lot farther before you need to stop for a fill-up.

Check your rack

2021 Subaru CrosstrekPhoto courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

Most modern cars go through considerable wind-tunnel testing to make them as aerodynamic as possible, which improves efficiency and performance. When you put a large rack or cargo box on the roof, all of that wind-tunnel work gets blown away. The DOE estimates that a roof-mounted cargo box can decrease fuel economy as much as 25 percent at highway speeds. Skis, boats, bikes or other equipment carried topside have similar results. Granted, there are times when you legitimately need to carry these items, but remove them when they're not needed. Whenever possible use a rear-mounted carrier, or pack your gear inside.

Windows down or air conditioning?

Happy boy look out from auto window

Photo by Getty Images/Solovyova

Everyone wants to be comfortable in their car, and when it gets too hot, the answer is to either roll down the windows (in most cars, of course, "roll down" means push the button) or turn on the air-conditioning. At slower speed when driving around town, lowering the windows makes the most sense.

Air-conditioning puts a load on the engine and will definitely reduce fuel economy. However, at highway speeds lowered windows add considerable drag on your car, which in turn reduces fuel economy. So if you're going to be on the freeway, raise the windows and turn on the AC — there will still be a drop in fuel economy, but this is the lesser of the two options.

Or, you can go with option three (AC off, windows up), but we really don't recommend that during the dog days of summer.

Plan your itinerary

2016 Audi A7

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

If you have a number of places to go, make a plan to cover them all in one outing. Shorter trips with a number of cold starts will use much more fuel than if the engine only has one cold start and stays warm for the rest of your drive. It's also beneficial to plan your route to reach all your destinations with the shortest driving time. Be sure you choose the right time to go, if you can — avoiding rush hour will reduce your stop-and-go driving, improving both your fuel economy and your mood.

Avoid idling for a long while

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sitting in your car with the engine running is quite inefficient — that's obvious. When you're not moving, you're getting zero miles per gallon. According to the DOE, you can use a quarter to a half gallon of gasoline per hour while idling — possibly more depending on engine size and if your air-conditioner is running. This is why many newer cars shut themselves off automatically when you brake to a stop, restarting automatically when you release the brake. If you're going to be waiting in your car for a while, shut it off. It doesn't take much fuel to restart it, and you'll be saving gas and money, as well as being good to the environment.

Cruise control

2022 Chevrolet Traverse High CountryPhoto courtesy of Chevrolet

Keeping a steady speed on the highway can go a long way to improving fuel economy, and using cruise control is the easiest way to do that. However, this method only works when the road is relatively flat —cruise control will try to keep a vehicle's speed constant even when climbing hills or mountain roads, which makes the engine work harder, thus burning more fuel.

Proper motor oil

motor oil

Photo by Getty Images

Most people don't specify a type of oil when getting their oil changed, but this too can affect your fuel mileage. Look in the owner's manual to see what grade of motor oil your vehicle's manufacturer recommends for your car — using the correct oil can improve fuel economy up to two percent.

Buy a new, more fuel-efficient car

The 2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid gets 100 MPGe and 37 miles of all-electric range for under $35,000Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Compay

Clearly this isn't an option for everyone, but cars today are among the most fuel-efficient ever produced, so if you are in the market for something new this is your chance to make a difference. If you can increase your fuel economy from 15 mpg to 30 mpg, based on $3 per gallon and 15,000 miles of driving per year, that's a $1,500 savings each year — enough coin for quite a few lattes. Added bonus: odds are the new car will be running much cleaner than your current ride.

Be hybrid and electric vehicle savvy

Rivian R1S

Even if you have already made the jump into a very efficient vehicle, there are still ways to improve your mileage. Avoiding hard braking will make better use of the regenerative braking system, putting more energy back into the batteries — for free. Any vehicle that you can plug in should be plugged in whenever you have the chance — especially true for plug-in hybrids, since the more charge you have, the less often the internal combustion engine will need to run. Most of these vehicles have indicators to tell drivers how to drive more efficiently. Listen to your car — it knows what it's doing.

Public transportation

Young mother father and infant riding city bus

Photo by Getty Images/Tony Anderson

Okay, okay, so we're being Captain Obvious. And Americans love their cars, so this may be the most difficult fuel-saving tip to follow: Leave your car at home. Take a bus, ride your bike, carpool to work (with this option you still get to drive, sometimes) or if the distance is short enough (or you're in really good shape) you can simply walk. It may be a no-brainer, but the less you use your car, the less fuel it will use.

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First-year Ford F-150 Lightning production numbers doubled
Ford

Ford has begun serial production of the new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, marking what could be one of the most important days in recent automotive history. The first trucks rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan today, so America's best-selling truck has finally gone electric. Ford wants to sell two million EVs per year by 2026 and have half of its global sales volume to be electric by 2030.

Ford F-150 LightningPast meets future: Ford's new electric pickup will be the F-150 Lightningautomotivemap.com

Ford has seen extreme demand for the trucks, with 200,000 reservations since the books opened. To deliver, the automaker plans to increase production to an annual rate of 150,000 units by next year, which involved huge investments in the Rouge Center and created hundreds of jobs. Ford's total investment for the F-150 Lightning crests $1 billion across Michigan alone, and has created 1,700 jobs across various facilities in the state.

Ford F-150 LightningThe first production trucks left the factory today.
Ford Motor Company

Though the Lightning starts around $40,000, the most mainstream models will cost much more than that. The F-150 Lightning Pro, while affordable, is a stripped-down truck intended for commercial buyers. It's still a forward-looking electric truck with amazing capabilities, but it lacks much of the creature comforts and features that everyday drivers expect. Higher trims get the latest driver assistance features, including BlueCruise, which is Ford's semi-autonomous hands-free driving assistant. A 12-inch touchscreen is standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.

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Electric pickup truck

Ford F-150 Lightning could get tank turn

Ford patented a tank turn feature in late 2020.

Ford

The F-150 Lightning is packed with cool tech and capability, but we're learning that Ford has even bigger plans for its first electric pickup. Inside EVs found an exciting document on the Lightning Owners Forum that shows ford applied to patent a tank turn feature like the one we saw Rivian pull off a few years ago, where the truck spins around a center point using its electric motors. Rivian's tank turn feature still hasn't made it to market, so it's possible that Ford beats them to the punch.

Ford F-150 LightningTank turn allows the truck to spin while almost completely stationary.Ford

Ford applied for the patent in October 2020, but it's just now making its way out. In the document, Ford gives an example of how it could work: "Methods, apparatus, systems and articles of manufacture are disclosed to perform a tank turn. An example vehicle includes a first wheel and a second wheel, the first wheel located on an end of a first axle, the second wheel located on an end of the second axle, the end of the first axle opposite to the end of the second axle, a first suspension coupled to the first wheel, a second suspension coupled to the second wheel, and a controller to drive the first axle in a first direction, drive the second axle in the second direction and decrease a first suspension load of the first suspension and a second suspension load of the second suspension."

As Inside EVs points out, Rivian's tank turn feature employs the R1 T's quad-motor setup to drive each wheel individually. The F-150 Lightning doesn't currently have a four-motor choice and instead offers two motors – one on each axle. It's important to note that Rivian patented tank turn and showed that it could work, but there hasn't yet been a production vehicle that offers the capability. Toyota filed a patent in 2019, but again it's just paperwork at this point.

Ford F-150 LightningNo automaker has brought tank turn to production yet.

To achieve the turn, Ford has a few options. The most obvious would be to offer a quad-motor upgrade in future model years. It's unclear if such a feature is in the works or if Ford plans to provide beefier versions of the Lightning, such as a Raptor variant with upgraded motors. The automaker could also design gearing to reverse the wheels on one side while the others drive forward, or it could use braking to lock the wheels and tighten the turning radius.

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