Techniques for Drivers to Conserve Fuel
Drivers can conserve fuel by learning how different driving behaviors affect fuel economy and by adopting techniques to save fuel and money. The amount of fuel your vehicle consumes depends heavily on how you drive. See the information below and FuelEconomy.gov for information about driving efficiently.
Slow Down and Drive Conservatively
Speeding increases fuel consumption and decreases fuel economy as a result of tire rolling resistance and air resistance. While vehicles reach optimal fuel economy at different speeds, gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 miles per hour (mph). For light-duty vehicles, for example, every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying $0.17 more per gallon of gas (based on the price of gas at $2.39 per gallon). Reducing your speed by 5 to 10 mph can improve fuel economy by 7%–14%.
Using cruise control on the highway can help drivers maintain a constant speed; vehicles use the most energy when accelerating. Obeying the speed limit, accelerating and braking gently and gradually, and reading the road ahead can improve the fuel economy of your vehicle by 15%–30% at highway speeds and 10%–40% in stop-and-go traffic. Driving more sensibly is also much safer for you and others.
Combining trips can save you time and money by avoiding unnecessary stopping and starting of your vehicle, which can be an issue in colder climates where it takes longer for your engine to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature. Shorter trips can use twice as much fuel as one long, multi-purpose trip that covers the same distance, when the engine is warm and at its most fuel-efficient temperature. Engine and transmission friction increases with cold engine oil and other drive-line fluids, making the engine less efficient. Trip planning can reduce the distance you travel and the amount of time you drive with a cold engine. For information on how cold weather affects fuel economy, see FuelEconomy.gov’s Fuel Economy in Cold Weather page.
Reduce Vehicle Load
The additional weight of items left in a vehicle requires more fuel to propel your vehicle. An extra 100 pounds in your trunk, for example, could reduce your fuel economy by about 1%. Hauling rooftop cargo also increases drag, which can reduce fuel economy from 2% to 8% in city driving, 6% to 17% on the highway, and 10% to 25% at 65–75 mph. Offload any unnecessary items to reduce the fuel consumption of your vehicle.
Drivers may find it difficult to recognize opportunities to conserve fuel while driving. A 2018 study by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation found that instantaneous or in-vehicle feedback affects driver behavior and improves fuel economy on average of 6.6% and can result in even greater driving improvements when combined with other strategies, such as driver training or performance-based rewards.
Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly providing instant driver feedback through in-vehicle displays. For example, Honda's Eco Assist feature involves a sophisticated feedback system that teaches drivers how to drive more efficiently and what behaviors affect their fuel economy. Nissan’s ECO Pedal also provides an indicator on the dashboard as well as an accelerator pedal push-back control mechanism to prevent engine revving. Nissan found that effective driving behavior with ECO Pedal dashboard indicator and drive assist can improve fuel efficiency by 5–10%. Aftermarket feedback devices are also available.