Environment Matters Podcast
Topic: Do gas mileage gadgets really work?
Date: July 25, 2008
(car noises, horns honking etc.)
Joan Schafer With gas prices sky high this summer, drivers are looking for
anything that will help them get more miles to the gallon.
Hi, I’m Joan Schafer of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment
Matters…our new series of podcasts.
There are a lot of gadgets on the market today that promise better
fuel economy. But are they worth the money? Will they do what
the ads promise? What can we really do to improve fuel economy
and stretch our gasoline dollars?
EPA’s Brian Rehn says drivers should approach such
fuel-saving devices and fuel additives with caution.
Brian Rehn: Drivers want to find a device that will, at a low cost, help them
to reduce their gasoline usage especially with the steep increase in
the price of gas and the greater reliance on foreign imports to
support our growing oil dependence. There are quite a few
products being sold now…fuel line magnets, chemical additives,
ionizers, inline flow fans, air disturbers. There are such things as
additives that you can dump in the tank that supposedly will stretch
your mileage, and some even claim to be able to run the car on
water. But the truth of the matter is, EPA has tested over a
hundred of such devices and in general they don't meet the
manufacturer’s claims of improved fuel economy. In general, if it
sounds too good to be true, it probably is. EPA maintains a list of
such devices here on our website at www.epa.gov.
Joan Schafer: Some of these devices are very inexpensive but there are others
that have to be installed by an auto mechanic – which could cost
several hundreds of dollars.
Brian, what steps can drivers take to really improve their gas
Brian Rehn: The best advice I can give is…drive efficiently. Speeding and
aggressive acceleration, running up on traffic lights, hard use of the
brakes, these all can lower gas mileage by up to a third. I suggest
that you drive as though there’s an egg under the accelerator and
you don’t want to break it. Use your brakes judiciously, gently
slowing down well before you expect the need to stop. Another
obvious tip is simply slow down. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at
speeds above 60 miles an hour. In fact, you can assume that for
every five miles an hour you drive over 60 you're paying 30
cents a gallon extra for your gas. Also, try traveling lightly. Take
anything out that’s weighing it down. An extra 100 pounds of
weight could reduce your mileage by upwards of two percent.
Also, if your car has a roof-mounted rack or box take it off when
you're not using it. It's a drag-on fuel economy. Finally, avoid
extended periods of idling. If you're parked waiting for someone
for more than a minute, in general, it pays to shut off the vehicle.
Also, cars today don't need to warm up their engine and the
climate-control systems in a modern car can heat or cool it fairly
quickly after start up.
Joan Schafer: Would it help my gas mileage if I took my car in for a tune-up?
Brian Rehn: Absolutely. Keeping your car well-maintained is always a good
idea. Replacing a clogged air filter alone can help the car breathe
and increase your fuel economy by upwards of 10 percent. A full
tune up is even better. Change the oil according to the schedule in
the car's owner manual and be sure to use the correct oil viscosity
and grade per the owner's manual. Look for a label in the oil that
says energy-conserving. That means that the oil contains friction-
reducing additives to improve fuel economy. Finally, don't forget
to check the air pressure in your tires. It might seem like a small
thing but low tire pressure means tires wear faster and adds drag on
the car. Finally, buy the minimum octane grade of gasoline that
meets the level stated in the owner's manual. Higher octane is
wasted on a car that doesn't need it. It's like flushing dollars down
Joan Schafer: With the gas prices we're seeing today, a lot of people are out
looking to purchase a new car. Is there any advice you can give
Brian Rehn: Yes. Fuel economy has become a priority for today's shoppers
when it hasn't been in the past. If you only haul a few things,
infrequently, consider buying a smaller car instead of a truck and
renting a truck on those odd occasions when you need one. The
difference between a car that gets 30 miles per gallon versus one
that gets 20 miles per gallon adds up to a savings of upwards of
$1,000 a year.
Joan Schafer: You've given us some great ideas on making the best use of our car
and gasoline. Do you have any suggestions, however, on getting
us out of a car altogether?
Brian Rehn: The most important one would be to consider using mass transit if
it's available in your area. If telecommuniting or compressed work
weeks are an option at your workplace, talk to your employer about
taking advantage of them. This eliminates your commute entirely
on one or more days of the week. Also, if you have a long
commute look into carpooling as an option. You can search the
internet for carpool message boards if you're having trouble
finding someone going where you're going. In addition to saving
gas, these measures not only help the environment but reduce wear
and tear and depreciation on your car. They can even lower your
insurance rate and as an added benefit reduce your stress levels
from driving in traffic. And one last thing, it also helps the
Joan Schafer: Since we're talking about high gas prices, let me remind you that EPA
advises…don’t top off your gas tank. The gas nozzle
automatically clicks off when your gas tank is full. Any additional
gas you try to pump into your tank may never make it into the
tank, even though you’ve paid for it. If you'd like more
information on this topic, please refer to the joint EPA and
Department of Energy website - fueleconomy.gov (gov) or visit the
Green Vehicle Guide on EPA's website - epa.gov.
Thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our news series of
(car noises, horns honking etc.)