How to Drive Your Car AND Help the Environment
August 22, 2006
Many of us want to help the environment. We care about global warming. But we also need transportation.
Especially for those of us that live in large cities not well equipped with public transportation, or those who live in out-of-the-way areas tens of miles away from civilization - without a vehicle to get around in, we can't get around at all!
I know personally that I get aggravated at the seeming lack of options out there for truly improving the environment while handling my transportation needs. Here, in Los Angeles, public transportation is mediocre at best. And the hybrid cars pushed at us from car companies are often discovered to do little in helping the environment.
So I took the liberty to discover ways I could help the environment driving the car I already own. And I also investigated some alternative fuels.
Tips for Driving Your Existing Vehicle in Environmentally Friendly Ways
A. Put the road rage aside and get comfortable with cruising! Just smile at every tree you pass and remember to drive at a controlled, steady pace. Don't immediately speed up to the speed limit just to hit your breaks at the next stop light. And try to shift into the next gear as soon as possible, instead of letting the RPGs get too high.
Why does this help? Because sudden acceleration and braking burns far more fuel. More fuel being burned means greater emissions. Also, the best speed for fuel economy is between 50-60 mph. If you're on the freeway and traffic moves at a faster pace, try not to go above 75 mph as anything above this seems to burn inordinately more fuel.
B. Especially important for Los Angelenos: if you get stuck in traffic, or behind an accident, turn off your engine. Idling uses fuel, especially if you drive a manual vehicle and must constantly rev the engine or ease the car forward.
C. Save air conditioning for must-need moments. Running your air conditioner will actually increase fuel consumption by as much as 10%, so roll down your windows and suck in the fresh air you're trying to protect! If you must run your air, recycle it within your vehicle and turn it off once the temperature in the cabin goes down.
D. If you're in the market for a new vehicle, of course go smaller and more compact when possible.
E. Take off any racks, boxes, or other items that may be on the roof of your vehicle. These cause wind resistance and add to the weight of your auto. Unfortunately this will reduce your fuel economy - sometimes significantly.
F. Car pool. Yes it's obvious, but still people forget to do this. More importantly, unless you're hauling a family of 7 or the entire soccer team, go with the smallest vehicle possible that gets the best fuel economy. And if you're meeting a friend somewhere, take turns picking each other up for your get togethers. That can also save on parking costs and hassles in highly crowded cities.l
G. Use cruise control when appropriate on highways and freeways. Always be safe, but if you can comfortably use your cruise control, do so. It will ensure that as you drive, you don't accidentally slow down and speed up, which is normal on long drives as our attention gets waylaid or we inadvertently drive at the same pace as the car next to us.
Did You Know? Alternative Fuels Are Out There!
Unless you're a die-hard environmentalist or car enthusiast interested in building your own vehicle (which is possible by the way!), you probably haven't heard about the alternative fuels available for standard vehicles. This is largely because these fuels are not near as profitable as oil.
Biodiesel (Globaldiesel) This is a diesel equivalent, processed fuel that is derived from natural sources. You can purchase biodiesel and use it in your own diesel engine without making any changes to your vehicle. Such fuel is a blend of ultralow sulphur diesel and rapeseed oil
However, you can also create your own biodiesel from used cooking oil (just ask your local restaurants to donate it to you!). However, in this case you would need to modify your diesel engine.
Sulphur-Free Petrol Many vehicles currently use Ultralow Sulphur Petrol or Diesel. Over the next couple years, this will progress to using Sulphur-Free Petrol. In 2008 use of such will be compulsory in the UK. Apparently, this will take affect in the US as well.
BioEthanol A distillation of wheat, biomass, and sugar, BioEthanol produces less air pollutants than traditional fossil fuels. It is also renewable. There are different forms of this, including one that uses water and can be used without modifying your engine, and other types that can be mixed with traditional fuel or, if used exclusively, requires engine modifications.
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