Driving with Jens: Small changes can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy

The rules are very similar whether you are driving a gas or electric vehicle

Petro Canada recently announced that it will be installing charging stations at its service stations across the country. This will offer fuel and electric vehicle owners a common place to top their vehicle up and have access to the other amenities the stations have to offer —bathrooms, wi-fi, snacks and such.

If you’d like to be able to pass by these stations more often without needing to stop, there are behaviors that can help you improve your vehicle’s fuel economy and a lot of these behaviors are the same whether your vehicle is electric or gas.

The first step would be to determine what your current fuel economy is.

At your next fill up either make a note of your current mileage or reset the trip odometer to zero. Now drive as you normally would until your next fill up. Make note of how many kilometers you’ve driven, either by subtracting your starting mileage from your current mileage or by just looking at the trip odometer.

Now divide the number of kilometers driven by the number of litres it took to refill your vehicle. This is your current fuel economy. Example: if you drove 100 kilometers and used nine litres of fuel, your current fuel economy would be nine litres per 100 kilometers, or approximately 30 miles per gallon.

You can use a similar method to determine what kind of mileage you get with a charge. Once you know where you’re currently at, try making some changes and see if they help.

The first thing you can do is slow down. A heavy foot costs you fuel economy. It’s estimated that fuel economy can be increased by as much as 15 per cent by driving under 100 km/h. Faster driving uses more engine power to overcome drag. Quick acceleration is another enemy of good fuel economy. It’s similar for electric vehicles. The more power you use the quicker your battery drains.

Keep your tires properly inflated. Check your tire pressure regularly. Low tire pressure increases the rolling resistance of your vehicle and will negatively affect fuel economy. Properly inflated tires can increase fuel economy by up to 3%. Tires can lose 1 psi per month, so it’s recommended that you check your tire pressure at least monthly. I doubt most of us ever check our tire pressure, but we absolutely should. Again, the same principle applies to electric vehicles.

Lighten your load. Weight is a big deal with stop and go driving. An extra 100 pounds affects fuel economy by one to two per cent. It will also have a similar effect on battery life.

Remove your roof rack when it’s not needed. More drag on your vehicle will result in more fuel and battery consumption. Even aerodynamic racks cause drag.

Avoid using the air conditioning when not needed. A/C causes the engine to work harder and thus lessens fuel economy. Rolling down the windows may be enough cooling. It’s recommended that you cool off or heat up your electric vehicle while it’s still plugged-in so you start with a comfortable vehicle and a full charge.

Adjust your braking habits. Re-acceleration after braking reduces economy. Long, slower braking will allow regenerative brake charging systems to charge your battery.

Enable your overdrive if you have this feature. This will increase fuel and battery economy at higher speeds by using a higher gear.

Avoid idling if not necessary. Idling uses more fuel than you may think. With electric vehicles be conscious of using stereos and other battery draws while stopped.

If you work on most of these items, and change your habits, it will make a huge difference in your economy.

Whether you drive a gas or electric vehicle. With gas vehicles history has shown you could easily increase our fuel economy by 15 per cent.

This may not sound like a lot but if you spend $250 per month on fuel, this would amount to over $450 per year. That’s 450 free dollars just by having the discipline to change some habits.

With electric vehicles, being conscious of these habits and working to improve them will also improve your range between battery charges.

The economy of gas vehicles has greatly improved over the years and the economy on electric vehicles will greatly improve as the technology improves. You can greatly add to either these improvements by adjusting your driving habits.

Change your habits as we’ve discussed here for a month while tracking your fuel or battery economy. Then decide for you self if it’s worth continuing with these new habits.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

Driving With Jens

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