Saving gas - on a familiar (lightly travelled) roAd

joyfulguyJune 10, 2008

About five years ago on the death of childless step-uncle's wife, we were worried about his safety, as he'd had three hip replacements and despite suffering substantial pain in back, hip and leg, was, in his mid-80s, keeping some beef cattle in the barn. With a partner in the house to call help if he fell into a snowbank and couldn't get out, help was summoned. No watchful partner - no call for help. And he wouldn't carry one of those buttons on a string around his neck that he could use to call for help. So I stayed here with him for a couple of months, until his cattle went to pasture.

A couple of years later, when uncle died, his executors wanted to have the place look occupied, so I travelled from the edge of the city on mostly rather quiet roads, often late at night, to sleep here and spend time. The trip was 20 km. (12.5 mi.) according to my little Dodge Colt's odometer (old Ford van said it was 18km., plus a bit, I think).

Travelling daily, I became familiar with the minor variations in gradation of the road (though often at night made it slightly more difficult). My little Dodge Colt had 1.5 litre engine, and a standard tranny, and I would push in the clutch and turn the key off when running downhill, or to a "STOP" sign, turning the key on and letting out the clutch to re-start at a low point (or just as I arrived at the sign ... and with some practice, if there is no traffic, one can often arrange to be going quite slowly on arrival at the sign (or traffic signal, in the city).

I found that I was able to coast for 16.6 km. of that 20 km. journey ... just could not make 17.0 km! If anyone had told me that I could have achieved that proportion (over 80%!) of the trip with engine not running ... I would have said that they were crazy!

I didn't arrange it most efficiently, though, for often I'd be travelling quite slowly at the low point on the road, and would push the throttle rather hard, in third gear rather than fifth, in order to achieve speed while travelling up a rather short upgrade, in order to turn off and coast down the next downhill portion.

The most effective system would be to keep the gearshift in fifth gear throughout, and to avoid pushing the throttle hard while travelling up the rises: gentle throttling is way the best for gas saving.

Didn't do it much when travelling using the '80 van - automatic transmission - too much using of the starter. You know what starters cost, even at the recycler's ... even supposing that, on that older, simpler van, I might have been able to install it myself.

Some police persons that I've asked haven't said that coasting is illegal ... but they say that the driver is to be in full control of the vehicle at all times.

I couldn't have asked the driving examiners while travelling on my three road tests ... but I should have asked them before the trip, or on our return.

The driving instructor said that coasting's not permitted.

While it's somewhat more difficult to turn the steering wheel while the engine's off, I have strong arms and could compensate. And I can have the engine running in less than one second.

I had residual pressure in the braking system to allow for two pushes, sometimes three.

I only turned the ignition part way off - eough to leave the radio running, and not lock the steering wheel.

Have a frugal week, everyone.

ole joyful

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Yes, but imagine a bunch of people all trying to use that method on a busy highway at the same time!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 6:19AM
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My car comes with a MPG display which I use all the time. It only measures up to 99.9 mpg, which is easily attainable by simply drifting- no need to turn off engine. I can save 20% by driving in the slow lane at the posted speed limit instead of my usual speed, so it is possible to reduce gas consumption even on the highway. I also save quite a bit by accelerating slowly (I used to be quite the jackrabbit). My car is rated to get 26 city and 35 hwy, but I have been getting 35 overall average just by changing my driving habits.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 12:51PM
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Hi lucy,

As I noted, usually I was running that rather rural road late at night, when there was very little traffic.

In normal highway driving where there's traffic, I usually coast only on a substantial downhill, and will let the speed drop off a little, but only slightly. Usually only if there's no one close behind me. If you were following me or, rather, running in a lane beside me, I doubt whether you could tell the difference.

When I restart, turn ignition key from half to full on, let out clutch quickly, to start engine turning, then push back down immediately, which reduces momentum only imperceptibly. That allows the engine to fire and get up to speed while not connected to the wheels.

I hold the clutch down for only a second, by which time the engine is up to speed, and can begin pulling instead of dragging.

If I only let the clutch pedal up once, you would see the speed reduce substantially, as the engine fires and builds up speed, slowing the tires in the meantime. That will mean that my engine must run speed up from a lower interim speed - plus a greater possibility that I may interfere with the desired travel rate of a car following me.

In the city, I often push the clutch and turn off ignition when a traffic light goes yellow ahead of me, if there's no one close behind, sometimes also giving a couple of quick, light taps on the brake pedal to turn on the brake lights for a half second, a couple of times, to warn a following driver that I'm about to stop.

Often I can arrange to be moving rather slowly as I move up to the stopped car ahead ... and often the light has changed, and the stopped cars are beginning to move, so that as I get close to the car ahead, it is moving, meaning that I do not need to come to a full stop - it's a lot easier to speed up from rolling slowly than to start moving from a standing stop.

Same procedure for a "STOP" sign ahead, especially if there are a couple of cars ahead of me to be stopping at the sign. Doesn't make much sense to me to go racing up, then brake to stop, waiting for the earlier cars to clear.

It is important that I not only keep aware of what is going on in traffic around me, but to interfere with others' travel as minimally as possible - every interference or pressure of one vehicle on another increases risk, and the possibility of not only a collision, but the possibility of adding stress to what may become road rage on the part of another driver.

I hope that this explains some possible causes of misunderstanding.

I hope also that you may have an interesting, productive and pleasant weekend.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 2:36AM
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Many interesting points about gas consumption.

Meghane, true, newer cars use a fuel cutoff when you coast, so taking your foot off the throttle is just about as good as coasting with the engine off, except it's in gear so you'll slow down sooner, and obviously if the engine RPMs get low enough the computer has to turn the fuel supply back on or else the engine will die.

Joyfulguy, one suggestion I've heard about improving economy could probably be implemented well with your coasting strategy: When you accelerate, accelerate fairly rapidly, and then get totally off the throttle (or in your case, shut it off).

The bottom line with engines is they're more efficient when they're producing power at or close to their full capacity, so probably hybrids in the future will have very small engines (like two- or three-cylinder diesels) that run at or close to their maximum horsepower rating, doing nothing but generating electricity -- never powering the wheels directly. Once they get the batteries charged up, they'll shut off until needed again. So, in a way, Joyfulguy, you're already doing that, albeit with a little extra effort.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 11:21PM
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There are two little-known, fully legal ways to stretch your gas. When you see a red light ahead, take your foot off the gas pedal and coast to a stop. And when the light turns green again, gradually accelerate away. You are not in a drag race,folks!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 5:52PM
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And your car will last longer, too. But the only thing I'd add is that REALLY slow acceleration, is not necessarily a benefit. I've seen studies where they put a fuel metering device on a car and show that it's actually less efficient to accelerate very slowly, because the car is held in a fuel-inefficient acceleration mode for a longer time.

But the key is, once you reach the desired cruising speed, stop accelerating and stay there. A lot of people seem to drive in a mode of constant acceleration, where they just keep going faster and faster until they have to slam on the brakes and haul the car down from 50 or 60 miles per hour at the next light. This is what really wastes gas.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 7:41PM
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All good advice.....but we ALL need to slow down...which is not popular in our hurried society.

I know that in my'05 full-sized car that if I drive 55-60, I get 6-7 more miles per gallon than if I drive 70-75!! Now can you only imagine how much that would save if we would all just slow down...we need to plan better so that taking an additional 10 minutes wouldn't hurt us at all.

As some of the others have said...coast down the hills if you can....slowly accelerate away from stop signs....slow down before you get to your tachometer and don't let your RPMs get over 2 if you can help it.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 8:30PM
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Before someone brings this up, I'll post a good rebuttal site....

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 4:40AM
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I just travelled from London Ontario via Port Huron, then Flint, through MI via I-75 to their UP, WI, MN, and ND to Saskatchewan and later to Edmonton in Alberta in Canada, source of much of the oil and natural gas that the U.S. gets from Canada ... and was surprised at the low volume of traffic on that route - in tourist season.

I used the method described above along much of that course, especially at night, when traffic was lighter. I have no idea how many miles I travelled with the engine not running, but it was substantial.

And hardly ever did I interfere with the travel of anyone else using the road.

Same strategy on the return trip.

Last evening I started from near London Ontario and came down through Detroit, then down I-75 to Knoxville TN, then across on I-40 to Lake Junaluska, near Asheville, NC to a reunion of over 200 former missionaries and development workers to Korea, arriving just before the dinner hour.

Though traffic was somewhat heavier, especially at rush hour, than on the northern route, I was able to coast dozens of times, without interfering with the rate of travel of people following me. Sometimes on a long downhill slope with rather light gradient, I'd re-start for a short speed-up of travel, part way down the hill, then coast again.

I really appreciate the great effort that was expended to build that highway through the rocky hills/mountains of Kentucky, Tenessee and North Carolina: through the Great Smokies.

More than I did earlier ... and I think that's an added benefit to my increased awareness of the importance of conservation of our resources, especially petroleum, plus reducing global warming and pollution.

This profligate lifestyle that we've self-centredly carried out for three generations or less can't continue.

And now, we have the gall to tell the rapidly industrializing countries, especially China, India, Brazil, etc. that tey've got to take an important role in decreasing pollution ... when we have three cars in every driveway, and they have about 1 car in 200 driveways (or is that 100)?

Where do we get such gall?

Many of us in the U.S. and Canada claim to be Christian.

I wonder what God has to say about such heedless, greedy selfishness?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 12:31AM
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Coasting is illegal in the UK, and our petrol is waay more expensive over here eg about 1.25 GBP per LITRE at the moment (60% is tax).

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 10:00AM
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Gas was about CAD1.224 yesterday ... but it takes about 1.5 of them to buy 1GBP ... so gas is far more expensive in the U.K.

Also Europe.

Which means that much of the technology to produce power from alternative sources, e.g. wind and solar, has been developed in Europe, in recent years.

Necessity being the mother of invention.

North Americans, comfortable with their lower vost of petroleum, didn't feel the need to work hard to find ways to harness wind and sun to produce energy.

So - we got more or less left behind.

Have a great week, everyone.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 5:13AM
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N. America has car vendors for profit vs. conservation so while the rest of the world built smaller more efficient we built the Hummer and bigger SUVs.

The only issue with the OP message is turning off your car and coasting while you have control reduces your breaking ability as you don't have assistance of pressure system. You can use e-brake but I wouldn't suggest turning off the car at any velocity over 20 mph on a downhill as any obstruction on the road can result in a non-stoppable vehicle.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 3:33PM
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Hi Roosevelt1,

A perusal of my posts, on I think 2 locations, points out that I have 2 power-assisted braking functions ... sometimes 3 - but I don't count on that.

When I've braked once using the power assist ... I restart the engine. The braking using just my foot leaves quite a bit to be desired - not to be undertaken when one wants to leave rubber on the road, e.g. when a deer runs across ahead of one. Having a deer join me in the passenger seat is not my idea of a good time - even less so, sharing the driver's seat!

I think that I lose power steer immediately - but the power steer pump bit the dust a while before I made my two trips of 6,200 mi. in July and I managed without difficulty.

When I get down near the floor/ground and want to get up again, when my knees start their complaining, I'm thankful that my arms are strong and can help pull the project off.

I've succeeded in getting myself erect in every time of need, thus far ...

... you haven't seen me stuck with lying on the ground, have you?

Last week, after the cataract surgery, when I wasn't supposed to strain, or get my eyes below my waist - it was a help to be able to grasp a stick to gently pull myself up again.

I hope that you're having a lovely weekend.

ole joyful

P.S. Want to make every day weekend by retiring early?

Start planning and implementing at age 20 ... 15 is even better.

o j

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:00AM
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