By Morgan O’Connor, Sustainability Fellow
The EPA cites the transportation industry as the second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the U.S. at 27% of all emissions, second only to electricity production at 29%. Although this statistic includes commercial airplanes, ships, trains, and freight trucks, the largest contributors are the cars that we use every day.
There are varying levels of action that we can take in order to make our commute as sustainable as possible.
Before the Drive
- Keep up with vehicle maintenance – Timely air filter and oil changes can help keep your car running efficiently, both reducing the amount of emissions released into the air, as well as amount of fuel consumed. Proper maintenance can improve your gas mileage from by as much as 40%! Keeping track of your car’s fuel economy can be helpful in noticing small problems in your car as well; a drop in performance could mean it’s time to go to the shop!
- Understand tire pressure – You can improve your car’s gas mileage by up to 3% just by maintaining proper tire pressure! Your tire’s most efficient pressure is not printed on the tire itself, but it can normally be found on a sticker on the inside of the car’s door.
- Motor oil – Your car’s manufacturer recommends the most efficient grade of motor oil to use. Using the recommended motor oil can improve your miles per gallon (MPGs) by 2%.
- Excess Weight – Do not store bulky items in your car for long periods of time. For every 100 pounds carried, a car’s fuel efficiency drops 1-2%. To reduce drag, travel with items in your trunk or as trailer attachments to the back of car, instead of on roof racks, and remove these accessories when not in use.
During the Drive
You can reduce the amount of fuel your car uses by 25% just by adopting these four simple driving habits!
- Accelerate slowly – Half of all your car’s fuel use goes into acceleration. You can save 15% of this fuel by easing into an acceleration, because the faster you accelerate the more gas you use.
- Maintain a steady speed – On a similar note, constantly changing your speed, even in attempts to maintain a speed, can use much more gas. You can use 20% more fuel just by varying your speed between 40 mph and 50 mph every 18 seconds. Use cruise control in order to maintain your speed efficiently!
- Avoid speeding – Most vehicles operate at peak efficiency between 30-50 mph. Above that speed, fuel efficiency increasingly drops with the rise in speed. Increasing your speed from just 60 mph to 75 mph uses roughly 20% more fuel, so if you’re not in a rush, you can reduce your emissions and save money by sticking to the rightmost lane on the highway.
- Decelerate by coasting – Most cars use a fuel injection system, which means that fuel flow is cut off when the accelerator is released, but it will turn back on as the car is idling to make sure the engine does not stall. For this reason, you can use less fuel by coasting to a stop than by stopping the car suddenly.
Beyond the Drive
- Consider walking, biking, or using public transport in order to reduce car use.
- Plan multiple errands ahead of time to minimize trips to the store.
- Buy or lease an electric vehicle through Drive Green, a discount program for EVs in the state of Massachusetts. Check out their updated deals for 2018 here!