Sunday, January 20, 2008

How a fast driver learned to go slow

I wish I had a mileage indicator in my car, as I might drive a little slower and save some gas.

From the Free Press.

How a fast driver learned to go slow

Sat Jan 19 2008

I have slowed down. Middle age may be part of the reason. But a little display on the dashboard of my car has played the biggest role in this change.
This past summer I started driving a car that displays how much fuel the engine is using at any time.

It flickers in the lower left hand of the dash, continuously displaying the number of litres of gas per 100 kilometres that the car is burning.

It has done more to change my driving than anything since I first got behind the wheel of a farm truck 34 years ago.

It tells me after every light and stop sign whether I am speeding up too quickly.
I used to have a lead foot, racing away from stops. Then I noticed that the engine was burning twice as much fuel as when I gained speed more slowly.

I used to be in favour of higher speed limits. I always drove at, or slightly above, the limit. No more.

Out on the open highway, the car burns the least fuel per 100 kilometres at speeds of between 60 and 80 kilometres an hour.

By the time I reach 100 km/h, gas consumption -- and cost -- is 30 per cent higher. By 110 km/h or 120 km/h, fuel consumption is 50 per cent above the most efficient levels, adding about $5 per 100 kilometres to gas costs.

I shudder now when I think of the speeds that I used to travel on Hwy. 401 around Toronto -- usually 120 km/h and sometimes more, and that was just to keep up with traffic.

On a recent to the Asessippi ski resort in western Manitoba, I drove below the speed limit all of the way, a first for me, and probably saved $30 in fuel costs over 800 kilometres.

None of this is new. It has long been known that car engines operate more efficiently at lower speeds. That is why many jurisdictions dropped highway speed limits to 80 km/h during the first oil crisis in the 1970s.

The main reason then was not environmentalism or price, but the scarcity of gasoline.

Now that we have other reasons, I wonder why we are looking at raising speed limits -- to spend more money and burn more fuel to get to the same places.
The little fuel consumption display in my car was what got me hooked on slowing down.

But another reason will keep me hooked.

Driving more slowly to Asessippi was actually quite relaxing and stress-free. Life in the slower lane can be better for both drivers and the environment.

Bob Cox is Publisher of the Free Press.

website page counter