Reduce your driving costs this summer

With summer approaching Canadians across the country may be making plans for packing the kids into the car, van, SUV or camper and taking off for the cottage or some fun in the sun.

Summer is a wonderful but all too short season in Canada. Unfortunately, however, it usually comes with higher costs at the gas pump.

Recent figures from Statistics Canada show that higher prices for gasoline and natural gas were the largest single upward drivers of the annual inflation rate which increased to 1.6 per cent in April.

Fuel accounts for about 25 per cent of the more than $10,000 that it takes every year to maintain and operate a car.

There are a number of well-known and ecologically friendly tips that can help you reduce your gas consumption and costs at the pump while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions, also known as greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Passenger vehicles are one of the largest sources of transportation-related GHG emissions. There now are multiple options available to reduce gas consumption and emissions through popular hybrid vehicles which combine gas and electric motors, plug-in hybrid electric and then battery electric versions.

You don’t necessarily need to own a hybrid vehicle to be an eco-friendly driver.

Reading your owners’ manual and keeping your vehicle in top running order will improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.

Don’t floor the acceleration pedal. Fast starts waste fuel and one second of full-throttle acceleration can produce the same amount of carbon monoxide as a half-hour of normal driving.

Keep your tires properly inflated. A single tire which is underinflated by two pounds per square inch (PSI) increases fuel consumption by one per cent. Your manual will tell you the proper tire inflation levels for your vehicle.

Clear your vehicle of objects which add unnecessary weight such as golf clubs you’re not using at the time and remove things which reduce the aerodynamic efficiency of your vehicle such as roof racks, which increase drag and fuel consumption. Every 45 kilograms of extra weight can increase fuel consumption by up to two per cent.

When on the highway reduce your speed and use cruise control to keep the speed constant. Fuel consumption starts to increase above 90 km per hour. Tests have shown that most cars use about 20 per cent less fuel when they are driven at 90 km an hour versus 110 km.

Plan and manage your trips to avoid extra driving and to save time and fuel costs. If you do have to commute to work and have an option, use your most fuel efficient vehicle.

Car-pooling is another option. If you and your buddies are playing golf, drive there together. You also can consider car sharing for a fee. Members of a car sharing organization can get access to a vehicle without have to directly own it.

Use air conditioning and seat heaters sparingly and close your windows and sun roof during highway driving as they impede the vehicle’s aerodynamic efficiency.

Only drive the vehicle that you really need. Ask yourself whether you really need that big four-wheel drive adventure rig? If not, consider a leaner more responsive vehicle. Many of them are available with four-wheel drive for winter and other difficult driving conditions.

Don’t let your car idle for long periods. In colder weather start your car and drive away right away if you can. The engine warms up faster driving than it would if it was left to idle in the driveway, and you’ll save more fuel.

Choosing a vehicle with a diesel engine also can save fuel costs and help the environment as diesel fuel is burned more efficiently inside an engine. Smaller engines tend to operate closer to optimal efficiency levels during normal driving conditions and, when driven properly, manual transmissions vehicles are more fuel efficient than automatic ones.

These and other measures can ensure you enjoy your vehicle use while saving some money and helping the environment at the same time

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

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