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Fuel Economy Is More Driver Habit Than Equipment, Consumer Reports Confirms

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Stick to the Speed Limit, It'll Save You!
Stick to the Speed Limit, It’ll Save You!

Fuel economy, has been in the news a lot lately, with increasing emissions regulations and the automakers’ technological advancements to meet them.

Then, when the automobiles, in real-world situations, don’t meet up to the EPA fuel economy ratings, imagine the disappointment. Could it be, perhaps, that fuel economy depends more on driver habit than the equipment he happens to be driving? Of course, if we’re talking about the difference between my old Jeep Wrangler and my current Toyota RAV4, then equipment makes a lot of difference.

The Jeep Wrangler was powered by a 4.0ℓ i6 and was equipped with a three-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, oversized mud-tires, and the aerodynamics of a brick. The best I could hope for was about 12mpg with that setup. My Toyota RAV4 is equipped with a 2.4ℓ i4, four-speed automatic transmission, touring tires inflated to 38psi cold, and is a little more aerodynamic.

The EPA rates the 2005 Toyota RAV4 from 20mpg to 24mpg, but I typically exceed the EPA fuel economy rating, up to 28mpg on some trips, and I’m not a hypermiler. Other drivers have complained to me that their RAV4s don’t perform as well, but why is that? It all has to do with driver habit. There are some common-sense things that I’ve tried to instill in my clients, friends, enemies, and family, and it’s nice to see someone with more clout than myself put some time in and post the results of their testing. Consumer Reports [CR], thank you:

We already knew that speeding reduced our fuel economy, but have you ever thought about how much? According to CR, driving at 65mph reduced the fuel economy of a four-cylinder Honda Accord by almost 20% to 42mpg, compared to getting 50mpg at 55mph. Set your cruise control to 75mph and experience the 38% drop in fuel economy, just 36mpg. Considering that, on the average daily trip of 30mi, you’ll save a whopping 8 minutes per day. With the average mid-grade fuel cost at $3.749/gal, your 8 minutes costs you 87.5¢ more, per day, than driving 55mph.

Try this: Drive 55mph, take the fuel economy savings, about $4.37/wk, and treat yourself to a strong Starbucks Coffee at the end of a week spent saving gas and carbon dioxide emissions?

Image © Consumer Reports

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