Extending Your Vehicle's Driving Range, Without Cost, by Steven B.

Saturday, Aug 17, 2013

A while back, I remember reading a tantalizingly titled but substantively misleading news article about a group of junior high school students who built a “car” that attained a fuel efficiency of 150 mpg. After reading the story, my skepticism was confirmed that a bunch of junior high school students “out-engineered” those who engineer automobiles for a living, or more succinctly for profit. The vehicle they built was little more than a soap box racer with a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine; more of a go-cart instead of a practical conveyance.

What I did discover in reading the article was that the efficiency was much more attributable to simple driving techniques rather than technological innovation. I immediately saw the opportunity to save a few dollars. When I practiced and developed these driving techniques, it was no longer a matter of saving a few dollars. Upon extrapolating it out over the course of one year, it was over $300 which is quite substantive to me.
Pulse and Glide Driving (PGD) was the term used in the story and it very effectively captures the essence of the technique. It is not difficult to deduce the practical application from just those four words. I have applied this to my regular driving habits, which living in a major city suburb limits me to about 90 percent city driving conditions. I have proven that it does indeed work in stop and go traffic, although not as effectively as dramatically as it does in highway conditions. There are other factors I have also incorporated to further reduce the impact of fuel expenses on my wallet. I will mention them here as well, but be mindful that the bulk of the improved efficiency is gained by cyclical periods of moderate acceleration and coasting along in neutral.

First, let me tell you about my vehicle.  I do not have a good bug out vehicle. I drive a sensible commuter in the form of a 2008 Kia Rondo and my commute to work is less than two miles. In the South Florida summertime with the air conditioning running, it gets about 16 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. Using PGD, I routinely inflate those figures to 20 mpg city and about 25 mpg highway, and that is with the air conditioning still running. These figures represent approximately a 25 percent improvement without installing a penny’s worth of performance improving equipment or sacrificing environmental comfort. You would be totally surprised (or not) how important both those notions are driving around with three females; two of them under the age of eight.
The basic principles of PGD are very simple:

There are also a couple extra things you can do to stretch your tank’s range even more.

This is all well and good, but there are times when you definitely should not use PGD techniques.

Another thing to think about is by developing and refining these techniques is that you are not only going to save money now, but you are also extending the driving range of your vehicle. A tankful of gas that used to get me only 250 miles now gets me 300; more if I turn off the air conditioner, headlights and parking lights. In the less austere times that could lie ahead, this may be an important factor. If maximum range is of the most importance to you, use the highest grade premium gasoline you can get. For everyday driving however, use the lowest octane rating that provides acceptable performance without engine knocking or pinging. It’s also cheaper, which is the whole point here. Imagine the extra preps you could have after just one year!

If you are on the road to your retreat for a permanent move, incorporating these techniques could mean the difference between getting there with the fuel you can carry drawn from your own stocks or facing the reality of having to obtain more fuel along the way. It may be prohibitively expensive, dangerous to scavenge or outright unavailable at any price. Bring your jerry cans and have a few 5 Hour Energy drinks readily available-- you never know when you might need them.

JWR Adds: Be advised that coasting in neutral is banned in some jurisdictions, for safety reasons. "Gliding" can be hazardous in areas with traffic congestion. Also be aware that you can burn out your clutch if you don't fully disengage it during your "glides." FWIW, I used to turn my engine's ignition off just before very long downgrades (which is illegal in many jurisdictions.) But of course with modern steering column locks, this is no longer possible with most manual transmission cars and light trucks.


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