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Deciding where and when to drive locally can have a HUGE impact on your fuel mileage. Here are a few tips to guide you to more efficient local drives.

Try to drive on a warm engine. (Gas/Diesel)

First off, you shouldn’t idle the engine to warm it up. Yes, your engine is more efficient once it warms up. The parts get slightly bigger as it gets hot, and it seals the gaps better. But while your car sits and idles, it gets zero MPG. You could get more good from the warmup time by driving. Just take it easy until warmup, stay below 3000 RPM.

This may differ in very cold climates, but in that case you really should be using a block heater anyway, so it’s a moot point.

To get better mileage, go to the furthest place first. Your car will be all warmed up by then. Run in, do what you went there to do. Unless you’re there for more than an hour, your car will still be warm when you come out and totally ready for its best efficiency the next short drive on the way home.

Avoid Stopping

Think about the different ways you can get to a destination in your town. If you have a choice of driving on a street with 1 traffic light and another with 10 stop signs, choose the one with the light.

If you’re constantly speeding up, going a real short distance, and then hitting the brakes, you’re throwing away kinetic energy over and over and over. Hybrid cars and electric cars are better at being efficient in these situations, but they’re even better at being efficient when you aren’t constantly stopping and going.

You’re better off on a slow street where you can go a long way without stopping than a fast street full of stops.

Think about it, and make plans to stop less.

Save gas and time by avoiding left turns.

Another big mileage killer is left turns. You can’t always avoid them, but they’re best avoided whenever you can. Why? Because you’ll sit and idle longer at them, getting zero MPG.

Think of it this way: when you’re leaving your neighborhood, how do you leave? Do you get to a bigger road and have to turn left, sitting forever waiting for traffic to clear? Or do you leave the other way, where you can turn right and get going faster? If you are always choosing the left turn, you are wasting a lot of gas and time.

Don’t take my word for it. Look at what UPS saved by avoiding left turns.

Patience is often a virtue, but it’s not a virtue when you’re idling. It’s just a waste. Efficiency is the bigger virtue here.

Avoid Heavy Traffic.

This should go without saying, but avoid heavy traffic. It’s not always possible, but if you can arrange to drive when it isn’t rush hour, you’re money ahead.

Here are the reasons to avoid traffic:

  • It slows you down
  • It keeps you from being able to vary speed and save energy
  • It adds more stop and go driving
  • It raises your blood pressure
  • It raises your accident risk.

If you’re constantly driving in rush hour to get to a job, talk to your boss about coming in early and leaving early, or coming in late and leaving late. If you’re the boss and business hours dictate where you are, see about changing them. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Avoid bad weather when possible.

Bad weather causes problems for mileage/range in different ways.

Hot Weather

Hot weather means needing to use more air conditioning. For gas cars, it’s a real drag on your mileage. For electric cars, it uses the car’s drive battery, so you might lose a lot of range. If you have a choice, wait until it’s cooler out to drive.

If you have to drive in the heat, minimize AC use. Turn it on and off to cycle the cold. Park in the shade and/or use sun shades so you don’t blast the AC so much when you get back to the car.

Cold Weather

Slippery conditions reduce traction and waste fuel. Avoid them where possible, and take it easy to reduce wheel slip when you can’t.

For gas cars, the heater doesn’t hurt mileage. It takes some of the wasted heat from burning gas and uses it to warm the car. Don’t be afraid to run a heater in a gas car.

For electric, the heater hurts. When possible, use the heated seats to stay warm while slowly warming up the air in the car instead of blasting the heater. Or, start the heater while it’s still plugged in so warming up the cabin doesn’t hit your range.

Stormy Weather

Try to avoid stormy weather. It increases traffic problems, makes for more stop and go traffic, and can add drag to the car when you have to drive through puddles. You’ll find yourself braking more, and that burns more gas.

Windy Weather

When the wind is blowing on the back of your car, it’s good for mileage, just like going downhill. When the wind is blowing on the front of your car, you lose mileage just like going uphill.

If you find yourself facing a bad wind, try to change your route. You can also try to avoid driving on windy days to stay clear of bad mileage.

Electric Cars

Extremely cold or hot weather has a detrimental impact on EV range. Keeping your EV in the shade can help keep the batteries cooler when it’s sitting, and timing your charge to end not long before you go can help it be warm for the drive.

Every car has different systems for dealing with this issue, so I’d recommend reading your owner’s manual for full details, and for tips and tricks to improve mileage.

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