How To Drive Badly & Lower Your Gas Mileage In The Real World

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2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost burnout

2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost burnout

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With gas-mileage standards through 2016 now in place, the EPA and NHTSA are turning their sights toward rules for 2017 through 2025.

Proposals are floating around for CAFE standards of up to 62 mpg (which means the vehicles you might buy would average about 50 mpg in actual use).

Ah, the hell with that.

Let's talk about how people drive in the real world. Most of them only focus on saving gas once in a while.

Sometimes we think that, basically, they don't care--because gas is still far too cheap in the U.S.

2004 Toyota Prius accelerator pedal after being shortened as part of sudden-acceleration recall

2004 Toyota Prius accelerator pedal after being shortened as part of sudden-acceleration recall

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To assist you in the all-American pursuit of driving however you damn well please, consuming and emitting hydrocarbons left, right, and center, we can now offer a simple guide.

(After we pause to quote former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, that is, who said over Memorial Day, "I love that smell of the emissions.")

The list of steps comes from our colleague Steve Mirsky at Scientific American, who we happen to know drives a 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan. For the record, that's a compact car rated at 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, giving a combined EPA rating of 33 mpg.

Mirsky's simple steps for driving in the most profligate way possible include:

  • Make sure all stops are followed by jackrabbit starts
  • Floor the accelerator, floor the brake pedal
  • Ignore the cruise control
  • Keep all tires underinflated
  • Idle as much as possible, but never turn off the engine

And there are more.

Texting while driving, by Flickr user ericathompson

Texting while driving, by Flickr user ericathompson

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We might add, make sure you spend much of your time behind the wheel using a wireless device, to maximize your distracted driving hours and keep your travel erratic and your reactions last-minute.

Though we absolutely draw the line at drunk driving.

In our opinion, Mirsky's piece is highly recommended reading as we head toward the gasoline-guzzling July Fourth weekend holiday.

For that celebration, note also Mirsky's recommendations to carry as much weight as possible in your car (you never know when you'll need those 50-pound bags of charcoal briquettes) and tie as much of it as possible to the roof (a la Mitt Romney's Irish Setter, Seamus).

Road trip, here we come!

[Scientific American]


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Comments (6)
  1. John:

    Re: the photo here:

    Can you point me to any surveys re: how many pick-up owners actually use their vehicles for the purpose they were built, i.e., to haul supplies, equipment, etc.?

    Most of the pick-ups I see here in California are driven by young men, often aggressively. I rarely see anything in the bed of the truck, or any indication that it's ever used to carry anything.

    I have no problem with pick-ups being used as utility vehicles, but if, as I suspect, most of them are simply purchased as a statement of machismo, well then...

  2. Sorry, but Voelcker is a strong defender of truck drivers and maintains that many, many people need them. He would never suggest that people are buying more truck then they need.

    I strongly suspect the NRA has threatened him and he can no longer be critical of trucks and must defend every single truck owner no matter how unnecessary the vehicle is.

  3. "Hell" and "Damn" in one post. Oh the foul language.

  4. I wish I had enough confidence in AGW to be as dictatorial as Mr Voelcker. Or as silly as to believe that if one wishes to control the Earth's temperature, eliminating carbon emissions is going to achieve
    that. Recently astronomers are warning of another sunspot minima, and if history repeats itself, the very last thing we should be doing is curtailing greenhouse gases. Global warming is not pleasant but global cooling is absolutely catastrophic. What's required is a technology to control the Earth's temperature. The proper tactic, in warfare and here,
    is to worry about what can kill you, not what can just injure you. Those in command at Pearl Harbor got burned making just such an elementary mistake and so might we.

  5. I have a truck and use it too haul my dirt bikes, quads and tow my toy hauler out to the desert, so you see some people do use their trucks for their intended purposes. It's also great for tailgating idiots in Prius's. For my commute to work I ride my old skool street bike to be environmentally friendly and save gas (not really but people like to think that of me).
    I'm a staunch believer in global warming, it's called spring and global cooling, it's called winter. Simple as that. Luckily for me I drink diet dew not kool aid. We already have a device to control our weather, its called the sun. Man I should be on Al Gore's staff, we'd make a killin.
    Now lets get back to those earth saving "green" cars.

  6. What was the point of the above article? Here you see the result of an entire generation beaten over the head with "earth friendly" nonsense until they can no longer think for themselves. Now we can actually justify writing a piece that (in a snarky manner) reminds of the the same good-driving tios that have been preached since the 1940s. Good job!

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