Chevy, OnStar's Five Do's and Don'ts when Driving to Save $1,200 a Year

By Joel Arellano | May 17, 2012
Americans, seeing the economy still in flux (and politicians worse than useless during election year) continue to keep a keen eye on gas prices. General Motors fuel economy engineers Ann Wenzlick and Beth Nunning recently took the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT for a typical workday drive to figure out the best--and worst--ways to improve fuel economy for any vehicle. The 2012 Chevy Cruze gets an EPA- estimated 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined when equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine married to a six-speed manual transmission. Wenzlick used the following tips to maximize her Cruze's fuel economy:
  1. Get out of the drive-through lane. Idling for just 15 minutes can waste a quarter gallon of gas.
  2. Take it easy. States Wenzlick, "In the city, I accelerated smoothly while Beth demonstrated one of the most common mistakes we see on the road: Jumping on the gas at every light, only to hit the brakes as she caught up with the traffic ahead. Such aggressive driving isn’t going to get you home any faster, while driving smoothly can improve your mileage by 20 percent."
  3. Driving 70 mph, not 80 mph.
  4. Use cruise control.
  5. Roll up the windows. Says Wenzlick, "One of the most common questions we get is ‘Is it better to drive with the A/C on, or off?’ At slower speeds, turning off the air conditioning can save you a little, but I always roll up the windows on the highway. Beth was driving with her windows down, and the increased air pressure acted like a parachute trying to slow her down – consuming much more energy than air conditioning ever will."
Nunning, as can be intuit from Wenzlick's comments, showed common mistakes car owners make when driving the reduce their vehicle's fuel economy. These include:
  1. Low tire pressure
  2. Using roof ornaments. States Nunning, "To show support for my Detroit Tigers, I put up window flags on my Cruze for every home game. But, when the boys hit the road, the flags will come down. At highway speeds, up to a third of your fuel is used to overcome wind resistance, so even small changes to your vehicle’s aerodynamics will have a big impact in fuel economy."
  3. Carrying extra junk in the trunk. No, literally having unnecessary cargo in your vehicle.
  4. Ignoring the “check engine” light.
  5. Not bundling errands. Says Nunning, "An engine at operating temperature is up to 50 percent more efficient than a cold engine. So, when possible, it’s much better to run five errands in an afternoon, than running one errand every day of the week."
Wenzlick's Chevrolet Cruze got an average of 37 mpg while Nunning's Chevy Cruze only got 21 mpg, a 40-percent difference. Wenzlick would be saving $100 a month or $1,200 a year--given 15,000 miles a year and $4 a gallon gas prices--just following those five tips alone. Roger Clark, manager of GM's Energy Center, agrees. "Ann and Beth’s results support data from OnStar that shows the fuel economy of drivers in identical cars can vary by 75 percent. With a well-maintained car, the best drivers get up to 25 percent more miles per gallon than average. When you combine a poorly maintained car with inefficient driving habits, the fuel economy of the worst drivers can be 50 percent below average."
Automotive.com's take: Both Wenzlick and Nunning provide good advice on saving at the pump. What tips would you offer to save on fuel at the gas pump? As always, leave your comments below. Source: General Motors/Chevrolet
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