Image credit: The Guardian
Many people are hoping that the gigantic BP oil spill will be a collective eco-wake up call. Meanwhile the oil just keeps on spewing, and it looks like magic-bullet solutions like burning off the oil slick are unlikely to have much impact. Now is the perfect time for all of us to reflect on our relationships with fossil fuels. And to start doing something about it. Guess who's pushing for greener driving over in Europe? Why, BP of course.Now it goes without saying that small scale campaigns to promote hypermiling and greener driving are likely to do little to nothing to clean up BP's image which will be tarnished beyond belief, and rightly so, by this unprecedented spill. (BP's executives testifying about the safety of offshore drilling hasn't helped either.)
But let's leave the unfortunate timing aside for a minute. Because greenwash or not, BP's efforts to promote green(er) driving over in Europe actually do make an important point: while driving less, and using mass transit, bikes or walking will always be the most effective way to cut our oil use from transportation, we can also have a huge impact simply by driving better.
Of course some people take hypermiling to extraordinary lengths. We've seen people get 81.5mpg out of a Ford Fusion hybrid , and even 124mpg out of a Honda Insight. But you don't need to take up extreme hypermiling in order to see massive savings in your gas consumption.
In fact even Patrick Collinson over at The Guardian, a weekday cyclist who drives at or below the speed limit, spent a day learning how to improve his fuel-efficient driving techniques and save significantly on consumption. Having achieved 39.6 miles per gallon (UK measurements, which are always significantly lower than US) in a Mini Cooper at the outset, he then sat down with BP's driving experts and learned how he could achieve as high as 63.3mpg.
Among the simple tips were smoothing his acceleration, shifting gears at the appropriate time (applicable to manuals only, of course), and taking his foot off the accelerator to coast to a stop. Coasting in neutral is NOT recommended!
The article also tackles some common points of discussion—including whether empty roof racks effect fuel consumption (inconclusive), whether using AC or opening windows is more effective (it depends on your speed), and whether smaller engines use less fuel (not necessarily - it depends on the size of the car). Interestingly, whether you drive at 55mph or 60mph seems to have little impact - it's once you start creeping over 60 that fuel consumption drops off dramatically.
I'm sure there will be those who decry these efforts as nothing more than greenwash—especially given recent horrific events. But let's ignore the messenger for a moment. For the time being, people are likely to keep driving and keep burning fuel. So doing so as efficiently as possible only makes sense to me.
If we could stop spilling oil into our oceans, that would be nice too...
Check out The Guardian's video on fuel efficient driving to learn more.