Walk, cycle, carpool, take public transit, car-share, telecommute. Try to live close to the things you need and to where you work. But if you have to own a car, get the most efficient model that fills your needs, drive sanely, combine trips, keep it in good mechanical condition and keep your tires properly inflated. That's basically the message that we would repeat in all our car posts if we weren't afraid of becoming redundant... But as long as there are millions and millions of cars out there, we need to look at green(er) cars of the future and at current ways to make our cars more efficient. One of these is stop/start, a relatively simple technology that is unfortunately almost completely absent from North-America (except in hybrids).
The way it works is simple:When your car comes to a stop, either a red light, a stop sign or in stop-and-go traffic, you are getting zero miles per gallon. But if you had stop/start, which is mainly composed of a bigger starter motor, your car would simply turn off the engine and then restart it almost instantaneously when you take your foot off the brake pedal (or off the clutch in a manual transmission car).
How well does it work? Well, reviewers of the Stop/start Mini Cooper in the UK had this to say:
you can push the button near the gearlever to turn the stop-start system off. But we can't think why you'd want to. It's a simple technology that works seamlessly in the background, and you'll save money by letting it do its thing.
Depending on the car model and type of driving, fuel savings are usually estimated at between 10% and 15%, and stop/start is one of the reasons why hybrids do much better in city rather than highway driving.
You can get stop/start on many Asian and European cars (such as the Citroën C2 and C3, the BMW Mini and the Japanese version of the Yaris), but except in hybrids, it is MIA in North-America. Come on carmakers! At least make it an optional feature!