Efficient Driving – Oct 2014

With fuel costs rising all around us, some of us might wonder what the future of energy will look like. One thing I can tell you is that our future energy grid will be robust and agile. Providing that we take the right steps now! With proper planning and execution, we can bring about diversified energy sources and meet the challenges that rising world population are bringing. In our grid of the future, there will be varying sources of power generation, co-generation and more points of generation and use on the power grid.

With the invention and integration of technologies into buildings such as: building integrated solar panels as one Spanish company has done, Onyx Solar, the invent of more Energy Star rated appliances and electronics for our homes, and innovative car brands such as Tesla we will meet the future energy needs of the human race.

Fuel shortages started back in the 1970’s, with the oil embargo, where members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), which were the Arab members of the well-known Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

imposed trade bans against the United States. This was in order to re-supply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post-war peace negotiations. This added strain to an already strained economy, with the average price of oil going from $3 USD per barrel (bbl), to as high as $20 in a matter of weeks! Along with the drastic increase in oil prices, the embargo also enforced a ban on petroleum exports worldwide, and hampered oil production. There was an overall decline in the oil market and several years of negotiations between oil-producing nations and oil companies, coupled with an aging pricing system, created an oil crisis that was ubiquitous .

This entire embargo became so dire that oil prices continued to spiral upward, where the price per barrel first doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled, and then kept on rising. Of course these rising costs were passed from merchants to consumers and had a ripple effect throughout the western world. U.S affiliates in Europe and throughout Asia had to ensure they had healthy reserves of oil supplies, especially for the short-term. Long-term supply however was more tricky and European and Asian countries began to be affected by the embargo and needed the USA to find a speedy solution to the situation. The USA was very dependent on foreign energy resources at that time and worked to ensure the embargo was a thing of the past. Fast forward to present day where there are many theories about the oil market like peak oil and speculation around declining world reserves. What is evident to us all however, is rising energy and fuel prices.

Figure 1: The Blue line shows the progression of oil prices over previous years and into 2035. The best-case scenario shows new oil reserves could push the demand price as low as  $80 USD/bbl, and worst case with no new oil reserves, $140 USD/bbl. Figure credit: The National Energy Board

We are here; the third quarter of 2014 and the price of oil per barrel hovers between $93 and $98. According to Statistics Canada, the average person living in suburban and peri-urban Canada uses a truck, car, or other personal vehicle to commute to work. Some 16 million Canadians on average commute daily, while another 2 million work from home daily. 4 out of 5 persons commute via personal vehicle in Canada. Some 12% of all commuters in Canada use public transit for most or all of their daily commutes. Essentially these numbers are estimated to be similar throughout the southern Caribbean and the USA.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association in 2013, on average, Canadians spend $10.58 cents per 18, 000 km of driving on fuel alone. $3.15 must be added to fuel costs for maintenance and upkeep, while another $2.13 dedicated to tires and other hardware. This averages $16 for every 18, 000 km driven. Now tack on another $22 per day for insurance and consider hidden costs like licensing, taxes, registration fees and parking, and that averages $45 per day. Buying, operating and owning a vehicle is a very costly and time-consuming ordeal, not taking into account the time and money spent in traffic. Let’s also remember that vehicles depreciate over time and the likelihood of needing repairs not covered by insurance is medium to high. That is why EnerScope Energy Research and Mapping Inc. carried out experiments on operating cars, and what we found is guaranteed to help you to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape, operating as smoothly as possible while saving hundreds of dollars per year when you implement these tips.

  • First off, when you are at stop lights or other stationary position, do not floor your car to move off. This adds wear and tear to your engine and tires and because your engine is at a low RPM, most of the excess gas will escape through the tailpipe without being fully combusted, literally wasting fuel. Be careful of shoes and car mats that can become jammed on the gas or brake pedal, which is a big safety risk.
    Flooring your car will cause wear and tear on major components.
  • Drive defensively! Offensive driving, such as speeding can rob you of up to 35% gas mileage on the highway, and 5% in urban areas with lower speed limits. Each vehicle is different and reaches optimum operation at different speeds and operating conditions, but rapid aggressive acceleration greatly subtracts from optimal operation. Also, defensive driving will reduce your risks and probably help you to save on insurance in the long run. In many cases when you are speeding, you will have to break harder which adds wear and tear to your tires and brake pads, causing you to need more regular service visits and increased risk of brake failure if left unchecked. Your driving method can save you up to $2 per liter in fuel economy.
    Worn brake pads vs. new brake pads.
  • With careful planning and execution, anything can be a success. Each time you drive; think of it as a project with a clear objective. A single trip can serve more than one purpose, instead of several short trips on a cold engine, which uses almost twice as much fuel. When your engine is warm, use the opportunity to make several stops as you would when running errands.
    Planning your route can save you hundreds of dollars and hours of traffic time. Photo credit Google.
  • If possible, schedule your work hours around rush hour so that you can avoid it. Bumper to bumper traffic can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 40%, starting and stopping constantly. Take advantage of park and ride programs, carpooling, inter-modal transport and working remotely when possible. Carpooling has its perks, such as access to the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on highways and freeways, and decreased traffic delays. Most metropolitan subway systems and condominiums have secure parking where you can leave your vehicle while you switch modes of transport. In the long run you save more on fuel avoiding traffic, lower maintenance costs and more time to do the things you want.
    Bumper to bumper traffic. Photo credit The Toronto Sun.
  • Keep tires inflated to the suggested pressure found on the inside of your driver’s door. Also, monitor electronic configurations on your car such as anti-lock braking system (ABS) and traction control (TCS). In many cars, traction control adjusts camber, the angle that your tires sit, for increased torque in getting out of tough driving conditions. These can range from mud to slippery surfaces. Having TCS on while driving at high speeds can wear your tires faster and decrease fuel economy.
    Tyre pressure can be found in the door panels or on the door of each car.
  • Keep your car well maintained with regular servicing and use only the grade of oil and fuel suggested by the manufacturer. This suggestion is made because that make of car is designed to operate on a certain amount of air (based on its air filter and induction system specs etc.). Too little or too much fuel or air will hamper your car’s performance and cost you more in the long-term. Clogged air filters can cost you as much as 50% on fuel economy, and out of tune engines can run you more than 10% extra operating costs.
    A dirty air filter will starve your car of air and cause it to use twice as much fuel.
  • Avoid idling for long periods, as you use more fuel than you would with the car off. The engine will retain is operating heat for up to 40 minutes and will quickly get up to optimum operating conditions once you start to drive again. Avoid trying to “warm up” you car in winter or while preparing to make a journey, because you are getting 0 miles per gallon (MPG) as you idle. The fuel you waste doing this is less than cold operation before optimum conditions are reached. The size of the car and the power of the engine you choose will greatly impact your costs. In many instances, persons drive alone and hardly use the horsepower that high-performance cars are capable of outputting. The difference between a car that gives 20 MPG and one that gives 30 MPG amounts to $838 per year (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.35). That’s $4,188 extra in fuel costs over five years!
    Avoid letting your car idle for more than a minute at any time.
  • For electric vehicles and hybrids, keeping them charged and ensuring that all systems are off while charging, will maximize your charge. In many cases charging is free at charger stations, and will save you time if you do not have to stop whilst driving to charge.
    Tesla charging station. Photo credit Tesla.
  • In hot weather, open your windows while driving to cool the cabin before turning on the air condition. Using natural air at low speeds and the A/C at high speeds adds to efficiency. Open windows at high speeds causes drag, as your cabin becomes a large balloon so to speak. In stop and go traffic, the A/C can decrease fuel economy by as much as 50%. Warm air is less dense, creating less work for your car to slice through compared to cold winter air.
    Drive to suit weather conditions.
  • In cold weather, your engine will take longer to warm up and will use more fuel on shorter trips. Where possible, make longer trips and make the short stops on the way back. Your overall fuel economy is lower as well, because engine fluids are colder and denser during winter. The heaters, seat warmers and window debuggers all use extra power, and the cold air is harder for your car to cut through than summer air. Never let your car idle to warm up and always ensure your tires are properly inflated for fuel economy and safety.
    Drive to suit weather conditions.

Marcus Hinds

EnerScope Energy Research & Mapping Inc.