Monday, May 2, 2011

getting 30mpg out of a 20mpg car (July 14, 2007)

Current mood:surprised

My car is a 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon with a 3.0L V6. I've been keeping track of every fill-up since I bought the car (actually I have logged every fill-up going back to 1981, but that's another story), and averaged over the last couple of years, have gotten roughly 20, maybe 21 mpg.

This week, I had to make a trip to Buffalo NY, about 220 miles distant, and for once did not have to take the whole family with me. I just went, and decided to see just how far I could get on a tankful of gas. About a half hour this side of Buffalo is the Seneca Indian Reservation, which always has gasoline for far less than anyplace else around, and it's always a good feeling to have one tankful make it at least that far. With a 15-gallon tank, the low-fuel idiot light comes on at about 200 miles, so I usually tank up there, and again on the way back.

Not being pressed for time, I not only held it to the old national 55 mph limit, I pretty much held it to 50 mph. Actually, I was holding to 2,000 rpm engine speed. I've noticed in the past that the less time I spend on the high side of 2Krpm, the better the mileage. So, most of the time going up Interstate 79, then NY 5 and US 20, I was going 51, maybe 53 or 54. It was a Monday evening, so traffic was light, and though everyone was passing me, I wasn't going so slow as to be an obstruction.

When I got to Irving NY and the reservation, I still had a third of a tank, so passed up getting gas until the return trip, a day later. On the way back from my destination, I was even less in a hurry, so stayed off the numbered roads and took Old Lake Shore Road, between NY 5 and the lake, which is posted 35 or 40.

Upon tanking up, I found I got an astounding 33 mpg! That's far beyond what I'd ever gotten in the 90,000-odd miles I've had this car.

Taking that one further, since I was returning in the middle of the night, I stayed off the interstates altogether and returned on PA 8, holding to 40 or 45 mph. When I got home, I'd managed 27 mpg, even with Pennsylvania's hills. Much of Western NY, by contrast, is fairly level, and since I grew up there and bicycled everyplace, knew the flattest ways to get around my somewhat hilly home town. But even if there's no way to avoid hills around Pittsburgh, to get 27ish miles per gallon on a normally 20 mpg car is doing pretty darn good.

The point is, I slowed down and saved gas. Lots of gas.

I have a hunch that we will sometime, again, see a mandatory national speed limit, but this time, it might be lower than 55 mph, it might be 50. I'm not advocating for that yet, as it's barely been 15 years since "I can't drive 55" was lifted. But if for some reason we are forced to conserve gas, big time, this will have to be one of the ideas to be seriously considered.

* * * End of 2007 post * * *

* * * Original 2007 comment by me * * *

How to really annoy the hell out of people: Pull away from a traffic light NOT in a hurry. In my case, I tried not to exceed 2,000 rpm even as I accelerated from a stop. Yeah, zero to 50 in maybe 20 seconds instead of 12.

Worse still for the idiot who laid on the horn at the last light because I started off too slowly, I sometimes catch up with them at the next light, sometimes passing them in the left lane because I anticipated the next stop light and was already going 15 mph while they waited the full cycle. They probably used twice the gasoline as they left me in the dust, then burned up a substantial amount of brake pad lining stopping for the next light, while I just puttered merrily along.

Can you say "tortoise and the hare"? Can you say "the majority of drivers out there"?

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