Chris' Corner: Improving Helen's Gas Mileage

Improving Helen's Gas Mileage

Helen had her new car one week, and was worried that we had made a bad decision... The day after she bought her car home, we went to Red Lobster in Barrie and I drove it there and back.  It was my first time in her car and I averaged 7.2 l/100km (just over 39 mpg).  I was trying to be economical, but I know I could do much better if I really wanted to push the envelope.  This was her initial benchmark.

After years of great mileage, first in her VW Passat Stationwagon and then in my VW Golf (both diesel engined automobiles), it was a shock to drive 650 km in her first week and average 8.5l/100km (33 mpg CDN or ~29mpg US) fuel consumption with her new KIA Soul.  Helen told me she was doing her best to achieve good fuel economy.

Brochures indicated EPA testing of 8.5l/100km city and 6.5l/100km highway, and I know that with some cars, the mileage is almost impossible to duplicate in real day to day driving.

Helen asked me to drive her car again, and she wanted to know what I was doing differently.  We had errands to run taking us to Newmarket and then to Woodbridge and back home.  I drove half the trip and she drove the second half. 

Could the difference in our driving styles really make that much of a difference?  We noticed that I shifted through gears one, two and three much faster (accelerating more slowly initially) than she did to get to fourth and fifth gears earlier.  Two other big differences were: 1) I tended to look much further ahead and accelerate/decelerate accordingly (if I saw a light turning red or a stop sign in the distance, I would slip into neutral and glide into the stop sign/light), and 2) I would tend to speed up on the downhills or flats and not accelerate up hills (ending up slightly slower at the top of a hill ~ we live in an area characterized by a gently rolling landscape).  I averaged 7.4l/100km on my half of the trip and Helen averaged 7.3l/100km on the way back.

Buoyed by the realization that she, too, could attain better mileage, Helen has driven 480 km in the last week averaging 7.5l/100km (~ 37.6 mpg).  Realizing that her day to day trips tend to be more "city" driving, we felt that she had made great strides in improving her mileage.  The air conditioner has been on as the weather has been hot, so we will probably see some improvement when it cools down, and we expect mileage to drop in winter (we always put four snow tires on in winter and this tends to reduce mileage).

This little experiment seems to back up something I saw in a recent episode of Driving Television.  They did a test with different people in different vehicles (new and used) and found that there could be an improvement of twenty percent or more in fuel economy, just by changing your driving habits.

Want to help Save Our Planet?  ... and perhaps save yourself some money at the gas pumps?   ... Think about how you could make slight changes in your driving habits that would result in better overall fuel economy.

Chris Smith CSSBB
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Comment balloon 6 commentsChris Smith • July 31 2011 11:30PM


This was quite an undertaking!  I'm impressed  with your determination and results!

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) about 9 years ago

Everything counts with the rising gas prices.  It does really pay to look down the road and anticipate, if not for gas milege, also to drive defensively and avoid accidents.

Posted by Mary Macy, Top Agents Atlanta Metro (Top Agents Atlanta Metro) about 9 years ago

Hi Chris~ Thanks for sharing your findings with us! Since we moved from the deserts of Arizona to Seattle, we have gone to a one car family. My husband commutes to work on foot and I walk to most places. Our car comes out of the garage about twice a week! 

Posted by Judi Boad (ACCURATE REALTY GROUP) about 9 years ago

Sharon, Helen gets the credit...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 9 years ago

Mary, I find driving for better mileage relieves the stress of aggressive driving.  I am not a saint, but I am a lot better driver than I used to be.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 9 years ago

Judi, We live on a rural road, about 3 1/2 miles from the nearest village, so we drive everywhere, but we have made efforts to cut down on the total mileage we do, by combining trips and eliminating trips that are unnecessary.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 9 years ago