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Encouraging North Americans to Pollute Less, Consume Fewer Resources, and Use Less Energy since 2007.

(Better Late Than Never).
 
 

 

 

The Automobile

Tremendous amounts of energy are used to design, manufacture, distribute, move around, and recycle our automobiles. Since most that is connected to automobiles is so wasteful and energy consuming it is easy to pollute less with only small changes of your behavior. Much of the advice below is easy to talk about but difficult to do. Many of us are used to driving cars with a lot of horsepower and driving these cars is our daily dose of fun. Well, try to change that. It is at the expense of others.

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Level of Change

Buy an old efficient car Why buy new? Making a new car requires a lot of energy; an old car was made a while ago and keeping it on the road longer may make sense if it is an efficient car. Efficiency is not a new invention. Small, efficient cars were built even in the late 80's. You can get a gas mileage of higher than 40 mpg with some old cars IF they are well maintained and you drive them very conservatively.
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Use Biodiesel or fuel from used vegetable oil Biodiesel has the benefit that it creates as much carbon dioxide as it consumed when the plants grew that are used to make the biodiesel. However, biodiesel is not a solution for the transportation problem. There is not enough land to grow the plants to make enough biodiesel for all of us. It works for a few right now. Same for used vegetable oil. And watch out for the IRS. They want your fuel taxes.
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Remove the roof rack, roof box, bug deflector, etc. Taking of the roof rack, or anything else attached to the outside of your car that is not necessary, decreases the cars wind-resistance. Without the attachments on the outside of the vehicle your car slips through the air easier and uses less gasoline.

Store your roof-rack or roof box somewhere when it is not in use. Permanently remove bug-deflectors, wings, air scoops, etc. Let the car be the way it was when it was manufactured. Most likely your vehicle was wind-tunnel tested by the company who built it. If the car would use less gas with the attachment, the car's manufacturer would sell the car with such an attachment to begin with.
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Park your car in the shade If you car does not get hot inside you may not need air-conditioning. The use of A/C decreases your gasoline mileage and pollutes more.
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Put up sun reflectors By installing reflectors on your dashboard (or whereever the sun hits you car), it does not get as hot inside you may not need air-conditioning. A/C decreases your gasoline mileage and pollutes more. It is much better to install the reflectors on the outside of the vehicle (hold in place with wipers) to prevent the sun from even reaching the inside of the car.
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Use car's air conditioning instead of wide open windows for long drives at high way speeds If you open the windows wide while you are driving fast you are seriously disturbing the air flow over your car. Your vehicle will slip through the air less easily and air resistance is what slows you down at high speeds. The A/C does require the engine to work more. At high speed this increase is still less than having to push around additional air because of the open windows. Opening the windows just a bit or all the way while you are moving slowly is fine.
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For slow speed drives open the windows and turn off the A/C. At slow speeds the air resistance of a car in not as significant as the extra load for running the A/C. Opening the windows at slow speeds has little impact. However driving slowly with the windows closed and the A/C on puts extra strain on the engine and increases fuel consumption.
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Drive the speed-limit or below. At high speeds the vehicle uses much more fuel than at lower speeds. Driving 70 mph almost doubles the wind resistance of your car than driving it at 50 mph. Going slower saves a lot of gas.
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Drive super-smoothly. Don't accelerate or brake hard. Every time you accelerate hard you put a lot of strain on the engine and burn much more fuel than if you accelerate slowly. The same applies to slowing down. If you coast to stop (whenever it is safe) or brake less hard you use the inertia of your car without using additional fuel. A coasting car covers some distance without using much gas. A car that is driven hard breaks down and needs to be replaced sooner and wastes a lot more gas.
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Install a "smooth driving" meter It will show you how smoothly you drive and reduce your gas consumption. All you need to do is put a flat but not sticky object (milk bottle cap, map, bag with candy) on a level portion of your clean dashboard inside the car. The moment it starts slipping you have driven beyond what we consider "smoothly".
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Turn off cruise control in hilly areas. Cruise control keeps your car at a constant speed. If you get to a hill your vehicle's computer senses the natural slowing down of the vehicle and increases the fuel flow to the engine and possibly even shifts down to continue with the programmed cruise speed. That uses a lot more gas. Drive without cruise control and let your car slow down at an uphill.
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Use cruise control where it is flat. Cruise control keeps the car at a constant speed much better than you can do it in a flat area. Little variation of speed means less gas consumption when it is flat..
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Drive with correctly inflated tires Tires that are under-inflated result in more friction with the road. That additional friction causes more gasoline consumption. This, as well as over inflation, also results in premature wearing out of the tires and necessary replacement.
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Maintain car's engine well A well maintained engine uses less gasoline. However do not repair cosmetic damages that have no impact on engine efficiency, aerodynamics, and friction.. Fixing your car (or anything) requires parts and energy.
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Avoid dripping or spilling any gasoline on the ground. It may only be a few drips but with 120 million cars on the streets of North America it adds up. Gasoline needs to stay out of the air and groundwater.
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Stop adding more gasoline when the nozzle clicks off . Topping off increases the risk of spilling gasoline and could compromise or even damage the gasoline vapor recovery system of the gasoline pump. Avoid spills of gasoline. It is bad for the soil, ground water, and air. Spilled gasoline can also damage the asphalt (which then has to be fixed sooner). What is wrong with having to pay $17.63? Your credit card company really does not care if the number is not even.
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Choose gas stations that remove gas vapors while fueling Even though the vapors seem not significant to you with 100 million cars on the roads in the USA alone it adds up. Vapor losses of gasoline are a factor in regard to pollution.
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Warm up your car while driving it, not when standing still. A modern engine does not need to warm up longer than 30 seconds unless you hit the highway within the next few minutes. If you are cold inside the car wear clothes appropriate for the weather. If you need to get rid of the ice, consider scraping. That gets you warmer too! How about putting the car inside the (unheated) garage in the winter.
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Shut down the engine when standing still If you know you are going to be standing still for longer than 10 seconds turn off the engine. It saves gas and pollutes less. Check and remember how long certain lights take to turn green. Turn off the engine if you leave the vehicle. All it takes is a little twist of the hand to turn the key.
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Wash your car rarely Every time you wash your car you create water run-off that is rather dirty and should not end up in our lakes and rivers. If you use chemical products to wash your vehicle it is even worse. Let the rain wash your car. There is no technical reason to wash your car other than getting rid of the salt in the spring. So, maybe wash it twice. When the road salt season is over.
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Wash your car on the lawn, not in the street Washing the car on the lawn forces the run-off to pass through the lawn before it reaches the storm drains. That filters the water a little bit and reduces the pollution that reaches rivers and lakes through the storm drain system.
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Keep your car longer If you keep your car longer you delay the purchase of a product that takes a huge amount of energy to develop and manufacture. Even if the new product uses less energy it is much more likely that purchasing a new vehicle every few years results in more pollution than keeping your old car longer. Making one car and driving it for a long time pollutes less than making three new cars and driving them even if the newer vehicles have a better gas mileage.
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Combine trips Be smart - think ahead about where you have to go when and combine trips that need to be done with the car. If you have to go tomorrow that direction anyways, why not wait with the purchase of whatever until tomorrow?
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Avoid trips The ultimate way to pollute less: Don`t drive! Do you really need to take the car? Could you take the bike or even walk? Is that road trip necessary?
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Car pool Sharing a vehicle with just one person to get the work and back can cut the pollution in half because only one car is doing the polluting. If there is more people involved it gets even better!
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Drive with at least one passenger If you are using the car, at least make sure that you pack the car full of people where ever you are going. Unless of course these people don't need to go where you are going. Sign up for a service that helps you find one or more people to travel with you. That may even pay for your gas while you pollute less since you are not driving alone. Forgot the name for this service. "Mitfahrerzentrale" in German. That does not help much, does it? Some "car pooling service" I guess.
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Use your car only when you need to travel long distances The car's engine does not have a chance to reach the right operating temperature for the catalytic converter to function properly if it is used only for a short drive. Walk instead. Bike instead. Wait until you have to go that way some other time.
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Move closer to your place of work If you currently travel long distances to get to work consider getting a job closer to home or moving closer to you work place. That way you can cut the pollution caused by you every day with your vehicle. A move like this may even change your situation in such a way that riding a bicycle or walking become excellent options. That would be even less polluting and include the benefit of physical exercise. In addition you save money since you pay less for gas and maintenance of the vehicle.
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Share/rent a car If you need a vehicle infrequently why not share a car with someone or several people? In some places you can share a vehicle with others by signing in and obtaining everything you need to use the car over the internet. More and more car rental companies are now renting their vehicles by the hour.
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Buy a small car rather than a SUV A small car uses much less gasoline to move you around. Get a trailer if you sometimes need to move bulky things.
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Forget the second car/pleasure car/muscle car/sports car Even though you can only drive one car at a time, your second (or third) vehicle is probably designed to be fun and not to be efficient. In addition, driving for pleasure means driving when it is not really necessary. Owning a pleasure car contributes to our car culture that causes so much pollution.
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Take the train If there is a train going where you need to go, take a train and pollute much less.
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Use public transportation Consider taking the bus or subway when it is possible. The bus/subway drives in any case, you might as well be on it and leave you car's engine standing still..
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Avoid rush hours Stop and go traffic results in a lot of pollution because this sort of driving requires your engine to work inefficiently. You cover little distance while burning more gasoline. Go there earlier. Leave later.
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Consider making right turns only In city traffic, especially during rush hours, making a right turn is often possible without having to wait for the intersection to clear. You may arrive at your destination faster and burn less fuel than sitting in the intersection waiting for your chance to turn left. Check your route for those situations and adjust your route if you see a benefit.
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Refrain from modifying your car. Currently popular vehicle modification include engine modifications to increase power, body modifications to increase aerodynamic resistance but make the car "look" faster, exhaust modifications that make the car louder, and other "upgrades" that have very little to do with preventing pollution. It may be fun for you right now, but most likely results in more pollution.
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Replace dirty air filter Replacing the air filter lets the engine breathe easier. Air can enter the engine better and the fuel gets burned more efficiently.
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Make your tires last longer by driving less aggressive The faster and harder you drive your car, the faster the tires wear out and have to be replaced. Don't forget, there are around 120 million vehicles on the road in the US and Canada. It takes a lot of energy and resources to make, distribute, and dispose tires for so many cars. Keep what you have longer to pollute less.
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Install narrow tires Narrow tires roll easier, have less aerodynamic resistance and pollute less when you drive your car conservatively. They also give you better traction in snow and hydroplane less easily in heavy rain or thick slush.
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Purchase a two-wheel-drive car. Cars whose all-wheel-drive cannot be disengaged use more gasoline than a similar vehicle with only two powered wheels. There is much more friction in the drive train of a all-wheel-drive car. Look for a vehicle where the four-wheel drive can be turned on and off. Most likely you don't need it anyways.
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Pack your trailer aerodynamically Packing your trailer or anything exposed to the flow of air in a way that the air flows easily over the load results in less pollution than packing without regard to aerodynamics. Keep it tight, keep it small, keep it smooth. Imagine how well water would flow over it. Air does the same.
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Scrape snow and ice Melting snow and ice with the heat of the engine creates pollution. Scraping it yourself does not.
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Ignore the remote car starter If you start your car more than 30 seconds before you get in, you are polluting the environment. If you are cold inside the vehicle put on a coat. If you scrape the snow and ice of the car by hand you get warm faster.
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Ignore insignificant damages to your car Every time you get your car fixed you consume energy for making the parts. If it is cosmetic, forget it. If it compromises safety, durability, or efficiency get it fixed.
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Choose manual transmission for city traffic

Generally speaking, if you know when and how to shift, a manual transmission is more efficient and gets a better gas mileage especially in traffic with a lot of speed changes, such as city traffic. In constant speed situations the difference is not that great. The vehicle with manual transmission pollutes less if you travel in the highest gear the engine can manage easily (without coughing or shaking when you accelerate) and if you shift into this gear as soon as possible while picking up speed gently.

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Lighten up the car The less stuff is in your car, the less you vehicle weighs. Reducing weight has a positive influence on gas consumption because the car (or truck) responds easier when you want to accelerate.
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Install low rolling resistance tires A tire that has a lower rolling resistance will save some gas and pollute less
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Push in antenna If you drive a long distance and you are not listening to the radio, you will save some gas if you reduce your car's air resistance by pushing in the antenna. Not much though.
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Accelerate on down hill When you want to go faster wait until you can do this with the pollution-free help of gravity. Accelerating when you are moving down the hill pollutes less than trying to go faster when it is flat or even goes uphill.
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