Simple steps to save gas, reduce pollution

If you don't want to save money you spend on your car -- and don't want to diminish the pollution your car expends -- then don't bother continue reading. But if you do, we've got some basic facts and helpful hints to lower your costs while being more green.

First: Nearly 30 percent of the energy used in Florida is consumed by our 13 million personal automobiles that use about 7.5 billion gallons of gasoline every year. No surprise, since Florida has more registered cars per capita than any other state, with nearly one car for each person.

Second: The average Florida automobile is driven more than 10,000 miles a year, burning about 550 gallons of gasoline and costing its owner about $1,200 in fuel (not to mention payments, insurance, service, repairs, tires, tags, license, etc.). Based on a comprehensive analysis, total automobile operating costs for the typical car owner average more than $800 per month.

Third: Beyond that, the more gasoline we use, the more pollution we create. For instance, the average car that travels 10,000 miles produces 650 pounds of carbon monoxide, 105 pounds of hydrocarbons, 50 pounds of nitrogen oxides and 12 pounds of particulates.

Besides saving on fuel costs and reducing pollutants, lowering automobile fuel consumption will also reduce our state's dependence on unreliable foreign oil supplies.

So what can you do to save money on your driving costs? Consider the following:

  • Park your car. Walking, riding your bicycle or using available mass transit saves energy, especially on short trips.
  • Increase ridership. Carpooling always saves dollars and makes sense.
  • Combine several errands and auto trips into one longer trip. Share errands with other household drivers.
  • Use the phone to avoid wasted trips.
  • Consider a bus or train for a long-distance vacation. Relax and let someone else do the driving.
  • When contemplating a move, carefully consider how the location will affect your commuting distance to work, school and other weekly errands.
  • Choose efficiency

    For most Floridians and people in many other parts of the country -- especially where reliable mass transit isn't readily available -- a car is essential. Consequently, the most important decision you can make is to choose a fuel-efficient automobile.

    Check out the guide at to select the most efficient cars produced over the past 10 years. New cars are not always more efficient than used ones. The guide gives the Environmental Protection Agency's rated mileage, both for city and highway driving.

    You might consider a hybrid electric-gasoline automobile like the Toyota Prius or Ford Escape Hybrid. Not only do these vehicles get substantially better gas mileage, but they also do extremely well with fuel economy in around-town driving.

    Avoid fuel-thirsty options. These include large SUVs, heavier automobiles, larger engines/higher horsepower and four-wheel drive.

    Follow these suggestions for improving fuel efficiency:

  • Do not use cruise control for driving in hilly regions, but instead use cruise control for improved fuel efficiency for highway driving.
  • Drive your more efficient car. In households with two or more automobiles, choose the more efficient model for longer trips and more extensive driving.
  • Be aware of fraud. Avoid advertised devices claiming miraculous improvements to fuel economy.
  • Maintenance

    A car in top-running condition will achieve up to 20 percent better gas mileage than one that has not been maintained. Periodic maintenance will improve fuel efficiency and performance.

  • Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. This is one of the most powerful and dependable means of improving fuel economy.
  • Tires should be inflated to the tire manufacturer's maximum recommended pressure or the maximum recommended inflation pressure dictated for a specific car model.

  • Keep your car tuned. A well-tuned engine can improve mileage by 3 to 9 percent. Dirty spark plugs, air filters, pollution control valves and motor oil can cut your gas mileage.
  • Reduce wind resistance. Promptly remove luggage or boat racks that will reduce fuel economy. Closed windows at freeway speeds will improve mileage by about 3 percent.
  • Don't store unneeded things in your trunk. Golf clubs, bowling balls and other heavy items belong in the garage, not in your vehicle.
  • A lighter car gets slightly better mileage. For every 100 pounds of extra weight in your car, your mileage will drop by about 2 to 3 percent.

  • Choose energy-conserving oils. The oil you use in your car should have a label that says "energy conserving." Such oils reduce engine friction and increase fuel efficiency by 2 to 3 percent over a single-grade oil.
  • Don't use fuel with an octane rating greater than your car requires. Higher octane fuel will not improve fuel efficiency. Premium gasoline is also more expensive and requires more crude petroleum for each gallon refined.
  • This was provided by the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa.