CoverStory: Green Wheelin

Keeping our planet green is a responsibility that rests upon all of us, and must extend to everything we do. One of our everyday activities that has the largest footprint ecologically is driving. The kind of traffic we have to deal with in our country, means we’re usually on the road for long stretches at a time, all the while burning fossil fuels and adding to the carbon already floating around in the atmosphere. Fortunately, there are steps one can take to ensure maximum fuel efficiency, and our contribution to keeping our planet green. Leaving our cars at home might not be an option for some, so here’s what we can do to give the Earth a hand.

Leave your lead shoes at home
One of the easiest, most effective ways to affect change is to be smooth on the accelerator. While it’s a lot easier to not pay attention and just hit the gas hard, letting the revs climb when you don’t really need them is terrible for your fuel consumption. You don’t need to floor it every time the light goes green. It’s much more fuel-efficient to apply the gas steadily and smoothly, so you don’t use more fuel than you require.

When you’re cruising along, keep your RPMs low. A good rule of thumb here is trying to keep your engine running below 2,000 on the tach. Whether you’re running manual or automatic transmission, that’s the magic number you’ll want to shoot for, but be careful not to overdo it. Lugging the engine, or running it at a gearing that’s too low on manual transmission vehicles is terrible for your engine, and while you might not use up a whole lot of fuel, you’re going to be wearing your engine out a lot faster than running it properly.

Keeping these two in mind not only minimizes your carbon footprint, you’ll end up saving a bit of money in the process as well, and that’s always a good thing.

Don’t skip maintenance dates
Cars are machines, and machines will invariably wear out. This is where preventive maintenance comes in. You try having an explosion in your belly a few thousand times a minute, and see how you feel after a few months. “Running smoothly” isn’t a figure of speech. When a car is maintained well, the engine encounters as little internal resistance as possible, resulting in a vehicle that hums along. Less internal resistance means less energy loss through friction, and a more efficient engine. In short, the fuel you burn is translated to motion down the road, not causing your engine to just heat up and make a lot of uncomfortable noises. Keeping fluids topped up, and making sure your car’s parts are all moving the way they should, are part and parcel of making sure your car is running right.

Don’t fall into the “small displacement” trap
Small displacement engines are great. They are able to give great perfoemance while sipping fuel. Having a small engine, though, is not an absolute guarantee you’ll be saving on fuel. A small engine will have to work harder, all other things being equal, simply because it’s smaller. If you have an 800cc engine carrying the chassis and three adults, it’s going to have to work harder at a given speed than a car with the same load, but a larger engine. You’ll have to stay on the lower gears, and get RPMs up just to move around at a reasonable clip. When conditions are favorable, you can get great mileage from a small engine, but you’ll be better served by an appropriately sized engine, and since a larger engine will be running at a lower RPM range at least as long as you drive in a sane manner, your engine will also experience less wear and last longe. This is great for your wallet, and the environment.

Keep an eye on the tire gague
Too little air in your tires is terrible for fuel efficiency. Your vehicle will have to spend that much more energy trying to push a mushy tire along the road, and it’s actually quite a difference that adds up over time. It’s a quick thing to check your car’s recommended tire pressure and devoting a few seconds a month to make sure it stays there.

Before you get all smart on us, yes, increasing tire pressure will make your vehicle run more fuel-efficiently, as there will be less resistance to overcome when you’re rolling along on overly hard rubber. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Keeping your tires over-inflated might give you a few extra kilometers for each full tank, but you’re going to pay for it many times over in new tires. Over-inflation causes premature tire wear, and a significant loss of grip in poor road conditions. It’s really not worth a little extra out of your tank, so don’t do it. Stick to the recommended tire pressure and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Whether you love them or hate them, navigation apps such as Waze and Google Maps have a distinct edge over one’s own knowledge of the streets, and that’s real-time traffic information. Sure, you might know the shortest route from your house to the office, but you just can’t know whether or not the roads are congested without going out there and getting stuck yourself is unless you use an app. Even if a road is generally okay to your knowledge, there are accidents, there’s congenstion, and a lot of other factors you just can’t factor in from inside your home. Less time on the road means less time burning fuel, and a greener commute. There’s no shame in trusting an app to route your way to work. It has access to more information than you do, and it makes much more sense to go where there’s more information. Running the app also gives one more set of eyes to the routing server, giving everyone a better drive experience, and collectively helping ease traffic where you might find yourself.

These are just a few tips you might want to keep in mind when you’re on the road. The internal combustion engine has been a huge factor in getting us where we are now in terms of our planet’s ecological state, and while it would be unreasonable to expect cars to get off the road completely, we would be at fault for not trying to improve our driving for the sake of our planet.

Keeping our planet green is a responsibility that rests upon all of us, and must extend to everything we do.  One of our everyday activities that has the largest footprint ecologically is driving.

Also published in October Issue 2016

Words by Ren Alcantara