With near-historic prices at the pump, a lot of us probably wish our cars could get better gas mileage. What few people realize, however, is that just changing our driving technique can help us squeeze a few extra miles out of every tank.
One hurdle to learning how to drive more efficiently has been that our cars don't give us feedback on how our specific driving methods affect fuel economy. Many newer models are equipped with fuel-economy computers that give critical information that can help us do a better job. Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, and others are planning to add fuel-economy features to all new models in the next few years. If your car doesn't have one, there's at least one add-on device that offers the same information and more, LinearLogic's ScanGauge II.
Here's the lowdown
on what these devices will tell you.
The built-in computers on many new vehicles normally include a button that lets you scroll through trip miles, average speed, average mpg, and instant mpg.
You'll notice the instant mpg is mercurial, zipping up to 99 mpg at some times and down below 10 mpg at others. This figure gives you direct feedback to inform your driving. The value can be quite high when you're coasting and low during both low-speed driving and acceleration.
The average mpg is much more stable than the instant number. It tracks the average fuel economy since the last time the device was set.
Like other feedback units, the ScanGauge II can also display a lot of other data, including fuel-burn rate in gallons per hour. This stat can be useful in observing engine efficiency. For example, a cold engine generally idles faster and draws more fuel. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to combat this condition except to drive your car and let it warm up.
Improving your fuel economy can be as easy as paying attention to how you drive and closing the "feedback loop."