May 8th, 2006


interesting // car observances

So, this weekend I went to visit my dad in the bay area, and I decided to experiment with driving slower. An interesting thing, going 55 when you're used to 70-75. At first, having everyone passing me made me feel like I needed to speed up, but I gave it some thought, and realized that I'd only be arriving about 20 minutes earlier by driving so much faster. Given that I had planned my times properly and was in no danger of being late (was going to see the opening night for my little sis's first play) I decided to keep on with the slowness and enjoy the better mileage that resulted from it. So, with cruise-controll on I was able to relax and actually appreciate the drive a little more. I wasn't straining to fight traffic, I wasn't worried one bit about cops catching me speeding, none of that. I just sat back and watched the fields go by. I enjoyed the view of the mountains when I came to them. I had time to check the back of every car going past, looking for funny bumper stickers or the like. I noticed that every vehicle that had a US flag on it of any kind, from the hood painted like a flag or the stickers of flags or even the "support our troops" magnets that have a flag on part of them, was among the worst mileage of those that passed me. Huge beat-up trucks, old SUVs, and a full-size van or two. I kept watching for flags on the way back, and after the whole round-trip I only saw one standard car with a flag on it, and that was a large old station-wagon type so you know it was crappy fuel efficiency also.

Kinda makes me wonder about those flag-wavers.

All in all, for such a short trip, I really can't see the need to drive fast. Mind you, I'll probably still drive a decent clip if there's someone in my car who gets nervous going 55, but when it's just me, I'll be happilly keeping to the far-right lane for a while now. :)

Ever since I've gotten this car, I've been amazed at how much that little readout that tells me my "current" fuel efficiency has changed the way I approach driving. I now seriously wonder why the auto manufacturers don't put those displays on every vehicle. Think about how much it would change our roads, if people could see, right there in front of them, what mileage they are getting at that instant; if they knew that by going those extra 10mph, they were reducing their mileage by about 20mpg. Because, seriously, that's the difference I see between 55 and 65. I was holding steady at about 75-80mpg at 55mph, but only hover around 55-60mpg at 65mph (oddly enough, it only drops to about 45mpg at 75mph, I suppose it has something to do with the fuel rationing the computer does). Now, while I know that most people purchasing SUVs are not doing it for the mileage, if there was a readout telling them the differences in efficiency at the various speeds, and they could see instantly that by letting off on the gas a little bit they can save a lot of fuel, I'm thinking there'd be a lot less SUVs going 75. They wouldn't likely drop to 55 like I did this weekend, but 60-65 would probably become a lot more common. Talking with people about mileage, they are never certain how driving changes things. They know that over an entire tank (which might be a week or two depending on use) they got Xmpg (if they bother to do the calculations with the odometer), but they drove so much in different situations and thus had different driving styles during that tank that they think Xmpg is just "what the car gets" no matter how they drive. I think having a little readout on every vehicle would be a great thing and I'm honestly shocked the manufacturers have not done it yet. Instant feedback has been shown to do so much towards changing behavior in all aspects of life, this is a market that I'm thinking cries out for some sort of feedback.