Can You Save With These 3 Alternative Fuels?
As the cost of a gallon of gasoline tops four dollars, researchers are scrambling to come up with a viable fuel alternative that’s cheaper and readily available. Three of these include Biodiesel, Electricity, and Ethanol.
Biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced by a variety of vegetable oils and animal fats. It can be used in a pure form or blended with other products. Biodiesel is clean-burning, non-toxic, and biodegradable.
It’s also less combustible and relatively easy to produce domestically and can even be made at home but this is not recommended. If strict guidelines are not followed it could damage an expensive diesel engine. It’s safe to handle, store and transport making it very desirable from a security and health standpoint. The U. S. biodiesel industry currently is very small but growing rapidly.
Electricity can be used to power pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) work by storing energy in batteries and powering the wheels by an electric motor. Storage capacity and distance are limited. Some have onboard chargers and others require a plug-in.
These vehicles are small but quiet and have no tailpipe emissions. They’re mostly used for neighborhood commuting, light hauling and delivery with a maximum speed of 35 mph. Batteries have to be replaced about every four years or 20,000 miles.
No major auto manufacturer has yet begun producing a totally electric vehicle saying the demand isn’t there. But some small independent manufacturers have found a niche market and increasing demand.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from a variety of plants called biomass. In the U. S., ethanol is primarily made from corn but in Brazil, they use sugar cane. It contains the same chemical compound found in alcohol.
Research is continuing into Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstock. This includes making the fuel from agricultural residues such as wheat straw and leaves, forestry wastes such as wood chips and sawdust, and even plant-derived household garbage together with waste paper products.
Grasses are now also being grown for ethanol production. Benefits include total manufacture domestically, low greenhouse emissions, and creating jobs in depressed employment sectors.
A gallon of pure ethanol contains 34% less energy than a gallon of gas and gets lower gas mileage. It can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles but is usually priced cheaper in order to compete with higher-priced gasoline.
The U. S. Department of Energy says these three fuels increase our energy security, improve public health and our environment. Studies estimate that ethanol and other biofuels could reduce more than 30% of gas demand in the United States by the year 2030. Usually, when demand drops, so do prices.
Learn How to Drive and Burn Less Gas
You’ve probably been driving for many years and when you learned how to drive the price of gas was no doubt considerably cheaper than it is now. You might remember as a teen driver, it was cool to drive fast, peel out, stop suddenly and just drive for entertainment.
Those habits were excused because you were young and the cost of gas was nothing compared to costs today. Almost everyone drove impatiently and in a hurry to get wherever it was they were going if they were going anywhere at all. You didn’t mind being called the one with the lead foot.
We’re being forced to learn how to drive all over again because of the high cost of gas and to make an effort to save at the pump. Buying gas is something we must do all too often, sometimes weekly to get us to work and other necessary destinations. It’s not a bill that just comes around monthly such as utilities. It has become a constant strain on our cash flow.
Perhaps the best lesson to be learned is to drive calmly, slow down, and be patient. Drive as though there is a cup of hot coffee on your dashboard and you’re doing your best not to spill it. This will not only save gas but be safer as well.
The faster you drive the more fuel you’re using. 55 mph is the optimum speed on the highway. Authorities are again considering making 55 mph required on all highways in an effort to mandate fuel conservation. If they do that, you’ll be well ahead of the game. On some highways in west Texas, you can drive legally 80 mph. Gas mileage drops dramatically at this speed.
Don’t drive erratically. Strive for smooth starts and stops. Pick a lane and stay in it without weaving in and out of traffic. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you can cut the number of miles driven by only 5% it can save you up to $100 or more a year. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can mean a free tank of gas or two.
Travel lightly. Do away with the rooftop luggage rack and save another 5% by reducing the air drag and weight. Make sure your trunk is empty too or the extra weight will add 2% to your gas bill for every 100 pounds. Small things add up quickly. Make sure they add up to your benefit.
Perhaps when you were young and learning to drive your mom or dad instructed you to let the car engine idle and warm-up for a few minutes before driving. This is not needed now. Late-model cars are designed to be driven almost immediately with warm-up time cut to only a few seconds.
Gas up in the coolest part of the day. When gas is hot the volume increases and could leak out or spill over the top. Use the lowest octane your vehicle can tolerate without pinging. Stay cool and get your money’s worth.
Trade-In Your Gas Guzzler for a Hybrid
We’re all looking for more ways to save on fuel these days as oil supplies diminish and gasoline prices continue to soar. Indications are that the price at the pump will remain at current levels or rise even more in the near and long term. So we seek ways to drive less and get better mileage.
Perhaps the best way to save gas is to get rid of that old heavy heap that guzzles gas and the money right out of your pocketbook. One of the most popular options is driving a hybrid vehicle.
A hybrid combines the benefits of both gas and electricity. With these two sources of power, they can be configured to obtain different objectives to suit your driving needs. These configurations range from fuel economy to increased power.
The hybrid concept is not new. Liquid fuel and electric hybrids date back to the late 1800’s. Of course, fuel economy wasn’t necessary back then. Even today, drivers have been reluctant to switch until gas topped four dollars a gallon.
This caught the attention of most major car manufacturers with hybrids now available from GM, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Lexus, Ford, and Mercury.
Hybrids save in ways other than engine economy. The hybrid recaptures energy normally wasted during braking with a process called regenerative braking. Plus, it shuts down the gas or diesel engine while stopped or when coasting.
A sleek automobile is not only pleasing to the eye but with aerodynamic styling, it creates less drag, hence less fuel is used. Hybrids also use an improved design of tires, which creates less drag as well.
How much gas can you save by driving a hybrid? Well, that depends on the one you choose. Mileage varies just like a pure gasoline model. It can range from 28 to 45 miles per gallon.
As an example, assuming you drive 15,000 miles a year and gas is a little over $4 a gallon, only 10 extra miles per gallon can save you about a thousand dollars a year. Do the math and that’s over five thousand dollars in only five years. With most hybrids, you can expect to do better. You may also qualify for federal tax savings.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the annual fuel cost of a hybrid vehicle that gets 45 mpg at $1,315. If the car you’re driving now gets only half that you’re spending twice as much.
If you’ve delayed switching to a hybrid because of size, larger models are now being offered. But, as the size goes up gas savings go down. The cost of replacing the batteries if needed is also being reduced. Compare your needs with the benefits and a hybrid may be in your future.
Follow These 7 Hypermiler Tips and Save
Extreme high prices sometimes call for extreme measures to cope. One measure gaining attention is called Hypermiling and in essence, means rebelling against high gas prices. In Europe, it’s called Eco-driving. Some hypermilers claim to get 100 mpg and 1,500 miles on one tank of gas. They do this by squeezing the maximum mileage out of every drop of gasoline.
Some measures are extreme but others are common sense driving such as accelerating gradually, driving slowly, and avoiding unnecessary braking. You’re also urged to keep your vehicle in tip-top condition with regular oil and air filter changes and using proper weight oil. The oil that’s too heavy drags the engine down. Properly inflate tires. Driving with flatter tires means more drag.
1. More extreme methods suggest shifting to neutral when possible and letting the inertia carry the car. Coast to red lights and off-ramps. The sooner you get to the red light the longer you’ll sit idling. Note that driving in neutral in some states is illegal. This could be dangerous, especially in heavy traffic.
2. Drive the speed limit or slower. Gas mileage increases significantly as you slow down.
Sure, other drivers may honk and even give you hand gestures but smile because you’re saving gas.
3. Practice ridge riding which is hugging the right side white line on the highway. This will provide you with the shortest route and keep you from weaving on the roadway. You drive farther when you weave and use more gas.
4. Plan ahead and choose the smoothest route with the fewest traffic signals and stop signs. Also, avoid construction zones and traffic tie-ups. Keep an ear to the radio for traffic advisories. Sometimes the longer route may be the best if the road is smooth and with fewer stops.
5. Build up speed when you see a hill ahead and maintain your speed as you climb the slope. As you reach the crest slip it into neutral and coast down.
6. The more options your car has the more power it takes to move it. Avoid air conditioning and other power equipment. Open a window if you must but only a crack. Open windows create wind drag. If you have a standard transmission shift to the highest gear as soon as you can.
7. Hypermilers have learned to be patient. You don’t have to be the first to arrive and you don’t have to catch up with that car up ahead.
While you’re doing what you can to save gas, you may be irritating the more aggressive driver, so remember to be courteous. Pullover and let them pass when safe to do so. Hypermiling is best with hybrids and small cars but can work with SUVs and larger cars too. Even if you utilize just a few of these methods your bank account will thank you.
Change Your Habits and Lower Your Gas Expenses
Old habits are hard to break. We get used to doing things a certain way and we’re not interested in changing no matter what. But with gasoline exceeding four dollars a gallon we’re rethinking our old driving habits to see if we can cut down on fuel consumption.
Fuel efficiency can be done in a number of ways. If we can just add a mile or two per gallon here and another there it will add up to significant savings over a period of time. Oil is a non-renewable resource and when we save on gas, it helps us with our reduced dependency on foreign oil. Over 50% of our gas comes from foreign lands!
Many of our bad old habits can be logged under one heading: Drive Sensibly. Avoid aggressive driving. In other words, steer clear of rapid acceleration and quick braking. This alone can lower gas mileage up to 33%.
Of course, you don’t speed. Do you? Speeders rarely get to their destination much earlier than law abiders and waste a lot more gas. Gas usage goes up considerably at speeds over 60 mph. For each 5 mph your drive over 60 you can add an additional 30 cents a gallon to your bill.
When you’re on the highway, use cruise control, which helps maintain a constant speed. Use the highest gear possible and overdrive gears if you have them. The faster an engine is turning the more gas you’re using. Pay attention to your tachometer. Plus, a slower turning engine means less friction and engine wear.
Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. It doesn’t get much worse than that. If you’re stopped for a train or backed up in a fast food take outline or waiting for a drive-through bank teller stop your engine if you’re going to be idling for more than 30 seconds. The bigger your vehicle the more gas you’re using even when idling. It costs less to restart than idle.
Turn off the air conditioning. It may get hot but try opening a window and breathe in the fresh air. An air conditioner can lower your mileage by two to three miles per gallon.
Is this trip necessary? Don’t drive until you have several errands or appointments to combine. Avoid doing these errands during peak rush times. If possible, and the distance is short, try walking or riding a bicycle.
Know where you’re going before you start out. Don’t drive around looking for something. I’m afraid the good old days of dragging Main Street with friends are gone. Now, it’s called car-pooling and friends who share the gas bill or drive next time. Public transportation is also a good option. Changing bad driving habits doesn’t cost you a thing and will pay you big dividends in fuel economy and saving money.