Ways to become fuel-efficient

Gas pump prices have been up and down recently, but nudged up again last week.

So it certainly makes sense to get as much mileage as possible out of every litre of fuel in the tank, and you’ll be doing the environment a favour, too.

This second article on gasoline includes tips on how to get more mileage out of every drop, what’s new in fuel saving technologies and this year’s fuel efficiency award-winning wagons and utility vehicles.

To begin with, under-inflated tires squander an estimated 533 million litres of fuel annually (which releases an additional 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere), according to the Rubber Association of Canada. A quick once-a-month check and adjust of tire pressures will not only help you save fuel, your tires will last longer too.

Aggressive driving, quick acceleration and hard stops, can increase fuel consumption by 25 per cent. A smooth driving style is both safer and more fuel-efficient. Using cruise control on a flat highway can also help save fuel by keeping your speed constant.

Look ahead and adjust (lower) your speed to avoid red light stops; a moving car is more efficient. It takes 20 per cent more fuel to accelerate from a full stop than from 8 km/hour.

Use (the high number) overdrive gears as much as possible, as they lower the speed of the engine, saving both fuel and engine wear.

Heavy items in the trunk or stuff on the roof that make the vehicle less aerodynamic will increase fuel consumption. Lighten your load and carry only what you need.

When it comes to clever new fuelsaving technologies, even though the gasoline internal combustion engine is not very efficient (less than 30 per cent of fuel energy is converted into drive power), its ongoing development never ceases to amaze. More power is being generated by smaller, lighter engines and when combined with advances in lightweight body construction, electronics and transmissions, the fuel savings are significant.

“Idle Stop” systems save fuel normally wasted running an engine when a vehicle is stationary. Most effective in a city-driven vehicle, it automatically turns the engine off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop for a few seconds and instantly restarts it.

In cars with an automatic transission, it’s triggered by brake pedal use. The clutch pedal and shifter position are triggers with a manual gearbox.

While it sounds complex and a little strange, an Idle Stop system can be so slick in operation that you hardly even notice its presence. It’s also generally packaged with a regenerative braking system that charges the battery and reduces brake lining wear.

“Direct injection” is not new to diesel engines, but it is to gasoline engines. Electronic injectors can precisely meter the exact amount of fuel that each cylinder requires. This sophisticated combustion management system is


Winners of the 2011 ecoEnergy Vehicles Awards presented by Natural Resources Canada are as follows:


(Station Wagon/auto)

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,334

Annual Fuel Use: 1,160 L

CO2 Emissions/yr: 3,132 kg

Fuel Consumption: City: 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg) Hwy: 4.7 L/100 km (60 mpg)


Station Wagon/manual)

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,334

Annual Fuel Use: 1,160 L

CO2 Emissions/yr: 3,132 kg

Fuel Consumption: City: 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg) Hwy: 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg)


(Pickup Truck/manual)

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,869

Annual Fuel Use: 1,780 L

CO2 Emissions/yr: 4,094 kg

Fuel Consumption:

City: 10.0 L/100 km (28 mpg)

Hwy: 7.7 L/100 km (37 mpg)


(Special Purpose/auto)

Annual Fuel Cost: $1,281

Annual Fuel Use: 1,220 L

CO2 Emissions/yr: 2,806 kg

Fuel Consumption: City: 5.8 L/100 km (49 mpg) Hwy: 6.5 L/100 km (43 mpg)



Annual Fuel Cost: $1,911

Annual Fuel Use: 1,820 L

CO2 Emissions/yr: 4,186 kg

Fuel Consumption: City: 10.4 L/100 km (27 mpg) Hwy: 7.5 L/100 km (38 mpg)

Winning vehicles were determined using testing that simulates 20,000 kilometres driven annually (55 per cent city, 45 per cent highway). The associated fuel cost calculations were based on a predicted price of $1.05/litre for regular gasoline in 2011 . . . you will pay more! generally combined with forced air induction, in the form of a turbocharger or supercharger. The result is substantially more power from a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine.

An “active shutter system” is a relatively inexpensive fuel-saving device. Attached to the front grille, this system automatically closes airflow to achieve better aerodynamics or to help the engine heatup faster.

The shutter opens to allow air to pass through and cool the engine. So, the shutter is open or closed based on engine coolant temperature and vehicle speed.

The new Chevrolet Cruze was the first production car with an active shutter system in Canada. Ford, Mazda and others have, or will be, adding this system to new product offerings.

Bob McHugh is a freelance automotive journalist, writing on behalf of BCAA.

2010 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI.
Photograph by: Volkswagen, handout