When I was a freshman in college, I took a chemistry class with Dr. Majestic (awesome name, I know).  He was shy, soft-spoken, but definitely knew what he was talking about.  One of the things he taught us was information about the energy that fuels cars: hydrocarbons, ethanol, biofuels, and so forth.  In that class, I first learned that ethanol may not be the cure-all for our oil dependency.  I also learned that Dr. Majestic tended to piss off other drivers with his fuel-efficient driving techniques.  He might have taken it to the extreme (as in hardly ever braking), but his driving tips have stuck with me through the years.

  1. Brake as little as possible. When you brake, you’re taking away forward energy that you’ve already made (ie. gas you’ve already burned).  So don’t be a nervous soccer mom; try to avoid that lurchy, stop-start method of driving and make sure you’re not following so close that you’ll need to stand on the brake to avoid an accident.
  2. Accelerate smoothly with low RPMs.  Generally, the lower the RPMs, the better the mileage.  So try to avoid the street racer mindset. Yes, other cars will “beat” you.  But guess what?  You’ll catch up to that hotshot at the next red light, and you’ll have more money left in your pocket because you didn’t waste a bunch of gas getting there.
  3. Lighten up.  One reason microcars are so efficient is because they’re light, often weighing under a thousand pounds.  The more extra weight you haul around, the more fuel your car will guzzle.  So don’t be a pack rat; if you don’t need those power tools, leave ’em in the garage.  It’s just you driving around this week?  Ditch the extra seats.
  4. Plan ahead.  It sounds a little Type A, but it’s a simple idea: if you drive fewer miles, you will use less gas.  So don’t run around like a chicken with your head cut off driving all over town.  Besides, you’ll get everything done more quickly if you choose the shortest route!
  5. Take care of your car.  Like Andy told us, ensuring your tires are properly inflated can increase fuel efficiency up to three percent.  So don’t be a slacker mom/dad to your car.  Changing spark plugs, replacing gunky air filters, and changing your oil can help your car run its best, which will help out your mileage.

I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Majestic is cruising around in some SMV prototype or a car that runs off switchgrass.  While we aren’t all as ultra-attentive to our gas mileage, following a few simple guidelines can help us be a little better.

Want more advice?  Here, here, and here are some more thorough gas-saving tips.