Driving More Efficiently

With the conflict going on between Russia and Ukraine (really Russia bullying Ukraine), the cost of gas continues to go up. This is similar to how gas went up during the 2008 recession and housing crisis. During that time, I was in college. Gas got above the $1 USD mark and never looked back. In places on the west coast, I remember seeing photos of gas being over $5 per gallon. Here are some of the things that I am doing or consider doing in an effort to save on gas with my vehicles.

Using E85

One of the vehicles that I own can run on E85, but designed for regular gasoline. This type of vehicle is called Flex Fuel vehicle. There are a number of things that I have noticed with driving on E85 and regular gas.


The price for E85 is lower than that for Regular gas at every gas station that I have been to. In some cases, that price is 15 cents cheaper. In other places, it can be up to 50 cents cheaper.

Fuel Economy

When using E85, I do notice that the fuel economy is less than when using regular gas. On the contrary, E85 has higher octane, meaning that your engine makes more power when running it. In my truck, using E85 and driving at city speeds, results in the truck going into 4 cylinder mode more often once the crusing speed has been reached. 4 cylinder mode means that less gas is being used to run the vehicle instead of using all 8 cylinders.

Limiting Left Turns

I had read some time ago that UPS designs their routes so that they have little to no left turns. By eliminating or having few left turns, this allows them to get packages delivered faster and to save money. Packages are delivered faster because they are not waiting at red lights to make left turns or for cross traffic to clear. I can agree with this. At some of the intersections in my city, the major roads only allocate 30 seconds maximum for left turns when the entire phase for a signal may be 1.5 minutes and entire cycle being 3 minutes.

I have started do this where I have and sometimes it does make you go a bit out of the way, but it does keep you moving and in some cases you get to your destination a few minutes earlier. The most beneficial of no left turns are at protected left turn intersections.

Protected Left Turn

A Protected Left Turn is a lane that has a designated turn lane and has a phase that allows traffic turning left to turn while opposing traffic stops. For me, I try my best to avoid these type of left turns, even if that means running my errands in a different order.

Left turns that have protected and unprotected phases or that have unprotected phases, then I still will make a left at these intersections.


Why are this gas wasters? Lets say a traffic light has a cycle time of 2 minutes, or 1 minute for each street. Then Protected Left Turn for each street might get up to 25 percent, or 15 seconds, for that streets max time for the cycle. That means you and everybody turning left has 15 seconds to get through the green, and if you do not, then you have to wait another almost 2 minutes to get another opportunity.

vcalc.com has a Cost to Idle calculator. The formula that they use is

fuel cost = fuel consumption rate (gallon per hour) * cost of fuel (dollars per gallon) * idle time (minutes)

Using the example above, that means

fuel cost = 0.6 * 3.96 * 2.0 = 0.08 USD

That means it costs 8 cents each time that you wait on a protected left turn, not to mention the 2 minutes that you are waiting.

Vehicles with bigger engines will have a higher consumption rate than those with small engines and hybrids. Also the length of the traffic light cycle will change the fuel cost.

Traffic Patterns and Routes

I have different routes that I take to get to different places. Sometimes those routes are not the most perferred routes because they go through residential neighborhoods or the road least travelled.

For example, when paying attention to and experimenting, I have found that a stretch of road has approximately 8 traffic lights on a section of the road. When the first light in the series changes green, if traffic moves about 45-50 MPH, then traffic will get caught at light number 7, and then get caught at light number 8 because there's usually a delay with traffic pulling off. Now on the same stretch, and driving about 60+ MPH, you can get through all 8 lights in that series. Thus you have saved one stop and shorted the idle time. With this suggestion, I am not saying do anything illegal, but adjust your driving so that you can better time the lights when they are green.

Tire Pressure

Check your tire pressures and make sure that they are within the manufacturer's specifications. With a smaller vehicle, it is not always noticable. However with a bigger one, it can be more easily noticable with the drop in fuel economy and the amount of gas pedal required to get up to speed. When doing long drives, if the tire pressure on the truck is slightly under inflated, the vehicle will not go into 4 cylinder mode on some stretches of road that it would go into that mode when the tires are properly inflated. I believe this has to do with the increased resistance that a under inflated tire has and thus higher engine load is needed to keep the vehicle moving even when all other factors are the same.

For my vehicles, I actually inflate them slightly over spec. The rason is that I notice that the vehicle has a tendency to handle slightly better (less resistance to wind when passing an an 18-wheeler). This result doesn't apply to every vehicle, thus I do not suggest this for everyone.

Don't Race to The Red Light

Some people stay on the gas pedal until the absolute last moment and then hit the brakes. Doing this as if them going full speed, will make the light change faster, which is far from the case. In actuality, doing this burns more gas because the gas that you have used to get up to and maintain speed, then you lose all that speed by stopping.

What I do is when I see a red light ahead, I take my foot off the gas completely because that light will most likely not turn gree before I get to it. By taking your foot off the gas, some vehicles will actually stop injecting gas into the engine and keep the engine running off of the intertia from the wheels being in motion. Once you slow down to a certain speed, then injectors then turn back on to keep the engine running.

Forced Upshift

For those that drive vehicles with geared transmissions, you can command your vehicle to shift up to the next gear before it normally would. By driving in a higher gear, means that the engine will run at lower RPMs. Running at lower RPMs means you get better fuel economy.

How To Do This

The way that you let the car know you want it to shift up to the next gear, you release the gas pedal for about 1 to 2 seconds and then it will shift. For those of you have driven a manual or standard transmission, do the same motion as if you were shifting up without moving your clutch foot. If you do this correctly, you will see the RPMs drop and hear the transmission change gears. If this did not work, then you have probably encountered one of the exceptions mentioned below.

The Exceptions

There are some circumstances where your vehicle will not upshift. For vehicles I have driven, I have found that those circumstances are, but are not limited to:

  • not driving fast enough to operate in the next gear up. Vehicles are programmed with the minimum acceptable speed for each gear. Drive slower than that minimum speed and the vehicle will automatically down shift to keep the engine from stalling or driving roughly.
  • already in the top gear, thus no other gear to shift up to. In my experience, most vehicles will shift into their top gear when driving at least 40 to 45 MPH (64 to 72 KMH).
  • driving with overdrive turned off or driving with Towing Mode turned on. Overdrive gear is the highest gear in the transmission. In older vehicles, the gear shift would have a "D" with a circle around it that meant overdrive and "D" without a circle for drive (no overdrive). In modern vehicles, to disable overdrive, there's usually a button on the gearshift to disable this mode, which when disabled activates an indicator on the instrument cluster (may say "O/D OFF"). With overdrive turned off or Towing Mode turned on, the transmission will operate with different shift points which results in the engine running at a higher RPM and more gas being consumed.
  • driving in Sport Mode instead of Normal or Economy Mode. When in Sport Mode, vehicles usually will stay in the same gear longer and less likely to upshift quickly. This is similar to the transmission operating with overdrive off.

Carrying Excess Weight

Carrying extra weight on our body is bad, unless you are using that weight to build muscle. Carrying extra weight in our cars, costs us more at the pump. Riding around carrying those lounge chairs that you only use when going to the beach is one example of excess weight in your car. We all learned Newton's Second Law of Motion, force = mass x acceleration or F = ma. Using this formula, the greater the mass, the more force that is required to move an object. When it comes to vehicles, the greater the force required to move the vehicle, the more gas that is burned to move the car.

What I have done in my vehicles is remove all the unneeded items from the car. Yes I had chairs in the trunk of my car for no reason at all and decided to remove them. Now there are some items that I do leave in the car, such as an umbrella, first aid kit, and phone charger. Everything else, is taken out.

Now if you really want to lighten the load on your car, you can even go as far as taking the spare tire, floor mats, and other parts of the vehicle interior out of the car. Now removing these items are going above and beyond, but if you are trying to get the max fuel savings, then they are something to be considered.


These are just some of the tactics that I use and have made adjustments to my driving. Have I seen any fuel savings? Not sure. Reason being is that I try to drive like this habitutally, instead of only doing this when gas prices are higher than normal.

Updated: 2022-03-24 | Posted: 2022-03-15
Author: Kenny Robinson, @almostengr