A gallon of gas is just about four dollars anywhere you go in the United States, meaning that families will be shelling out more money this summer when they hit the road for summer vacation. The good news? If you follow some basic tips, the hot weather can actually reduce your car’s fuel consumption.
The biggest mistake most people make during the summer is the choices they make when cooling their vehicle down, especially when they first get in. One thing the summer heat does is allow a car’s engine warm up a lot faster, which requires less fuel. The problem is that putting the air-conditioning on at full blast right away in most cases takes away any of those gains.
New guidelines recently posted by Fueleconomy.gov warned that “Under very hot conditions, A/C can reduce the conventional vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%.” They also stressed that, even for a hybrid, plug-in or battery/electric vehicles, fuel economy can be impacted greatly by blasting the air-conditioning, sometimes even more then in conventional automobiles.
Experts have also noted that keeping your automobile’s windows down is not exactly the most efficient means of cooling your car. The reason is that most of today’s new cars have been manufactured to maximize their aerodynamics, or the amount of “drag” that they cause while driving. Opening the windows, especially on the highway, causes more drag and thus uses more fuel than running the air conditioning.
The United States Department of Energy says that the best way to cool off your car in summer is to first drive with the windows open for a few moments to let out the excess heat and then, after the cabin has been cooled and the engine warmed, the air-conditioning will run more efficiently.
They also advise that parking in a shady area, in underground parking or, at the very least, getting a sunshade to reflect the sun’s rays are excellent ideas to keep your automobile cooler during the day.
Owners of vehicles that can be plugged in, like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, actually can pre-cool their automobiles while they are still being charged. This makes them much more comfortable to get into when they first start out on a trip and also maximizes their car’s range. Less battery power will also be used if the air-conditioning is set to a warmer temperature.
Gas prices aren’t going to change anytime soon and, when they do, most likely they’re going to go even higher. That means that, especially in summer, keeping your car as cool as possible when you’re not using it means that, when you are, you’ll spend less energy and fuel getting it cool.