Better Ways To Save Gas

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by Eric Peters EricPetersAutos.com

Recently by Eric Peters: From the Head Down

“We” (as the statists always style it) waste a lot of fuel in this country. No doubt you’ve heard that one before. But let’s examine the cliche from a slightly different perspective: The many ways via which the government wastes our fuel.

Out-of-synch traffic lights

Broad avenue, three or four traffic lights — each spaced say 500 yards apart as you proceed down the road. The first goes green just as the one up ahead turns red. Or vice-versa. Writ small, a Clover Conga. Inch forward a bit — then stop and wait some more. It takes 15 minutes to clear a mile or so of road that — if the lights all went green at once — you could probably traverse in two minutes or so. Write large — extrapolated nationwide — a massive waste of gas as millions of car engines idle while the cars themselves go nowhere. The government itself concedes that as much as 10 percent of the fuel used by Americans each year is burnt up by cars idling uselessly at lights. With all the AI-type computers and cameras everywhere, it surely can’t be much of a technical challenge to coordinate traffic signals so they encourage free-flowing traffic as opposed to mucking up the flow of traffic. It’s a no-cost solution to a real problem.

Which is probably why the government is doing nothing about it. Or rather, doing more to make it worse.

Too many stop signs — not enough “proceed with caution” signs

Other than it being “the law,” is there any sensible reason for coming to a complete stop at an intersection where sight lines are open and you can clearly see there are no other cars in the immediate vicinity? Losing momentum — and having to regain it — wastes a tremendous amount of fuel. It does not take much horsepower — and so, not much fuel — to keep even the biggest “gas hog” SUV moving. But it does take a great deal of fuel to get the thing moving in the first place. A vehicle that weighs say 3,200 pounds and which is powered by a 270 hp V-6 may only need 30 or 40 hp to cruise in top gear at a steady 45 MPH. But it needs a whole lot more than 30 or 40 hp to push (or pull, if FWD) that 3,200 pounds to 45 MPH from a dead stop. The more stop-and-go, the faster the gas needle moves from right to left. Stop less — and save more. Some (Clovers) will object to the idea of people exercising discretion and judgment — as opposed to worshipful blind obedience to signage. But then they ought to mewl less about “wasting gas.”

Which of course, they won’t.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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