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Becoming An Eco-Driver

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Mar 11, 2012    •    674 Views

With the price of gas marching skyward, more of us might become eco-drivers. Based on a report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), here are some (slightly irreverent but accurate) rules for eco-driving:

  1. During warm weather, don’t use the air conditioner and don’t open the windows. At certain speeds, the wind is a drag that uses up more fuel.
  2. Occupy every seat with short skinny people. Weight and occupancy make a big difference.
  3. Avoid hills.
  4. Only drive on highways, preferably at 50 mph. Sort of like the porridge from Goldilocks and the Three Bears, driving too slowly and too fast use more fuel while a medium speed is just right.
  5. Don’t drive aggressively.
  6. Keep an eye on your oxygen sensor, your tires and your engine oil.


However, even if you violate every suggestion, by driving one of the most fuel efficient cars you will still receive a higher eco-driver rating than being eco-observant in the least fuel efficient cars.

So, what really counts? The car.

And this takes us to where economists always go: Incentive. Is price enough of an incentive to affect how and what we drive?

The Economic Lesson

Economists hypothesize that at more than $4.00 a gallon, we are close to a gasoline price that provides the incentive to conserve more and drive less. When buyers have a considerable response to a price change, economists say that their response is elastic. Our minimal reaction to the rising gasoline price indicates that thus far, our quantity demanded has been inelastic.

An Economic Question: If, in 1923, average mpg were 14.0, why has gas mileage not improved substantially since then?

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