8 ways to take control of your fuel consumption


Much like life itself, in driving, there are things that are simply beyond our control.

The up-and-down cycle of oil prices is one of them. As a finite source, oil is a remarkable commodity, determining economies, and even the very history of human society. But as the human population increases and society expands and develops, the fossil fuel that has been powering modern civilizations becomes even more precious, and its widespread use has exacted a heavy toll on the environment.

In my case, I can’t help but face the irony of my situation. Yes, I need the oil to power my vehicle as I go along my daily routine, which includes advocating a low-carbon-footprint lifestyle through a plant-based (vegan) diet and the use of vehicles powered by alternative sources of power.

I also belong to a community of zero-waste vegans who are conscious of carbon footprints or the greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly from human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. So one can imagine the explanations I had to give when they learned that I was a Motoring writer for this paper, and part of my job was to test drive new cars. Yes, I have to drive even those gas-guzzling SUVs that go against the very principles of a sustainable, low-carbon-footprint lifestyle.

To be honest, I already consciously avoid test driving those kinds of vehicles, unless I need to transport heavy cargo or the entire contents of my living room.

But what my day job emits, my diet makes up for. Going on a 100-percent plant-based diet has helped reduce my carbon footprint significantly. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that animal agribusiness contributes to global warming even more than transportation does. So giving up animal-based food (pigs, cows, poultry, sea creatures), eggs, and dairy products in our diet—something I have done for almost 20 years—does help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To reduce my carbon footprint even more, I make sure that the vehicles that I test drive are fuel efficient. Yes, even SUVs can be fuel efficient. Just recently, I drove a 1.6-liter CR-V powered by the i-DTEC turbo diesel, and I asked CR-V diesel owners, as well as Honda engineers what their techniques were to make this already fuel-efficient car even more of a fuel miser. Here are their tips, and perhaps even if you don’t drive a CR-V diesel (yet), these simple drive hacks can make your own cars consume less fuel, too:

1. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended periodic maintenance schedule (PMS). And by following the PMS, that means taking particular attention to the phrase “10,000 km or six months, whichever comes first.” There are two components to be considered here—distance (10,000km) and time (six months). Whichever of the two happens first, then it’s time to bring in the vehicle to the shops for PMS. Often, owners/drivers ignore the time component and wait for the odometer to hit the 10,000km mark, even if the vehicle has passed the sixth month, before bringing it in. Oils, like any other liquid, changes its lubricating properties as time passes.

2. Keep your tires within manufacturer’s recommended pressures. Tires are your car’s only points of contact with the road, and as such, if they are not within the recommended pressure ranges specific to your car’s net and gross weight (underinflated or overinflated), then they will either contribute more to your fuel expenses or hasten your trip to the hospital. Needless to say, maintain your tires well primarily for safety reasons, and secondary for efficient driving and tire longevity.

3. Keep your cool, but don’t get too cold. The air conditioner setting, specifically the temperature setting, does affect fuel efficiency. The temperature setting is directly related to the compressor activation. Setting your AC on high cool switches the compressor on most of the time in order to maintain those cold temps. The compressor is turned on by the engine. Thus, if it is frequently on, the compressor places additional work load on the engine, making the engine consume more fuel.

The recommendation is to put the temperature between 24 and 26 degrees C, and the settings on automatic. At least that’s what Honda engineers suggest for CR-V Diesel owners. This will enable the car to decide what interior climate is best for that driving situation. Don’t be alarmed if the blower gets stronger or weaker. It’s just the computer deciding to use the blower to efficiently control the temperature.

4. The “Economy On” drive mode isn’t for aggressive driving. Remember that driving involves a balancing act of horsepower and torque. You step on the gas to produce power, then convert that power into horsepower or torque via the transmission.

Selecting the “Econ ON” button tells the engine to be fuel efficient. This means that the acceleration will be smooth and gradual. Switching that off means more immediate and aggressive power delivery from the pedal to the rubber.

Many drivers often try to drive aggressively with the “Econ ON”, then they complain of the high fuel consumption. Do remember that even if the car’s transmission is automatic, the car still requires the driver’s input. So, if your driving behavior doesn’t match the drive settings, you are bound to “confuse” your car, and your driving will ultimately dictate your fuel economy.

From driving the CR-V Diesel, I discovered that its engine uses a turbo system in conjunction with friction and weight/load reduction technologies, paired with the 9-speed automatic transmission that properly selects the appropriate torque/horsepower needed for the specific road condition. Honda has found a way to extract more driving power from a smaller displacement engine, and then efficiently transmitting that power from the engine to the wheels using a 9-speed tranny.

5. Don’t go Neutral when moving forward. It has been a common habit that in order to reduce fuel, when you are approaching the area you’re stopping at, shift to neutral and coast the remainder of the way. That practice is more dangerous than beneficial since you lose connection to your engine, and thus the ability to control it as the need arises. In today’s cars, it’s enough to just remain on Drive (D), and the fuel management system will automatically cut off the fuel supply when it detects your foot is not engaging the gas pedal, nor the brakes. In fact, shifting to Neutral will make the car’s engine system keep on injecting fuel in order to maintain the engine’s rotation.

6. Do take advantage of the cruise control for long drives. It is easier for the driver, and more fuel efficient for the vehicle. The CR-V Diesel takes this one step higher with its Active Cruise Control, enabling the CR-V to maintain the same speed and distance as the vehicle in front when cruising.

7. Learn your own engine’s unique torque curve. Some engines are more powerful at the lower RPMs, while others generate more power at higher revs. As you learn what RPM range your engine’s power is optimized, so can you orient your driving to that range when you need that power. Your car’s torque range is available in your model’s brochure or from your dealerships.

8. If your regular drive will involve mostly city driving in stop-and-go traffic, get a low displacement engine that has a torque curve near the low RPM range.

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