With the arrival of summertime and the reality that more drivers are on the roads, many of us as consumers find ourselves victimized in the wallet by fluctuating gasoline prices. And on the high end of fluctuating gasoline prices is a fact based on simple physics; that the heat and humidity of the summer translates to lower gas mileage for the overwhelming majority vehicles on the road.
Simply put, when gasoline gets hot, it loses a portion of its energy. The result is our cars get fewer miles per gallon. To illustrate, when we fill up our gas tanks when it is 60 degrees, the typical car can travel up to 500 miles. But fill it up when it's 90 degrees and you get 10 miles less out of that same tank. Now I know that 10 miles less a fill-up doesn’t seem like much, but add it up over a period of a year, factor in the additional extra unpaid miles posted on our odometers, and multiply this by the millions of cars and car owners who are equally as affected by the same reality, and you get an extra $1.5 billion a year (according to a 2007 Congressional report) that we as consumers pay during the warmer summer months—more profit for oil companies who are already raking in record profits every quarter. In effect, we consumers pay the same price for less gas at certain times of the year. And I needn’t have to tell you that in these lean economic times, every penny, every financial advantage could literally make the difference between making it to the next payday with a few dollars left in hand or not.
And although it seems like there is little that consumers can do about the laws of physics, there is actually a money-saving measure that is open to both gas stations and customers. For the last 20 years or so, 90% of Canadian gas stations have been using pumps which measure gasoline output, and automatically make adjustments for temperature. The result? When it’s hot, customers receive more gasoline for their money.
In America, and sadly as you might suspect, these pumps are only not widely available to motorists, but their installation has been and continues to be fought by gas station owners. "We simply don't agree that the juice is worth the squeeze," said Dan Gilligan, an official from the Petroleum Marketers Association of America. Gilligan insist that installing these pumps at most gasoline stations would result in consumers paying more for gasoline anyway in the long run. "Putting a $2.4 billion cost on gas station owners would only transfer $2.4 billion to the consumer," cited Gilligan, as stations sought to recover the costs of doing so.
Some driver’s disagree, so much so in fact that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against some 21 states, seeking to force stations to install the type consumer-friendly pumps they use in Canadian gasoline stations. And there is some hope on the horizon that American consumers may see the benefit of these pumps.
As part of a legal settlement, the cost-saving chain Costco recently agreed to install the new pumps at its gas stations in warm weather states (pending court approval). And now, three of the big oil companies — BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips — are settling too, though the details of the deal are still unclear.
Other gas station chains however, continue to fight the lawsuits.
In the meantime, here are some other gas and money saving tips for filling up at the pump.
-Driver slower, and avoid rapid acceleration. The aerodynamic drag placed on your car at higher speeds (70 mph or higher) affects your mileage negatively…so too does rapid acceleration. Unless you are a woman in labor, the higher costs in potential speeding tickets and mileage loss simply isn’t worth it getting to your destination 1 or 2 minutes sooner (or maybe even not at all).
-Avoid excess idling. An automobile sitting idle burns more gas than restarting the engine and put unnecessary wear on the engine. This doesn’t mean stopping and restarting your engine in the 30 second to 1 minute it takes for the average traffic light to change. This is point addressing sitting in traffic during heavy congestion or that “quick” dash in and out of a store.
-Watch how much weight you carry in your automobile. The use of a roof rack provides additional cargo space, especially for smaller cars. But overloading your car, both inside and out, reduces fuel efficiency (by an estimated 1-2%). It might be a good idea to empty out your trunk of unnecessary clutter held there from the colder months.
-Maintain your automobile. Keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure will result in longer wear and can improve your gas mileage by about 3.3%. Air pressure should be checked frequently (at least every couple of weeks), especially prior to long trips. And on the note of tire maintenance, driving an automobile that is not in proper alignment produces premature wear on tires, and affects gas mileage negatively. Check your gas caps for damage or loose fitting. A tight-fitting gas cap can help prevent gas—and money evaporation. And replace dirty air filters. Clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10%, which is a savings of about 15 cents per gallon
-Plan you trips. Try to ensure that one trip covers all of your errands at one time. Several short stop and go errands can use twice as much fuel than a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance.
In lieu of smart-pumps which can help us reduce how much we lose in lost fuel mileage in the warm months, we can use smart-sense to help us save money…until the gas stations wise up and decide to help us do so.