I’ve got a very short piece in today’s New York Times, part of a roundup of writers responding to high fuel prices.
Studies have shown significant increases in fuel economy are achievable simply by changes in driving style (a few things got cut from this piece, by the way, including an obvious one: Cruise control aids MPG — but not cruise control at 70 mph).
One question, of course, is exactly how much a price increase is necessary to spur changes — not to mention those changes are tough to measure. But an interesting study (download PDF) by Kara Kockelman and Matthew Bomberg of the University of Texas of drivers in Austin, Tx., during the 2005 gas price spike reported: “Adjustments in style of driving also appear to be a viable strategy of coping with high gas prices, as significant percentages reported increased attention to vehicle maintenance (presumably to ensure peak fuel efficiency), driving slower, and driving at steadier speeds.” Work by Phil Goodwin has also found fuel consumption tends to drop further than miles driven in response to rises in the real cost of fuel, indicating alterations to driving style.
The Australian study I refer to in the piece was conducted by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, comparing a Ford Falcon with a Mazda Astina. If you’re still not convinced about the driving style argument, consider this note from the researchers: “A large vehicle driven conservatively can now better the fuel economy of a small car driven aggressively.”
The RACV “Fuel Smart” trial was cited within another interesting Australian study (download here), by Narelle Haworth and Mark Symmons of Monash University, titled “The Relationship Between Fuel Economy and Safety Outcomes.” Looking at a pool of fleet vehicles, they came to an interesting, though perhaps not surprising, conclusion: “The fuel consumption rate of crash-involved vehicles was higher than that of vehicles not involved in crashes.” (more…)