21st Century Dad
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Crunchy on the Inside – Driving Habits

April 29th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

UPDATE 29 April 2008: After some reflection, Renee and I realized one car sat in the driveway for 2 days, and another is almost through day 4. Last night, I went to the post office, picked up some small items at Walgreens, and did some grocery shopping all on the bike.

I started this series on Earth Day last week. This is installment #2 of “Crunchy on the Inside With a Soft Suburban Outer Coating.”

Your Navigator on a Suburban Expedition

Sport Utility Vehicle

Photo: Murray Barnes

Living in the suburbs almost requires a car. Public transit spread thinner and eventually disappears as you venture further from the downtown area. This is painfully obvious in South Florida. The infrastructure was built without public transit in mind. However, I do my best to use public transit and ride my bicycle whenever I can. Two bus lines stop within a short walk from my front door. Others are accessible via transfer, a longer walk or bike ride.

Fortunately, we live in a neighborhood where a few local stores and restaurants are within walking distance. Even more businesses are within biking distance. I feel the guilt when I drive to places I could walk or bike to.

One of my top criteria for an automobile is fuel economy. I wanted a hybrid, but I just didn’t have the budget for one. If you do the math, the savings aren’t significant. You won’t recoup the difference in price at the pump over the life of the vehicle, even as prices go up.

You can’t win. The hybrid will get you halfway from New York to Boston before a Hummer gets you around the block. A conventional car may burn more fuel, but what happens to the toxic chemicals in the batteries when these cars make it to the junk yard?

Some people have a legitimate need for a large automobile. What grosses me out are the people who drive SUVs and full-sized pickup trucks as status symbols. Their sheer size requires more resources to build, maintain, and outfit with humongous tires. Ever notice that no one in a full size pickup truck drives like an old lady? How badly do you need to beat me to the red light? Do you really need to get there first? Bad driving habits burn even more fuel.

Improving Fuel Economy

Is this still linkbait or is the topic played out? Gas prices show no signs of returning to sane levels. Just do a Google search and you’ll find tons of great tips. My number one tip is to just drive less. Every day I take the bus is one more day I can put off filling up the tank.

Mike at FromMike.com is doing the “60 MPH challenge.” As you increase speed, your fuel economy goes down. At speeds in excess of 60 MPH, it drops off precipitously. I commend Mike for his efforts. It can’t be easy in a car like his. If I had a Dodge Charger, I’d be tempted to be heavy on the foot too

We’re Still Not All That Crunchy

How are we “not quite crunchy” in the car department? One of our vehicles is a 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport. Yes, it’s a big honkin’ SUV. I was surprised to find out how well it does considering the size of the vehicle. We’re averaging about 18-20mpg overall. Our other car (a Pontiac Vibe) does noticeably better at 25-28mpg overall. We do a great deal of suburban driving. On our recent roadtrip to Daytona Beach, we fared much better.

We all know that idling the engine burns fuel. South Florida is a brutal place to live if you don’t have air conditioning. If we’re running errands on the go, one parent and the baby stay in the car with the engine running. Why go through the ordeal of unbuckling the baby from the child seat only to strap her back in 5 minutes later?

Further Reading

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