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Ways to reduce driving costs

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(Special) - Summer is a wonderful but all too short season in Canada that usually comes with higher costs at the gas pump.

A new report from Scotiabank says the average cost of energy prices and utilities has risen by about five per cent this year. The average household spends about $5,000 a year on energy and utilities, with gasoline accounting for about 56 per cent of household energy costs followed by electricity, water, natural gas and fuel oil.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association, it costs $10,866 a year to drive the average mid-size car in Canada, or about $0.54 per kilometre.

That estimate is based on driving about 20,000 km a year with gas prices at $1.25 per litre, paying $2,075 for insurance, $89 for licence registration and $6,725 a year for maintenance and depreciation costs over a five-year period.

There are a number of pretty well-known, simple and ecologically-friendly driving tips that can help you reduce your gas consumption and costs at the pump.

Don't floor the gas pedal. Not only do "jackrabbit" starts waste fuel, but one second of full-throttle driving can produce the same amount of carbon monoxide as a half-hour of normal cruising.

Keep your tires properly inflated. A single tire underinflated by two PSI (pounds per square inch) increases fuel consumption by one per cent.

Remove excess weight such as roof racks and items from your trunk. Roof racks increase aerodynamic drag on your vehicle and increase fuel consumption. If you need to use your roof rack try to arrange items in steps with lower items at the front. Vehicle weight is a major contributor to higher fuel costs - for every 45 kilograms of extra weight you carry in your vehicle fuel consumption can increase by two per cent.

Only drive the vehicle that you really need. Do you really need a huge four-wheel-drive adventure rig? Have a look at a leaner, more responsive wagon or crossover, many of which are available with four-wheel drive for winter conditions.

Reduce your speed. Driving at 100 kilometres per hour versus 120 kilometres per hour can save you 15 per cent in fuel economy while dramatically reducing emissions.

Reduce highway speed and use your cruise control if you have one. Fuel consumption increases above 90 km per hour. Tests have shown that most cars use about 20 per cent less fuel when they are driven at 90 km per hour instead of 110.

Don't idle. After starting your car simply drive away slowly. Your car will warm up faster than it would if you leave it to idle in the driveway. And you'll save fuel in

the process.

Service your vehicle. Regular maintenance helps to prevent poor fuel economy.

You also can increase fuel efficiency by improved technology such as using high efficiency tires which reduce rolling resistance, choose higher efficiency fuels like diesel, downsize your engine, choose manual or advanced technology transmission to reduce drivetrain losses and increase electrification by powering anything from accessories to the drivetrain.

Changing a vehicle's shape, materials, engines and transmissions also can help you save on fuel.

Conventional steel in automobiles can be replaced with high-strength, low alloy materials without compromising safety or performance.

Changing the shape of your vehicle can greatly reduce wind resistance and fuel consumption. Back in the 1990s car makers produced concept vehicles with 40 per cent less aerodynamic drag than conventional vehicles as part of a U.S. government-industry cooperative partnership.

Choosing a diesel engine can increase fuel efficiency since diesel fuel is burned more efficiently inside an engine. Smaller engines also tend to operate closer to optimal efficiency levels during typical driving conditions, and when driven properly manual transmission vehicles are more fuel efficient than automatic transmissions.

Hybrid electric vehicles are another option. They are composed of an internal combustion engine, a large battery pack and one or more electric motors to deliver power to the driveshaft. While hybrid vehicles integrate both form of power it's possible in some cases for the electric motor to displace the internal combustion engine as the primary power source.

Plug-in hybrids use a higher capacity battery that allows them to run an ell-electric at higher speeds and for longer periods of time and the power can be topped up with external electricity from a household outlet.

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

Copyright 2014 Talbot Boggs

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