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The Vehicle Fuel Economy Resource

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Data Blocks

By Oswaldo Flores

Fuel economy measures the fuel efficiency of a vehicle using the distance a car travels and the amount of gas the car uses to travel that distance. When cars have better fuel efficiency, they consume less gas. Consuming less gas not only costs less money for car owners, but it also contributes less pollution to the environment, known as greenhouse gas emissions. A common-sense approach can increase fuel economy to use less gas. Consumers can also increase fuel economy by following fuel-saving tips such as following speed limits, avoiding excessive idling, and carpooling.

Q: What are fuel economy labels?

A: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation, released a new generation of fuel economy labels in 2011. These labels provide important information about the fuel economy of new cars. Consumers can compare energy use, see estimates of fuel costs over a five-year period, learn ratings of fuel and smog emissions, and see an estimation of fuel costs for driving 100 miles in a specific vehicle.

Q: How is fuel economy tested?

A: Federal law mandates and oversees how car manufacturers test fuel economy. With a car's wheels situated on a dynamometer in a laboratory setting, the manufacturer simulates a driving environment with the car. A dynamometer is a set of rollers on a platform that move the car tires. During the test, the manufacturer may change the speed of the dynamometer to simulate wind resistance or additional weight in the vehicle. After concluding the testing, manufacturers report the results to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In turn, the EPA reviews the results, and it may perform additional independent testing to confirm results.

Q: Where can you find information on a vehicle's fuel economy?

A: The U.S. Department of Energy releases an annual fuel economy guide that can provide guidance and information about vehicle fuel economy. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy also offers a free tool on their website that enables consumers to compare the fuel economy of specific cars. The fuel economy labels also provide information about a new vehicle's fuel economy.

Q: Why is fuel economy important?

A: Fuel economy is important for several reasons. By paying attention to fuel economy, you can reduce fuel costs, which can reduce your expenses. Fuel economy can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which should reduce climate changes over time. When cars use less gas, this can reduce oil dependence from other nations. Fuel economy also leads to more sustainable fuel choices, which conserves natural resources.

Q: Does regular vehicle maintenance help with fuel economy?

A: Vehicle maintenance can enhance fuel efficiency. Some fuel-saving tips include scheduling regular tune-ups for a car to keep it running efficiently and maintaining proper tire inflation. Use the recommended oil for the car and change lubricants according to manufacturer recommendations. Change the air filter to save gas and money, too. By performing these maintenance tasks, consumers may improve fuel efficiency by up to 19 percent.

Q: What are alternative fuels?

A: Instead of using diesel or standard gasoline in cars, consumers can purchase cars that require alternative fuels. Alternative fuels include alcohol, electricity, hydrogen, natural gas, propane, and even vegetable waste, known as biodiesel. A car might have a dedicated system designed to accept only alternative fuel, or the vehicle might have a dual system that accepts both standard gasoline and alternative fuel. Another option for fuel is renewable fuels. These fuels include gas and electricity that come from renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuel energy sources.

Q: What are some fuel-saving technologies that have been developed?

A: New vehicles may offer some fuel-saving technologies that can help increase fuel efficiency. For example, a turbocharger installed in an engine increases the power of the engine without the need for a large engine that uses more gas. An integrated generator will turn a car off if it idles for a specific length of time to save gas. Cylinder deactivation enables the deactivation of certain engine cylinders if the car doesn't need them, which can save gas.