BEIRUT: A peculiarity of life in Lebanon is that its citizens have very little, if any, influence over virtually all aspects of the country’s economic and political realities.
We’re pretty much buffeted by whatever happens to be the latest storm pelting the country, be it the fallout from the Syrian conflict or the ever-increasing price of fuel.
However, while we have no say in the international price of oil, which in turn determines the going rate of gasoline in Lebanon, we can approach the issue from another direction by taking a number of measures that reduce our fuel consumption, effectively reining in our gasoline bill.
Health care: Maintaining your car regularly ensures optimal operation and improves fuel efficiency significantly, possibly burning up to 50 percent less gasoline. Also make sure often-neglected items like spark plugs and oil, fuel and air filters are replaced as required.
Dead tired: Underinflated tires can increase drag, increasing the resistance your engine needs to cope with to propel your car. Keeping your tires inflated to the recommended pressure can cut down on fuel consumption by more than 10 percent. Also keep in mind that tire sizes recommended by the manufacturer provide the best fuel efficiency. Wider tires may provide better grip, but they also increase drag and weight.
Weight-loss program: When you lose those extra pounds, don’t you feel lighter on your feet? Well guess what? So does your car. The amount of force your engine needs to produce to move your car along is directly related to its weight, and that’s why many sports carmakers use carbon fiber and other light-weight materials in manufacturing their supercars. They even strip down race cars to just the essentials to reduce weight so the car can accelerate faster and reach a higher top speed.
You can use the same principle to reduce your fuel consumption. Simply stop carrying junk in the car that you don’t need, such as the heavy toolbox which you never got around to leaving at home, or those bottles of water that you didn’t have the energy to carry up the stairs. You also don’t need to drive around with a full fuel tank; it just adds to the weight your car has to lug around all day.
One-lap race: You need to buy a recharge card for your phone. How about a trip to the gas station to have your car washed? You have to pick up your laundry? There’s a sale at the Gap. No, I don’t have ADD, but your car may think you do if you keep going on a new trip for each errand. Just bundle all your chores together and go on the shortest possible circuit to tend to all of them in one go, cutting down five trips down to one and in the in the process reducing your fuel usage by 80 percent.
Cozy up: The motor in your car uses the least amount fuel when it has warmed to the optimal temperature. When going on a circuit, as mentioned in the previous example, where you stop several times during one trip, first go to the farthest destination to give your car adequate time to warm up properly, and make each of your other stops on the return trip.
Slick ride: When traveling at speed, the air in front of you increases the resistance your car has to overcome; the faster you go, the higher that resistance. Fortunately the cars of today are designed to be more streamlined, with manufacturers using wind tunnels to reduce drag coefficients, and consequently fuel consumption. And then we get in those sleek cars, start driving at 100 km/h and lower the window, increasing drag, like a parachute, and effectively forfeiting all the benefits of the car’s aerodynamic design. Just keep your windows rolled up and watch your fuel consumption roll down.
It’s cool to be warm: Cruising along the Manara with your tinted windows rolled up and the air conditioner blowing cold air in your face may sound cool, but your gas tank doesn’t think so. Turn off the A/C, drop the windows and just enjoy the sunny weather, in the process cutting down on fuel consumption by at least 10 percent.
Hot pursuit: By driving behind another car you are essentially slipstreaming, or drafting. By allowing the lead car to cut through the air, you reduce your own air resistance significantly and the lead car is spared the vacuum created in his wake, with both you and the car in front benefitting from improved mileage. However, this requires precision driving and isn’t for everyone. Leave a few car lengths between you and the car in front, widening the gap as speed increases to allow response time for braking.
Easy rider: Aggressive driving can wreak all kinds of havoc on your fuel consumption; the faster you drive, the lower your fuel efficiency. Driving at 100 km/h may get you to your destination faster than when traveling at 80 km/h, but the relative increase in fuel consumption will be far more than just 25 percent. Repeated and erratic acceleration also increases fuel consumption. Avoid sudden acceleration and sudden braking. Leaving some distance between you and the car in front, try to maintain a constant speed.
Getting nowhere: Any motorist in Beirut can tell you that we spend half the day stuck in traffic, with our engines idling most of that time. That reduces mileage to about zero kilometers to the gallon. If you just turn off the car, your fuel stays in the tank instead of contributing to the smog hovering above the city. Starting the car uses about as much fuel as 30 seconds of idling, so just do the math and make your choices accordingly.