SC Johnson Family Economics Blog
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tracking and Conserving Fuel Use | Family Economics

By

Melissa Hincha-Ownby

            

EV chargerSometimes I get excited about spreadsheets. I admit, it is a bit nerdy, but a spreadsheet can be a great resource if you’re trying to save money by conserving your fuel use. My husband and I recently made the decision to purchase a plugin hybrid vehicle. Our reason for choosing a plugin hybrid was two-fold: first, the vehicle would allow us single-occupant access to the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane in Arizona, and second, the fuel savings would top $200 per month.

I used a spreadsheet to determine my projected monthly fuel savings for several different plugin hybrid models. I simply used a base rate for gasoline, $3.50 per gallon, and then multiplied that by my estimated monthly miles. Since my route is pretty fixed, it is easy to determine how many miles per month I drive. I simply added on 200 miles to that figure for errands around the neighborhood. We used this spreadsheet to determine our fuel savings per vehicle and compared it to the sedan we were planning to trade in for the new car. Although we didn’t pick the vehicle that offered the most in fuel savings, the spreadsheet was an integral part of our car buying process.

Now that we have had the car for a few months, I am tracking our actual fuel use. Every day after I drive the 60 miles round trip to take my daughter to school, I take a picture of my fuel efficiency summary screen on my car. Some days, I get 60 plus miles per gallon and other days it dips under 58 miles per gallon. I input the data into my spreadsheet and then add notes as to why I think the fuel efficiency changed – an extra stop on the way home, more idle time at school, higher driving speeds and anything else that would impact efficiency.

I am tracking not only specific information, such as fuel efficiency per trip, but also driving conditions. Over time, I have been able to see a pattern with my overall fuel efficiency. It is always less if I drive at higher than average driving speeds, but a side trip doesn’t impact my fuel use as much as I thought it would.

This entire process may sound a little over-the-top, but I am able to drive an extra 100 miles per tank than I originally thought I could just by making little tweaks. I’ve also used this data to determine that we don’t need to install a 240V in-home charging station in our garage. I calculated that it would take nearly 24 months to recoup the more than $1,500 it would cost to run a dedicated 240V electrical line in our garage and attach it to an upgraded charger.

Now I challenge you – track your fuel use and see how much you conserve after two months of data. Share your final results in the comments section below!

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hincha-Ownby.

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