Speed and Fuel Economy Just Don’t Mix

Detroit Free Press - January 27, 2013

Until last week, no one had quan­ti­fied the effect real-world speeds have on fuel econ­o­my, but new research by the Depart­ment of Ener­gy now makes it clear.

How much will it cost to hit the ped­al?

How much does your fuel econ­o­my fall — and how much does your fuel cost rise? — if you dri­ve at 60 m.p.h. rather than 50? How about 70 m.p.h.? 80?

Would you believe a 41% decrease in fuel econ­o­my from 50 m.p.h. to 80? That’s like pay­ing $1.38 more per gal­lon of gaso­line, accord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Energy’s web­site Fueleconomy.gov.

The dif­fer­ences from one vehi­cle to anoth­er are sur­pris­ing, accord­ing to Bri­an West, a devel­op­ment engi­neer who worked on the study at DOE’s Oak Ridge Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Ten­nessee.

The small­est drop in fuel effi­cien­cy was 6.9% from 50 to 60 m.p.h., while one vehi­cle lost a sur­pris­ing 26% between 70 and 80 m.p.h. Oth­er vehi­cles saw their fuel econ­o­my decrease as much as 18.3% at 60 and as lit­tle as 10.8% at 80.

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