Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Its not all about electricity, you know!

The Greener Geek remembers decades ago when his grandfather told him an off-color joke attributed to LBJ. According to President Johnson, a smart man never passed up an opportunity; which, in his mind, was an offer of a free meal, the love of a woman (clearly NOT LBJ's more colorful words), and a chance to go to the bathroom.

As the Greener Geek has gotten older, he understands the imperative to find a bathroom all too well (especially at 3 AM), and has recognized that pain tends to lead one to seek comfort. That applies to the current Geek-mobile -- it's a great ride, looks as new as the day it rolled off the assembly line eight years ago, and sucks (gas) like a Hoover (The person that said "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux" clearly hasn't paid to fill-up my Avalanche).

Given that I drive very little these days (a perk of working out of my home office), and frequently drive a different vehicle when I do, the thought of getting rid of my truck seemed both environmentally foolish and economically crazy. Since I hope to be driving it for another decade, I wanted to see if there wasn't something I could do that would have a significant impact on the gas consumption (running 14 MPG average for the past several years).

Enter the Scan Gauge II. It's a small screen that plugs into the diagnostic connector on every car and light truck sold in American (typically located near the steering wheel or fuse box). Once connected, it is capable of reading all sorts of diagnostic and performance data from your engine. In my case I was seriously interested in fuel consumption. It tells me how many gallons of gas I am burning per hour, my miles per gallon, the cost of a trip, the cost to refill my tank, etc.

Simply plugging in the Scan Gauge doesn't save money by itself, but it does make you very aware of how much you are using and spending ALL THE TIME. I've never seen anything that encourages better driving habits than knowing the last trip to the local GeekMart cost you $11.23.

Following that old maxim "If you measure it you can control it", I have found that my average MPG has increased from 14 to 17 MPG in the last two months. All I did was try to keep my speed to the posted limit and drive without a lead-foot. By following hypermiling techniques, I've seen gas mileage on trips increase to about 25 MPG (I used to get 17).

Now as they say, I'm sure your mileage will vary, but this might be the best $160 you've ever spent.