Saturday, June 14, 2008

In Praise of Coasting

Recently I came across an offbeat proposal for saving gas when one drives: Coasting. The author (whom I can't remember now) noted how he (pretty sure it was a he) has been letting off the gas pedal and coasting down hills for a while now, and has seen a modest but real decrease in his fuel consumption.

The idea intrigued me, and I tried it out. The driving I do, primarily at nonrush hours on gently undulating back roads, is well-suited to such an experiment, offering a plethora of opportunities and a paucity of other drivers I might inconvenience by failing to put the pedal to the metal at all times.

Well, whaddaya know -- when you look for them, there are lots and lots of coasting spots. Doesn't have to be a steep slope; even a gentle decline works just fine. Doesn't have to be a long stretch; even a few dozen yards here and there will add up over time to a respectable total. It's surprising how slowly the car's speed will slow even on a near-flat surface, and how far inertia will carry one beyond the base of a respectable hill before mere gravity gives not enough go. It's become a game for me now, seeing how many times on each drive the coast is clear.

And it's so easy, such a small maneuver; just lift one's foot ever so slightly, just clear of the pedal, poised for the soft descent that will initiate a smooth surge of acceleration when it's needed. Smooth -- that's the ticket. Smooth is good; smooth acceleration (and deceleration, for that matter) burns less gas than stomping on pedal and brake.

I haven't been paying sufficient attention to my gas mileage to note what sort of fuel savings this is achieving, in part because my little Scion's fuel economy is so good anyway that it's not much of an issue for me. What I have noticed as a benefit is the psychic gain: Not just, not even primarily the small glow of satisfaction at conserving energy, but rather the smoothing away of stress. Coasting, I find, is calming. Easing off the pedal eases off whatever tension I happen to be carrying. Coasting creates a relaxed focus on the now of driving, an enhanced awareness of the terrain I traverse.

Coasting is cool beans!

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