Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Slow Down - it makes good cents

Last week, we hit 53mpg in the Prius. I don't remember hitting that last summer, and I am pretty psyched about it. Driving has become much more of a game with the mpg indicator 16 inches from my right hand while I'm driving. I know which routes will bring me home most efficiently. I spend time doing math in my head (if I drive this many miles at this many mph vs that many mph, what is the time difference) to stay awake on longer trips. I coast down our dead end street and into our driveway resisting the impulse to accelerate one more time in those 100 yards. Yes, I would call myself a 'nempimaniac'.(Nempimania (also Nenpimania) is an obsession with getting the best fuel economy possible from a hybrid car. It is derived from the Japanese "nempi" (燃費)--a contraction of nenryōshōhiryō (燃料消費量) meaning fuel economy, and mania, meaning "craze for." Nempimania is exhibited by owners of the Toyota Prius and other hybrid owners by various habits aimed at maximizing fuel economy: slow starts, "Pulse and Glide", timing stoplights, driving barefoot, etc.)

But as a Prius owner, I have a dirty little secret. Actually it's big, and black. A 2000 Ford Windstar. We've had it almost as long as we've had Caleb. We bought it when we were driving from NY to ME a couple times a year, and living at a boarding school. It has very low mileage, and it's gas mileage.... well, you know.

For awhile, we told ourselves that it was the only reasonable option for a family with three young children. But we have found that three children (in 2 boosters and 1 standard carseat) can
be smooshed into the back seat. Yes, I admit it is smooshing. But when the kids are older, they will understand that smooshing meant we had the flexibility to go on some of our more fun summer roadtrips.

Well, now we own the Ford, so no matter how bad the mpg is for the tank, is it really worth another debt-line? For now, we think not. So now I am trying to learn to drive differently, when I drive. At this website here are some recommendations: And here is a quote that should at least get you thinking:

At 65 mph you're burning 10% more fuel than at 55, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. At 70 you lose 17% of your fuel economy, and at 75 it’s 25%. The numbers get worse from there. (

But what is most stirring for me is how a necessary lifestyle change has become a place of growth and healing and rest. Let me explain.

Do I need to go there now? When gas was 'reasonable', I didn't ask that question. Just hurried everyone out of the house (2 boosters, 1 carseat), stuffed everyone in the car, hurried, through the errand, hurried home. Repeat. As many times as it happened to enter my mind. Now I evaluate: no I won't be cooking with that for a couple days so it can wait; oh, I'm already planning to be over there tomorrow night; and even recently I had the joy of telling someone "I'm sorry I can't, it's not one of my driving days".

Do I need to shop? Face it, shopping, the going out and going shopping, is often an emotional outlet. Sure the kids need new underwear or you need a new SD card, but when I get honest I remember that that has been the case for a couple weeks (or more, sorry Anna). And nobody is going to lose sleep, nor am I going to lose productivity (lost that years ago) by choosing to (a) order it online, (b) not acquire it at all. So not only do I save my gas pennies, but sometimes I save many pennies. Of course this means that I need to re-discover healthy ways to deal with the legitimate emotional need, but I think that is for another post.

Speed limits. Speed limits are to driving as Sabbath living is to spiritual disiplines. I love this part. It has gone far beyond the saving money game. Driving the speed limit, in town or on the highway, has become a delightful time of peace for me. I had no idea how hurried I was until I began to play the 'save gas game'. I coast to stop signs and red lights. I accelerate only when necessary. It is like tithing. (Marc talks about when we were in debt and we would pay the tithe first - he says it felt like he was screaming at the tithe "You don't own me, I'm the Son of the King".)

If my lifestyle has been 70mph, and I change my lifestyle to 55, then there are potentially 15 minutes added to a particular trip. Do I really need to save that 15 minutes for something in my day? Or do I give it conversation in the car? Or to listening to a great book or lecture in the car (this summer we are enjoying Narnia books from Audible)? Or actually taking time to see where I live?

I filled the windstar with gas almost two weeks ago (it wasn't even down to the 3/4 line so it wasn't too painful). My goal is to make this tank of gas last 4-6 weeks. I'll keep you posted on how we do.

1 comment:

FMTech said...

There is a gadget that will not reduce your gas mileage but if you have a business it will help you deduct 58.5 cents per mile. This gadget can be found at and it logs your mileage automatically, no need for pen and paper. IRS just increased the mileage rate from 50.5 to 58.5 cents per mile so you can deduct more money for your business.