Here in Michigan many of us dread the winter since it means hiking out in snowdrifts extra early in the morning so we can brush snow off our car and scrape our windshields. With the return of cold weather the fuel economy in our cars can also take a hit with conventional cars getting 12% lower gas mileage at 20°F and hybrid fuel vehicles dipping 31%-34%. Read on to see how you can get more mileage out of your car in the frigid Michigan weather.

How is Jack Frost Nipping at Your Car?

  • Warming up your car before getting in lowers your fuel economy since any car that is idling gets zero miles per gallon.
  • Cars have an optimal fuel-efficient temperature and with colder weather it takes longer to get there.
  • All the features your car uses to warm you up and defrost your windshields use power and therefore fuel.
  • Cold air is denser which increases drag.
  • Tire pressure decreases in colder temperatures.
  • Battery performance decreases in cold weather making it harder to keep your batter charged and decreases the performance of regenerative braking system on hybrids.
  • Winter grades of gasoline have less energy per gallon than summer blends.
  • Icy or snow-covered roads decrease tire grip which wastes energy.
  • Safe driving on slick roads can be much slower than normal which reduces fuel economy.
  • Four-wheel drive uses more fuel.

How to Make Sure it’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Your Fuel Economy

  • Minimize the time your car spends idling. While running your car for a couple minutes before getting in might sound like a nice idea most manufacturers recommend driving off gently within thirty seconds. The engine warms up faster when driving benefiting your fuel economy, the environment, and you.
  • Keep the seat warmers and defrosters on only as long as you need.
  • Regularly check your tire pressure.
  • Check your owner’s manual for the proper oil in cold weather.
  • Remove things that increase wind resistance, such as a car top carrier, when you aren’t using them.
  • Try to park in a warmer location, like your garage, if that is possible.
  • Combine your trips so you don’t have to continuously start your car up in the cold.
  • If you use a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) or all-electric vehicle (EV) preheat the cabin while still plugged in to increase your range. Also use a seat warmer instead of cabin heating when you can to save energy.

For more tips and tricks on cold weather driving visit the Clean Cities website here and here.

From everyone here at Greater Lansing Clean Cities we wish you a Happy Holidays with safe and fuel-efficient travels!

For more information on winter driving and fuel economy, please contact Michigan Clean Cities at (517) 393-0342, or email Jeremy Orr at

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