Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Driving Greener": short film on improving gasoline mileage

"Driving Greener", dir. and wr. By Brian Palmer, is an independent short subject (12 minutes) about practical tips for reducing gasoline usage. A little of it was shown on Washington DC's NBC4 on June 24, 2008. The link is here.

The filmmaker analyzes his own 92.5 mile round trip commute, reverse from traffic, across the Bay Bridge in Maryland, in a 2000 Honda Civic. He buys a scan gage, which shows is miles per gallon and the load from air conditioning and even high beams. His baseline mpg was 32.5. He found he could improve it to 37 by “drafting” behind large trucks as well as staying within the speed limit and accelerating and decelerating gently. A tune-up increased his mileage to 39. His best mileage ever was about 45. The filmmaker gives mathematical analysis of the potential annual savings by changing driving and car maintenance habit.

The film discusses the issue of gasoline additives, such as acetone. One fuel buyer for a convenience store chain tells Palmer that when retailers had to switch to 10% ethanol (gasohol), all gasoline storage tanks had to be cleaned internally, because alcohols are effective solvents. The film speculates that additives, even alcohol itself, could be harmful to engine gaskets and other components. Indeed, I had one oil pan gasket leak at about 80000 miles in a Ford Escort, and the repair shop said that this inevitably happens with ethanol additives in gasoline.

The film contains some interviews, some brief but neat animation (Morgan Spurlock style) and some impressive photography of the Maryland Chesapeake Bay Bridge (on US 50, 10 miles east of Annapolis and the US Naval Academy). The Bridge opened in 1952. But for several years before, as a boy, my family made trips from the DC area to Ocean City using a ferry to cross the bay. The filmmaker works in Chestertown, well known for antique homes.

Picture: Bay Bridge, my own trip, March 2004 (snapshot from video at doaskdotell.com in photo directory, look for "Bay Bridge")

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