5 Tips for a Greener Road Trip
Here's advice on how to reduce your journey's gas cost and environmental impact at the same time.
Road trips define America as much as baseball and apple pie, lemonade and lightning bugs. But with gas prices climbing past $4 per gallon and growing sensitivity to the environmental costs of driving, they've become more difficult to justify than ever. There are ways, though, to compromise — not on the natural splendor and the kitschy charm of the roadside attractions you'll encounter on the way, but on the environmental and financial impacts of the expedition. Here’s our road map to a green-friendly trip.
Don't even think of leaving home — for the office, much less for a 1,000-mile road trip — without ensuring that your car is primed for fuel efficiency. And that goes for Prius owners as well as for those who drive an SUV. The Automobile Association of America (http://www.aaa.com) recommends a few basic adjustments. "There's simple stuff you can do," says David Weinstein, a AAA spokesman. "You might not see it gallon by gallon, but over the life of the car, it definitely adds up." Weinstein suggests three key moves: "Watching your speed is the biggest thing you can do; the faster you go, the more gas you use," he says. The second and third steps might require assistance from a service station attendant. "Certainly you'll want to make sure your tires are properly inflated and your air filter's clean. That's something the people who are checking your oil should be looking at, as a matter of course." Those three steps are really what matter, Weinstein says. "Anything beyond that, and you're getting into the weeds."
Renting eco-friendly cars
If you decide that renting is the best way to go, some cars make better companions than others. More and more car rental agencies are stocking fuel-saving hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, alongside their SUVs and sedans. EV Rental (http://www.evrental.com), with seven locations in Arizona and California, bills itself as the country's first rental car company to maintain an all-hybrid fleet; at 600 miles per tank, refueling your way up the Pacific Coast Highway should be relatively painless. (The hybrids are also available through EV's partner, Fox Rent A Car.)
Bio-Beetle (http://www.bio-beetle.com), meanwhile, rents both hybrids and cars that run on biodiesel from its locations in Hawaii and Los Angeles. Though you'll need to refuel the car with biodiesel — something that can be a bit of a chore compared to your average fuel-up, simply because of the relative scarcity of refueling stations — you might never need to worry about that, since Bio-Beetle says its biodiesel rentals can get up to 800 miles per tank.