There are many ways that we can reduce fuel and related costs while enjoying travelling in our RV’s. Of course, we all know that reducing speed, assuring we have the correct tire pressure, reducing idling time, and accelerating at a reasonable rate all help to contribute to better fuel mileage. There are other, less practiced means to further reduce these costs. So, let’s take a look at some of them.
Weather Considerations – Winds of 15 MPH or more can have a substantial affect on increasing or reducing your vehicle’s moving resistance. So much so, that on some larger vehicles a 25% or more difference can be experienced between running against a headwind, or running with one. Driving an “A” class coach that, say, averages 8 miles per gallon, typically drops about 1 mile a gallon if operating in a 15 MPH plus headwind. That would consume slightly more than 57 gallons for a 400 mile day run, compared to a still air consumption of 50 gallons. Higher winds of 25 to 35+ MPH can be devastating and may result in the burning of mid 60’s for the same run. Limiting the distance, or if possible cancelling that day’s run on windy days, can help save on your overall fuel bill. The reverse holds true if you are going to be travelling in the general direction of the wind. Some of the best miles per gallon have been recorded with a tailwind. These days should be used to travel a little further if your journey is a long haul, like cross country.
Efficient Cruise Control Management– Cruise control can be a great companion and, in general, can better manage the throttle throughout the day than the average driver. However, there are times when operator input may enhance the fuel savings. This applies to the majority of motorized and travel trailer tow vehicles. When driving in a hilly terrain on the interstate, disengaging the cruise at the top of each downhill run will allow the vehicle to free wheel or coast. Allowing for about a 5 MPH drop in speed, or until you have descended the downgrade, re-engage the cruise control using the resume function. This helps to reduce fuel consumption by defeating the cruise from following or chasing the throttle during the downhill run. If, however, you have a late model diesel pusher, there may be an even more efficient method. This is dependant on your rig offering this feature and that it is configured accordingly This method requires the Jake, or compression brake, to be switch to the on position after the cruise control has been selected and set. Now, when the vehicle descends a grade and starts to increase speed, at first nothing happens. But, at about 5 MPH over the selected set speed, ECM shuts off the fuel to the engine and the auxiliary braking system is deployed. Not in the manner you are used to however. It is far more subtle as it does not call for auto-transmission gear reduction. Then, at about 8 MPH over the “set” speed, the automatic downshift function is brought into action. All of these functions require the 8 MPH droop, or delay, to avoid a “seesaw: affect. During this ECM controlled braking sequence, a selection of multi-speed Jake settings are automatically used, if the vehicle is so equipped. When the vehicle slows and returns to the set speed, the auxiliary braking is deactivated, the fuel flow to the engine is restored, and the cruise control, once again takes over throttle control. All of this happens far more smoothly than could be accomplished by manual operator input. As far as fuel savings, this method, if your vehicle is so equipped, consumes less fuel than the coast and free wheel does. This is due to the fuel supply being shutdown as apposed to coasting with the engine in idle state.
Climbing Long Grades – In as far as we are discussing RV type vehicles, it is assumed that many of these climbs are in fair weather, generally in summer heat. Therefore we must maintain a reasonable higher RPM to assure adequate cooling circulation. There are only two ways to maintain a high RPM while climbing a long grade. Holding the throttle to the floor will cause the transmission to seek and hold a lower gear, thus the desired higher RPM is accomplished. This, however, increases the fuel flow to near maximum and may also cause the engine to rise in temperature over that of normal. The other method is to manually select a lower gear and use a moderate amount of throttle. Generally, the engine RPM should be about 10% less than the governed engine speed. This will ensure the maximum cooling of both the engine and the transmission.
Travel Planning – Planning your route can be a substantial way to reduce your driving costs. Which route, when to leave, and the approximate arrival time at various locations all are important items. Knowing your intended route greatly reduces the possibility of getting lost, taking a wrong turn, or not being aware of your arrival time at certain locations. All of these can potentially eat into your vacation budget by wasting fuel. Knowing your approximate timing at various positions can ensure not getting stuck in rush hour traffic in any large urban centers that may lie on your route.
G.P.S. Navigation– A Global Position System can be a great help in planning or executing your already planned out trip. Much like good manual pre-trip planning, the GPS can help you avoid getting lost or taking a wrong turn. It is particularly handy to advise which lane you should be in prior to a turn when driving through cities on multi-lane roadways. They also help to calculate arrival times at various waypoints. These little intelligent devices can be an aid in helping you reduce un-necessary miles and therefore save on fuel.
In Camping Fuel Saving – Fuel savings do not necessarily stop when you get to your destination. You may have the occasion when you wish to warm up the interior of your RV on a cool morning. Many campers use propane or diesel fuel to operate their furnaces or diesel boiler. Most of these same people also have heat pumps or heat strips in their air conditioners, but fail to use them. If you are in a rented full service site, the electricity cost is already included in your site rent. So, why not use it. Heat pumps operate efficiently at outside temperatures of at least 40 degrees F. or so. If selected as your heat source, they will automatically switch over to the furnace or diesel boiler should the temperature outside drop below that threshold. Likewise, if in the morning the ambient temperature rises above 40 degrees, the heat pump will automatically take over. Using your heat pump as your prime interior heating can save you money. It will also use the automatic heat source managing feature that many either do not use, or were not aware of.
Well, these are some less thought of ways to help reduce the costs of RV travel. I am sure there are more. If you have additional thoughts, we would love to hear them.
With Fuel For Thought – Lug_Nut – Peter Mercer