Frigid temperatures, icy roads, and blowing snow can be hard on drivers’ nerves — and their vehicles — in the winter. When the mercury plunges, fuel efficiency for gas-powered cars can fall 20% or more and air pollution can increase. Fuel efficiency for hybrids can drop more than 30% in cold weather and electric vehicles' distance per charge shrinks.
Follow these tips to increase your car’s wintertime fuel economy and reduce polluting emissions
Check your tires. Tires lose pressure when the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires improve fuel efficiency and prolong the life of the tire. Check your tire pressure at least monthly in the winter.
Maintain your vehicle. A well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel and pollutes less. According to the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, fixing a gas-powered car that is out of tune can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%
Don’t idle gasoline engines. It’s not necessary or even advisable to warm traditional gas-powered vehicles more than 30 seconds in the winter. Most cars built in the last couple of decades have electronic fuel injection in place of carburetors and the engines warm up faster when they are moving. Vehicles should also be turned off when stopped for more than 10 seconds. After ten seconds, it takes more gas to idle than it does to restart the engine. An idling vehicle also creates more pollution than a moving one.
Warm up EVs while plugged in. This allows you to use power from the grid to warm up the car's interior rather then pulling electricity from the car battery.
Practice eco-driving. Use techniques to improve fuel efficiency all year round — watch your speed, avoid hard starts, and coast to a stop when possible. Press the brake pedal gradually, when needed.
Combine trips. It takes longer in cold weather for your car to reach its most fuel-efficient operating temperature. Combine trips to help keep the engine warm and save fuel. For optimum operating efficiency, make your longest stop your first stop. Consider using a GPS device or your phone to plan your route.
Reduce drag. Clear ice and snow, including in the wheel well area, to reduce vehicle weight and tire interference. Remove excess junk from the trunk. When not in use, remove roof racks and other accessories that increase wind resistance. Reducing weight increases your fuel efficiency and reduces pollution from gas-powered vehicles.
Avoid peak travel times. This is good advice any time of the year, but especially in the winter when icy roads can slow traffic to a crawl. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most gas-powered cars' fuel efficiency peaks at speeds from 35 to 60 miles per hour.
Drive less. Keep your car parked when the weather is bad. Your vehicle will be more fuel efficient on roads already cleared by snowplows. Take public transportation or postpone your trip, if possible.
Seat warmers and defrosters. If your vehicle is gas-powered or a hybrid, use heated accessories, like seat warmers, sparingly. You’ll get better MPG when they’re off. If you drive an electric vehicle, use heated seats and steering wheels freely to help warm up the car. They use less battery power than the car's heater.