TodayJanuary 24, 2022

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Lost lbs equals better mpg

I visited my little brother last week in South Carolina. I used to refer to him as my younger brother, but now I can refer to him as my little brother and no one will laugh. You see my brother is a little over six feet tall and two years ago he weighed almost 400 pounds.

Every other time Ed has picked me up at the airport it has been in his 1998 GMC truck that gets about 14 miles to the gallon. This time he drove up in a red 2006 Dodge Stratus that he says gets about 30 miles to the gallon.

When I talk about conspicuous consumption I usually mean gasoline, but that is not all that Americans conspicuously consume. The LA Times wrote an article citing a study from the University of Illinois, which says that 938 million more gallons of gasoline goes into vehicles annually because people are considerably heavier today than they were in 1960.

We put my luggage in the trunk, got in the car and I looked at Ed and said, “I don’t remember the last time I saw you in such a small car”. He nodded his head and the proud look on his face as he said, “neither do I” was all that needed to be said.

It’s been said that for every 100 pounds extra in a vehicle you get 1 mpg less. Ed has lost almost 200 pounds. If Ed were driving his GMC pickup after he had lost 200 pounds he would get about 16 mpg, using 937 gallons of gas to drive 15,000 miles a year. At 200 pounds heavier, 14 mpg, he used 1071 gallons a year, consuming 134 gallons more a year.

But the savings are greater for Ed. Since he can now fit into such a small car that gets about 30 mpg, he is using only 500 gallons of gasoline a year to go 15,000 miles. That’s a savings of 571 gallons of gasoline a year for one person, by doing nothing but losing weight. Ed is saving almost $1,500 in gasoline annually because he lost weight. Ed saw greater savings after his weight loss; he was no longer diabetic, he reduced his blood pressure and cholesterol. His financial savings increased as well. According to Ed, he wouldn’t just go in and get gas, he would stop to buy gas, buy a Slurpee and something to eat as well. Those days are gone. He drove me from Columbia, SC to Greenville, to the BMW headquarters and we didn’t stop once, not even for gas.

The health benefits were the reason Ed finally lost the weight, but the other benefits have been appreciated. As Ed said, “before my surgery, I couldn’t fit behind the wheel of a Stratus and I had almost outgrown the GMC truck”.

Ed will be coming out to San Francisco to visit me next month. Every other time he has had to rent the biggest car available, using more gasoline. Ed didn’t need the big car, he just couldn’t fit into a smaller car. This time he will be able to save money by renting a smaller, more fuel-efficient car.

The savings, according to a quote in the LA Times article, would be less than 1 percent of America’s consumption of the 140 billion gallons of gasoline a year. But it is a start and it is a paradigm of thinking that is needed in this country, a switch called downsizing.

In cars, we know it as the power-to-weight ratio. Hyundai engineers were ecstatic that they were able to take sixty pounds out of their Elantra and get 4 more miles per gallon.

Whether it is your body or your car, the bottom line is, get the junk out of your trunk and you and your car will run leaner.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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