How Social Networking Could Decrease Fuel Consumption

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 10:07 PM


With gas prices rising, drivers can turn to Moblu.ca, a social-networking site that can help them track what they and others are spending on gas.

Gas prices are creeping up again, rising 28 percent in the last six weeks. Americans are notoriously fickle in their on-again, off-again concern about fuel economy, but it appears to be on the upswing.

One way to keep tabs on how much you’re spending on gas is to register at Moblu, a new social networking site focused on fuel economy.

It is free to join. Members enter the details of each fill-up (date, odometer reading, quantity of gas and price per gallon), and Moblu calculates the mileage, plotting the results at each fill-up on a chart to show your progress (or lack of it) in curbing your car’s appetite for fuel.

As at Twitter, members can use their cellphones to send the data from the gas station and follow other motorists to compare results. A search feature can help narrow vehicles down by model, make and model year. There’s also a timeline showing maintenance efforts that may help improve gas mileage, such as checking tire pressure or getting a tune-up.

The data is displayed in a variety of useful ways, showing the percentage change in fuel economy since your last fill-up and totaling the amount spent on fuel in a given period.

One fun tool, piggybacking on Google Maps, lets you calculate likely fuel use, cost and climate impact (in pounds of carbon dioxide) on a proposed trip. A hypothetical drive from Stamford, Conn., to Vancouver, Canada, would cover 3,023 miles, use 68.89 gallons of fuel and produce 1,356.7 pounds of CO2. Fuel cost is estimated at $125 (and you can adjust the gas price used for that calculation).

Michael Scott, a Canadian lawyer and investment banker, said it was his passion for fuel economy that led to his creation of Moblu.

“My goal was to create something that would be simple, easy to use and engaging,” Mr. Scott said. “I think it can change people’s behavior, save them money and do some environmental good at the same time.”

If you “follow” Henry, the name Mr. Scott has given his 1999 Volkswagen Passat wagon, you’ll see it isn’t doing all that well (recording just 16 and 17 miles a gallon), though switching gasoline and curbing some of his aggressive driving has helped a bit. Mr. Scott has been meaning to buy a hybrid.

Experience with the real-time fuel consumption feedback on the Toyota Prius and other hybrids show that consumers will change their behavior and improve their fuel efficiency if given useful information. Mr. Scott said that studies of the impact of “smart” electricity metering and other related technology can lead to reductions of up to 10 percent.

Another, locally created social networking site is Fuelly: http://www.fuelly.com/

Mindy Crouchley

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/using-social-networking-to-track-gas-mileage/?pagemode=print

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