Ten Ways You Can Start to Cut Petroleum Use Right Now

There are hundreds of ways vehicle fleets and individual drivers can reduce petroleum use – and reap the benefits of lower emissions, cost savings, and energy security. Knowing where to start and selecting the options that work best for your needs and goals can be daunting, so the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) has compiled a list of actions you can take today, along with longer-term strategies for the future.

1. Photo of a speedometer reading 55 miles per hour.

Behave yourself

Small changes in driver behavior can have big impacts on fuel economy. By breaking bad habits like jackrabbit starts, speeding, aggressive driving, and carrying unnecessary cargo, drivers can reduce fuel use by 10% to 20%. Check out the Driving Behavior section on the AFDC to find tips for fleets and individual drivers.

Fleet managers can monitor driver behavior through technologies like telematics systems and reward drivers for fuel efficiency. Software applications can also help fleets optimize routes, track fuel use, and monitor maintenance costs. Find out more about management strategies to conserve fuel.

2. Photo of a row of long-haul trucks parked at a fleet facility.

Follow the leaders

Thousands of fleet managers, business owners, state and local officials, and other transportation decision makers across the country have blazed the trail toward petroleum-free transportation, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Before you undertake an initiative of your own, find out how others have successfully deployed alternative fuels, pushed the envelope on fuel economy, and achieved fleet efficiencies. The AFDC features dozens of case studies, which you can search by geographic location, fuel or technology type, or fleet type.

Explore how similar strategies might work for your fleet, and create a plan for the future. The Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool allows fleet managers to evaluate various fuels, technologies, and efficiency measures and calculate corresponding reductions in petroleum use, fuel costs, and greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Photo of an electric vehicle while charging.

Explore the alternatives

When it comes to fueling your fleet, gasoline and diesel aren't the only options out there. It's possible to achieve emissions reductions and/or cost savings by using alternative fuels like propane, natural gas, electricity, biodiesel, ethanol, and hydrogen. Take a spin through the AFDC Fuels and Vehicles section to explore which might work best for you. Building your familiarity with alternative fuels today is an important first step in creating a solid plan for the future.

The switch to an alternative fuel may be easiest (and most cost effective) when you select one that's available through existing fueling infrastructure in your local area. The AFDC's TransAtlas and Alternative Fueling Station Locator can help you find out which alternative fuels and vehicles are already up and running in your zone. Browse available vehicle models in the AFDC's Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Search.

4. Photo of a heavy-duty vehicle with a Clean Cities decal affixed to it.

Connect with Clean Cities

If you're looking to leave petroleum in the rearview mirror, don't go it alone. The U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program has nearly 100 local coalitions of fleets, fuel providers, businesses, utilities, and government agencies all dedicated to reducing petroleum use in communities from Honolulu to Houston to Hartford. Tap into an unbeatable source of transportation know-how and networking by connecting with the Clean Cities coalition nearest you.

Joining your local coalition as a Clean Cities stakeholder will open doors to workshops, technical assistance, funding opportunities, training, and public recognition. Many coalitions have tiered membership structures that accommodate various levels of involvement.

5. Photo of a sign in a parking lot reading, idle-free zone, please turn off your engine.

Don't sit idle

An idling vehicle gets 0 mpg. Yet drivers in the United States waste billions of gallons of fuel every year by running their engines while going nowhere. Reducing idling time has many benefits, including reductions in fuel use, fuel costs, emissions, noise, and engine wear. See the AFDC's Idle Reduction section to find strategies for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles.

Driver education and behavior changes are critical to cutting idling. But many technologies can help as well. Auxiliary power systems, air heaters, automatic power management systems, truck stop electrification, and other technological solutions address many of the common causes of idling.

6. Photo of two 100-dollar bills.

Get the most bang for your buck

Fuel economy upgrades and transitions to alternative fuels generally involve some upfront costs. And in times of tight budgets, you need to find ways to stretch each dollar you spend. Visit the Laws and Incentives section of the AFDC to search for state and federal programs that can help.

Lower fuel costs can often offset the incremental costs of purchasing alternative fuel vehicles and hybrids. Use the AFDC's Vehicle Cost Calculator to compare the lifetime ownership costs of individual vehicle models and determine payback periods for initial investments.

7. Photo of a tape measure.

Take your measurements

Substantial gains in fuel economy can be had just from choosing the right vehicle for the job. It doesn't pay to use vehicles with substantial towing and hauling capacity, high passenger counts, or four-wheel drive for tasks that don't require such capabilities. Take an inventory of your fleet's duties to determine whether you have opportunities to shed some weight. You'll be ready to select the most fuel-efficient vehicle available for a given application the next time you make an acquisition.

Find out more in the AFDC's Rightsizing section. Use the Find A Car tool on FuelEconomy.gov to make side-by-side comparisons of fuel economy ratings and emissions scores of individual vehicle models.

Another approach to rightsizing is to design your fleet in a pooled structure, allowing drivers to choose the most fuel-efficient vehicle available in the pool to complete the task at hand.

8. Photo of a person's hand turning the key in the ignition of a flex-fuel vehicle. An E85 sticker is affixed next to the ignition.

Got E85?

Reduce petroleum use by taking advantage of resources you already have. Many light-duty vehicle models come standard with flex-fuel capability, meaning they can run on ethanol-gasoline blends as high as 85% ethanol. Most flex-fuel vehicles have an E85 sticker inside the fuel door, yellow fuel caps, and/or external decals or badges to indicate the vehicle can run on E85.

If you do have flex-fuel vehicles, use the AFDC's Alternative Fueling Station Locator to find stations near you that provide E85, or map a driving route with E85 station locations identified along the way.

When acquiring a new vehicle, ask your dealer about flex-fuel options. Use the AFDC's Light-Duty Vehicle Search to browse available new and used models.

9. Photo of a roadside fuel price sign for biodiesel at a retail fueling station.

Drive on biodiesel

Using biodiesel in place of petroleum-based diesel reduces emissions and petroleum dependence. Biodiesel can be used in most newer models of heavy-duty and light-duty diesel vehicles without modification, and all manufacturers have approved the use of B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum diesel) with no impact to warranties. Use the AFDC's Alternative Fueling Station Locator to find stations near you that provide biodiesel, or map a driving route with biodiesel station locations identified along the way.

Using biodiesel blends higher than B5 could affect vehicle or engine warranties. But you can work with your dealer to determine which of your diesel vehicles may be well suited for blends like B20, B50, or B99.

10. Photo of two people reviewing a map during a meeting.

Ask for help

If you're still not sure how to move your petroleum-use reduction into high gear, contact us. The Clean Cities Technical Response Service can provide customized assistance to help you troubleshoot, identify relevant research and publications, and put you in touch with fleets that have tackled challenges similar to your own. Call 800-254-6735 or email technicalresponse@icfi.com. We look forward to helping you.