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Monday, April 25, 2011

Drive Smart Wisconsin teaches fuel-efficient practices

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Rising gasoline prices will pack a punch to pocketbooks this year, leaving consumers less inclined to buy big-ticket items, economists say.

But a Milwaukee group wants to help consumers keep from overspending on fuel.

Consider:

• A report by the Energy Information Administration said that, on average, a typical American household driving about 20,000 miles a year will see gas prices surge about $825 this year, based on the recent run-up in fuel prices to near record levels.

• A similar consumer hit is forecast for Canadian consumers in a recent economic forecast from CIBC World Markets, which found that the run-up in prices means that a greater share of household income is being spent on filling gas tanks than at any time except 2008. That will have consequences for sales of everything from big-ticket items like cars to every day items such as groceries, CIBC economists say.

"The rise in food and gasoline prices since the start of the year has effectively offset most of the benefit to (U.S.) consumers from the recent tax stimulus," said CIBC economist Peter Buchanan in a recent report.

That's where Drive Smart America, a business with a passion for getting great gas mileage, comes in.

Drive Smart America has trained drivers at Veolia Water Services, the Milwaukee Department of Public Works and other local fleets on smart-driving techniques that result in less wasted fuel. The business is led by Bradlee Fons of Pewaukee but includes experienced hybrid drivers who have been able to top the gas mileage charts.

Fons routinely gets more than 80 mpg in his Honda Insight hybrid - and has hit 100 in summer driving. On a recent drive in a minivan to see his son in La Crosse, Fons managed 33 mpg in a vehicle rated to get 24 on the highway.

The initiative is part passion, part business. The 6-year old Milwaukee Hybrid Group is changing its name to Drive Smart Wisconsin and hopes to stage more events like a tire pressure checkup held last year in Waukesha County. Fully inflated tires can be an important factor in improved gas mileage.

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