Turn Your Car Into a Hybrid by Simply Turning it Off

I remember sitting in my 9th grade science class, and somehow we ended up getting in a discussion about gasoline prices.  My teacher told us that he had heard that the price of gas was getting so expensive in Germany that their government was asking people to turn off their cars while they sat at stop lights.

My teacher went on to tell us that, to him, this didn’t make any sense, because it was commonly “known” that it you waste more gas starting your car than you do when you let it sit and idle.

Turns out my science teacher was wrong, and if we all were to turn off our vehicles while sitting at stop lights we would all save a lot of gas and ultimate increase our car’s gas mileage.

According to Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency, we don’t need to sit in idle for very long before we start wasting a lot of gas:

“So, when should you turn off your engine?  Believe it or not, more than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine.  As a rule of thumb, if you’re going to stop for 10 seconds or more – except in traffic – turn off your engine.”

For an explanation as to how this helps you save gas, let’s take a look at how hybrid cars work.  One of the main reasons hybrids are able to get better gas mileage than “regular” vehicles is because their engines essentially shut off while the car sits in idle, and the car will run exclusively on its batteries.

Because our “regular” cars aren’t capable of doing this, we have to try and come up with the next best thing.  In this case, this means shutting off your engine if you’re going to be sitting in idle for longer than 10 seconds.

For most people, this argument will lead to the question, “I might save gas, but won’t this be hard on my car’s engine?”  According to the Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency, shutting off and restarting your car shouldn’t be too much of a problem:

“Studies show that frequent restarting has little impact on engine parts such as the battery and starter motor.”

Granted, they didn’t reference any of these studies, but I don’t think they would go ahead and lie about it.

So, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to increase your car’s gas mileage, I would recommend that you give this a try.  I’m planning on doing this for the next couple of weeks, just to give it a try, so I’ll be writing more about this at some point in the not too distant future.


  1. This is one of dozens of steps I’ve taken (see http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com for details). I suspect that slow acceleration (approximately 14%), coasting in neutral on downhill grades and even turning the engine off where safe and possible (approximately 3%), and 55 m.p.h. maximum speed (approximately 80%) account for the vast majority of my increase of average m.p.g. from 14.9 to over 23.

    However, the economics of the slow freeway speeds when looked at in terms of the extra time spent motivate me to abandon this step. Discussed ad nauseum at my blog. Sorry to plug it so extensively but I’ve devoted a lot of time and effort to various aspects of consumption reducing driving habits.

  2. Great points, Rob. I demanded my new car be a manual so I can switch to neutral more easily. Recently some friends and I spent the time to rewire so we could completely turn off the engine and coast and still maitain steering and braking. A plus is owning the manual which can restart without having to be in park. Another point is to take advantage of momentum and slow yourself down enough so you don’t race to the light and end up waiting. I could care less of the looks I do get when at the light I restart because I know I’m the one only filling up once a month.

  3. your science teacher wasnt wrong, back when cars had carburetors,
    it was true, cars ate a lot of gas on startups.
    now with fuel injection, that has changed.


  1. […] or drive throughs, but with modern technology there is no reason not to. It is urban legend that it takes more fuel to start a car than let it sit idling. Check out the new Mini Coop that has that feature in their newest models where the car turns off […]

  2. […] Idle or shut down? Here’s some info to back up what daTeacha said: From Daily Fuel Economy Tip

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