We all know that more air pressure in the tires will improve fuel economy. Obviously for the hypermilers this is an easy thing to do that doesn't require benchmarking - you simply set the tire pressure as high as you feel safe doing so. I've seen wildly different claims however on how much tire pressure influences fuel economy, so this past weekend I used my ScanGauge and 97 Civic HX on 195/55-15 Yokohama ES100's to see what kind of results I would get.
The setup: The location is a 2-mile long road that bisects a farm. It's a public road, but very lightly used since all it does it connect two little-used north-south roads at a rather inconvenient place to make the crossover. There's no stop signs for the entire 2 miles, and according to my barometric sensor-equipped GPS, it's nearly 100% flat from the eastmost point to about the halfway point right at 1400' ASL. It then extremely gradually slopes down over the next mile to 1362' ASL according to my GPS. By my math, that works out to a 0.7% grade for that second half, so the west-bound fuel economy would be a little higher than the eastbound.
Since I had to leave room both for acceleration and deceleration on both ends, the measured section was about 1.3 miles long within about the middle of the 2 mile total stretch. There were no cars within 500í ahead or behind me, so drafting currents were not an issue. Other than the small slope at one end of the road, it was about as close to a perfect test grounds as it gets, and the 48mph test speed should be a good compromise between aero drag, mechanical drag, and demonstrating effects of A/C at around-town speeds.
I actually did three tests. Starting hot tire pressure was 46psi. I made 3 runs in each direction with the air conditioning off, then 3 runs in each direction with it set to full. I then lowered the air pressures to 35psi, figuring thatís as low as youíd likely find anyoneís tire pressures that cares about fuel economy. I was getting very hot and tired of driving back and forth at this point so it was just 2 runs in each direction. A screencap of the complete results can be seen below:
Hereís what the full run averages were:
46psi tire pressure, A/C off: 59.7mpg
46psi tire pressure, A/C on: 48.7mpg
35psi tire pressure, A/C off: 57.6mpg
The results definitely surprised me. For one thing, the A/C brought down my fuel economy by far more than I had expected. Driving with the A/C off represents a 22% improvement in my car! Tire pressure on the other hand was much less of an improvement than I had hoped. 46psi was only a 3.6% improvement over 35psi, but on the upside, I honestly canít tell the difference between those tire pressures on smooth Arizona roads anyway, so I guess thatís a free boost without sacrificing driver comfort to me. So the question of the day is:
Has anyone else attempted controlled tests like this either for A/C use or tire pressures? Iím mainly interested in tire pressure results since Iím thinking that Iíd see a greater benefit if I actually had a lower grip tire. Iím using Yokohama ES100ís in 195/55-15, which is a larger width than stock for my car, plus itís classified as a ďsummerĒ high performance tire, rather than an all-season.