Here’s the easiest and least-costly way to reduce your pain at the fuel pump. Every day we collectively waste four million gallons of gasoline due to low tire pressure.
An estimated quarter of our automobiles and about a third of light trucks (including sport utility vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks) have one or more tires under-inflated by 8 pounds per square inch (psi) or more below the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. The fuel waste penalty from under-inflated tires is 1.5 billion gallons per year. At $3.50 per gallon we are collectively throwing away $5.25 billion a year from having under-inflated tires. Drivers with under-inflated tires face increased fuel costs of 12-15 cents per gallon.
Greener and safer
The California Air Resources Board estimates that improperly inflated tires for California vehicles result in 700,000 metric tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions each year. On an individual basis, the consumption of one gallon of gasoline is equal to 25 pounds of global warming emissions. If the average vehicle achieves 20 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency and under-inflated tires reduce this fuel efficiency by 3 percent, then on a per gallon basis, under-inflated tires generate approximately one pound of greenhouse gases per 20 miles. If you drive 10,000 miles a year with under-inflated tires then you are not only emitting money from your tailpipe but also releasing approximately 500 pounds of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Proper tire inflation is also a safety issue. Approximately 23,000 accidents occur each year where under-inflated tires are listed a contributing factor in the accident.
Why we do not properly inflate our tires
This issue is as old as the 1974 oil embargo and President Jimmy Carter’s emphasis on car fuel efficiency. It is also a classic example of behavioral economics. We live in the Digital Age, yet we still check tire pressure using an Industrial Age tire gauge. The task of tire inflation monitoring requires finding a gauge, figuring out the correct tire pressure and then physically measuring each tire.
One economics fundamental is that people make short-term and incremental decisions. For the overwhelming majority of us, tire pressure is out of sight, out of mind and has zero daily value. There is no price-signal like a filling station’s price sign that will trigger a consumer action to check tire pressure. At best, many of us have an auto technician check our tire pressures during a 5,000 mile oil change. The economics of our behavior mean that we search for a gasoline pump price that might be a penny or two lower while we ignore a zero-cost path to cutting gas expenses by up to 15 cents per gallon.
A $10 (and modern) solution
RightPSI is one of a growing number of companies offering easy to use and affordable technologies for tire monitoring. Their device fits on a tire stem. It displays one of three colors based upon on tire pressure. If the tire is appropriately inflated then it shows black. If the tire is under-inflated then it turns orange and if it is over-inflated the monitor displays yellow. With this type of technology, you can gauge your tire pressure as easily as looking at your four tires.
The economics are a no-brainer. These technologies typically cost around $10 per tire, making the investment for a set of four tires $40. If you drive 15,000 miles per year then your estimated annual fuel savings can be $100 or more per year from using RightPSI’s technology to insure that your tires are correctly inflated. The $40 cost for putting their technology on four tires has the potential of achieving investment payback in less than 6 months. If your tires achieve a 60,000 mile useful life, this investment could generate approximately $450 in total savings or over a 10x return on initial investment.
Business owners, act now!
At every business coaching event I conduct, there is at least one business owner that asks for ideas on how to address higher pump prices. As part of my answer I give them my pitch for keeping their vehicle tires properly inflated along with the financial justifications included in this article. Based upon my experience in behavioral economics I often wonder how many of these business owners actually follow through. With color-coded tire pressure indicators, maintaining the correct tire pressure in business vehicles becomes an easy daily task. At the start, it might require the boss walking out to the vehicle parking lot with work associates to jointly observe the indicators. My experience is that this type of encouragement from the boss will quickly influence a new cultural norm for focusing upon maintaining correct tire inflation. The result will be fuel cost savings, reduced emissions and a higher potential for achieving manufacturers tire life warranties.
A sustainable stocking stuffer?
Products like a color-coded tire pressure indicator make a great stocking stuffer. It is unique (if a little geeky). It does shows you really care by providing a gift that promotes personal safety, energy independence and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Your sustainable stocking stuffer ideas?
Do you have ideas or a favorite gift that aligns with the season’s spirit and deeper purpose? Please use the discussion space below to share your favorite gift idea that also contributes toward a healthier, safer and more sustainable world.
Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017