I am extremely obsessed with figuring out how to get the best gas mileage out of the car I drive, for a variety of reasons.
First, I think about my contributions to global warming every single day as I make my trip to work. (If only they would make a solar-powered car capable of driving at least 15 miles on a trip, I would be all set.) Second, I am an amateur physicist and I want to understand the workings of the vehicle in which I spend more than five hours a week.
But most relevantly, I am a mathematician, and the idea of optimizing gas mileage as opposed to other possible variables in the equation of driving (such as time or number of miles traveled) sounds really fun and challenging to me, because in the car I drive, I can only ascertain this indirectly.
The car has a manual transmission, so I can control which gear it is in. It also has a crude tachometer, which I can read only to the nearest 125 RPM, a speedometer which I can read to the nearest half-mile per hour, and an odometer which measures distance traveled to the nearest tenth of a mile. Can I use only these tools to optimize my gas mileage on my daily commute?
This is what I've been trying to figure out, actually. I wish I had a good answer. The problem is that I am currently lacking a good intuitive understanding of the way the car works. I've been reading up on torque, horsepower, and RPM, and trying to put it all together. I'll let you know when I finally get there.