While many people assume energy efficiency in driving is limited to the fuel efficiency rating of your vehicle, there are other ways to increase your energy efficiency without moving to a hybrid vehicle or spending a ton. Obviously, having an energy efficient car is going to give you a leg up over more gas guzzling models, but you can't expect to get 50 MPG if you're constantly pushing your Prius to its limit. Top Gear showed us that driving style plays a huge role in how fuel efficient your car actually is (a BMW beat a Prius in fuel efficiency in their race test). So then, what does it mean to be energy efficient while driving?
1. Keep your vehicle maintained. Making sure your car has a clean air filter, properly inflated tires, the proper amount of fluids, and is running well is the number one most effective way to make sure you are getting maximum fuel economy from your engine. This is where those maintenance points come in handy - the $100 or so you spend on a maintenance service will easily be made up over the next couple of months in fuel economy.
2. Change your driving habits. The easiest way to increase your fuel economy is to change how your drive, and the bonus here is that it doesn't cost anything. Gentle acceleration uses less fuel than quick acceleration, and (if you have a manual transmission) downshifting as you approach a stop preserves your momentum and reduces wear on your brakes, especially if the light turns green as you get there. Racing from light to light uses more fuel, shortens the life of your brakes, and generally puts more wear on your car, which in turn causes you to use more fuel (it's a vicious cycle).
3. Reduce weight. Carting all that extra stuff in the back of your car increases the load your engine has to pull, which can reduce your gas mileage. Every spare jacket, textbook, golf club, or other unnecessary item you remove can save you money in the long term. However, don't ditch the first aid kit or feel the need to get rid of items you keep in your trunk because you use them every day - but things that you put in your trunk three months ago and haven't gotten around to finding a better place need to go.
4. Reduce your impact. Before you hop in the car, stop and think about other ways you can get where you are going. Could you walk there? Is there a carpool option? Would this be a good time to break out your bicycle? Is the bus coming down the street? Changing your commute or driving habits to reduce the number of miles you drive is not always possible, but if you walk to the grocery store once a week instead of driving, that could add up to gallons of fuel a year!