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Study Estimates US Roof Racks Waste 100 Million Gallons of Fuel Each Year

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Cuban Classic Car Blue Roof Rack

When it comes to transporting large, unwieldy objects such as canoes, boards, and bicycles, for those of us without full-size SUVs and pickup trucks, the easiest solution is to strap it to a roof rack. However, despite this convenience, it seems that strapping a big, honking thing to the roof of your car has one unintended downside: depending on what your roof rack looks like (and what you have strapped to it), it can hurt your fuel economy.

That is hardly a shocking, ground-breaking revelation, but what is surprising is the amount of fuel, nationwide, that was wasted last year as a result of roof racks: 100 million gallons. I think we can definitely call that, as the scientists like to say, “a lot.”

That figure comes to us from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who conducted a study on the subject recently. First, the Lab looked at the national impact of roof racks. To do this, they collected information from surveys in online forums and from video surveys conducted by workers from crowdsourcing website Amazon Mechanical Turk. All in all, the researchers concluded that roof racks can reduce fuel economy anywhere from 0 to 25%, and based on that estimate, the researchers estimated that roof racks are responsible for 0.8% of light-duty fuel consumption in the US last year, or about 100 million gallons of gas.

In addition, the researchers believe that roof rack usage is on the rise (a fairly logical assumption, especially since the car market is so SUV-crazy right now), and would probably double by 2040. So, to lessen the cumulative fuel use impact, the researchers recommended a few changes: for example, encouraging owners to remove racks when they aren’t being used, labeling roof racks based on how much they reduce economy, and making racks more aerodynamic.

Of course, individual fuel economy lost to roof racks is somewhat minimal, but taken all together, a small savings across the whole nation over a year could save millions of gallons of gas.

News Source: Motor Trend