by Jenn Jarvis
WATERLOO (KWWL) - If you've checked the air in your tires and taken everything out of your trunk, you might be ready for a more involved way to save some gas.
One of the easiest ways is to give your car a rest and carpool. If you work in a large building, it's as easy as circulating an e-mail or making some flyers. There's a few things to keep in mind when carpooling. You may not find someone who lives and works right next door to you. But if you can find someone within a few blocks or in the same part of town, it could still save you gas to share a ride. Also, you'll need to have a consistent schedule. If you want to stop by the store on the way home, or you have to stay late at work, you may want to pass on the carpool on that day. Even carpooling a few days a week can make a difference when it comes to a tank of gas, especially if you're commuting from another town.
Carpooling isn't just for work. A neighborhood carpool can save a trip to school. If you can find four neighbors with kids at your school, you can each pick a day of the week to drop off or pick up the kids.
There's plenty of ride-share Web sites. You can search by area and it will help match you with people on the same schedule and route. Some Iowa cities don't have anyone signed up yet. But, if you're interested, it might be worth putting your information out there to see if anyone else is looking. Divide the Ride is well-known for both carpooling to work and to school.
Another good site is eRideShare. This site also lists people interesting in carpooling to work or to school, but also has a section for sharing trips around town for groceries and other errands. It also has a category for cross country trips. If you are thinking about a trip to Chicago for the weekend, but gas prices are holding you back, you might be able to find someone in your area who is willing to split gas. Some people are worried about feeling awkward or even the safety factors involved in riding with a stranger, but for some the savings are worth it.
Another place to post carpooling pleas is Craigslist. This has been a popular option for college kids looking to find a ride home, but you can also create a post for work or school carpools.
Once you decide on a carpool partner or group, it's important to establish some ground rules to cut down on frustration. Choose a meeting point and make out a schedule. Also, figure out how long you will wait when someone is late. And decide on car rules, like rules for eating, drinking and smoking and what type of music to listen to.
If you're ready to invest some money up front and you know how to work on cars, now you can make alternative fuels at home.
If you drive a diesel vehicle, you can use grease to power your car. A group of avid snowboarders claim to have made 15 cross country trips using straight vegetable oil. This process takes some serious planning and car modifications, but the Web site Grease Not Gas provides detailed instructions. Many times restaurants will give you used grease for free. So, after the initial installation, it will cost almost nothing to power your car.
And you can also brew your own Ethanol. For $30, you can order blueprints for a still developed by the late Robert Warren. He dedicated his life to researching alternative fuels. In the end, Warren claims it will cost a little over a dollar per gallon to produce. His very thorough Web site is now maintained by his daughter and contains much of his research. His instructions include photos and blueprints to build a still and make adjustments to your car. You will also need to apply for a liquor license because of the alcohol content in Ethanol. The application form is available on Warren's Web site.
And something on the horizon: using water as fuel. Hydrogen Technology Applications has developed a way to use a water and fuel mixture to power your car. The technology is in the middle of the patent process. HTA is outfitting some commercial vehicles to continue testing the technology. They hope to offer it commercially soon. Right now they do offer a generator for welding that using the same hydrogen technology. To find out more about availability and if it's right for your vehicle, you can e-mail the creators through their Web site.
Online Reporter: Jenn Jarvis