Study: Roof racks could be making travel more costly - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Study: Roof racks could be making travel more costly

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A new Berkeley lab report shows roof racks, even unloaded ones, were responsible for nearly 1 percent of annual fuel consumption in average cars. (WFSB) A new Berkeley lab report shows roof racks, even unloaded ones, were responsible for nearly 1 percent of annual fuel consumption in average cars. (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Summer vacation is right around the corner and with more Americans taking “stay-cations,” the roads are getting busier.

Roads are filled with cars and SUVs, and their roof racks are loaded with luggage, bikes and kayaks, but it turns out those racks may be holding travelers back, and draining their tanks.

A new Berkeley lab report shows roof racks, even unloaded ones, were responsible for nearly 1 percent of annual fuel consumption in average cars.

Nationwide, that adds up to 100 million gallons of gas.

“The roof rack all by itself, without anything on there…that would surprise me,” said Dave Garvey of South Windsor, who uses a roof rack for his annual drive up to Maine.

It all comes down to aerodynamics.

“If you ever stick your hand out of a car window, you see how hard it fights back, so if you have a roof rack on your car and you're driving it around everywhere you go, that's going to add up,” said Jon Sobanski, chief engineer at UConn’s Formula SAE Car group. “That's why you see a lot of these modern day auto manufacturers put in test time in wind tunnels, making their cars as aerodynamic and slippery as possible.”

The lab study shows roof racks can reduce fuel economy by 25 percent, and if you own a hybrid car, the news gets worse.

Fuel guzzled by the roof rack is about six times more than the expected savings you’d get from a fuel cell car, and the battery powered cars work harder, so they lose up to 40 percent of anticipated savings.

To save money this summer, experts said the amount of gas you lose depends on the type of car and roof rack you have.

Experts say to look for a rack with a smaller cross section, and drive slower. But if you’re taking a trip to Maine, there isn’t much you can do, but Garvey said he knows keeping the racks empty whenever possible will help.

“The family has to go on vacation, so we're going to bite the bullet,” Garvey said.

Experts say expect to see more roof racks on your daily drive, as usage is expected to increase by 200 percent by 2040.

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