Gephardt Busts Inflation: Can Google’s eco-friendly routes really save you gas money?

Aug 15, 2022, 10:00 PM
KSL’s Matt Gephardt fuels up his minivan to determine how much gas Google Maps’ eco-friendly ro...
KSL’s Matt Gephardt fuels up his minivan to determine how much gas Google Maps’ eco-friendly route consumed compared to the faster route.

HERRIMAN, Utah – Gas prices have edged down from their record highs, but they are still a far cry from being affordable for many Utah families.

So, when Google rolled out a new feature for its Google Maps navigation app and claimed it could save you money on gas by using suggested eco-friendly routes, the KSL Investigators decided to put it to the test.

The app calculates multiple routes based on distance, speed, and now fuel efficiency. In some cases, the fastest route is also the most fuel-efficient.

For our test, KSL Investigates producer Sloan Schrage and Matt Gephardt settled on a trip from Herriman to Salt Lake’s Central City neighborhood, a distance of nearly 26 miles.

Google Maps gave us three options for our mano-a-mano race. We were only interested in two: the fastest and the eco-friendly alternative, indicated by a leaf symbol, which Google says will burn less gas and save more money.

Google indicated the eco-route would be three minutes slower but would burn 6% less fuel.

With the two routes mapped out, Matt gassed up his minivan and Sloan filled up his compact SUV and we set off, both sticking to posted speed limits.

Matt Gephardt and KSL Investigates producer Sloan Schrage compare route results after entering a Herriman to Salt Lake City destination into Google Maps.

The faster route is down the speedy, 70 mph Interstate 15, while the eco-friendly route took Sloan down the slower, mostly 60 mph Bangerter Highway.

So, how did the app come up with that route?

Google said the artificial intelligence goes into the math, along with data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. There are other factors: current traffic levels, distance, elevations, streets versus highways, and stoplights. These factors cause drivers to slow down and then speed up repeatedly, which the EPA says burns up a lot more gas: up to 30% more gas on the highway and up to 40% more in stop-and-go traffic.

Digging deeper into Google’s number-crunching factors, we found the eco-route has 26 stoplights compared to the faster route’s 17 lights. But speed limits are a big factor because just slowing down from 70 to 60 miles per hour will save you around 14 percent in fuel consumption, according to the U-S Energy Department.

By taking the eco-route, Sloan arrived at our destination 6 minutes and 20 seconds behind me – more than double the estimated three minutes. But did he save on gas?

We filled up our tanks again to record how much gas we burned – 1.649 gallons in Matt’s minivan and 0.879 gallons in Sloan’s compact SUV.

Then we headed back to Herriman, fueled up at the same pumps for another drive downtown. This time Matt drove the eco-route while Sloan took the fastest.

Google says its new eco-friendly Maps tool has the potential to prevent over one million tons of carbon emissions per year.

This time around, the eco-route added nine minutes and two seconds to Matt’s drive time, more than three times Google’s guestimate. To find out how much money, if any, the greener route saved, we filled our tanks for the final time using the same pumps. This time, Matt’s minivan burned 1.173 gallons, while Sloan’s compact SUV burned 0.98 gallons on the faster route.

Here’s the math: the eco-route saved Matt 0.476 gallons. His total savings equaled $4.99 a gallon, which we paid per gallon of regular gas that day; his total savings equaled $2.38.

For Sloan, the savings were less: 0.101 gallons multiplied by $4.99, equaling to 50 cents.

Either way, Google’s eco-routes turned out to be a win for inflation-busting. It did save us both money at the expense of added drive time.

Google said in cases where the fuel savings are too small, or the eco-route significantly adds drive time, Google Maps shows its calculated fuel savings to help you compare before you drive.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

Get Gephardt: No, really, why are Utah gas prices still higher than the national average?

Why are gas prices in Utah so much higher than other parts of the country?
3 days ago
Daniella Rivera

Tracking Transparency: Why prison surveillance videos are rarely released to the public

Since this investigation aired last night, we've heard from some of you wondering why the state is withholding these videos from the public. Here's some of the transparency issues.
3 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt helps Farmington traveler get reimbursed after getting bumped from her flight

A woman paid Delta Airlines $617 to upgrade her seat. But when she arrived at the airport, she found she had no seat at all.
4 days ago
Daniella Rivera

‘They’re all in imminent danger’: Video shows violence after Utah prison allowed gangs to mingle

Corrections officials say they're doing all they can to keep the people in their custody safe, and policies at the new prison will help. Families of those on the inside say it's not enough.
4 days ago
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

Get Gephardt: Surgeon no-shows for pre-paid procedure

Imagine paying for surgery, only to have the surgeon no-show. It happened to a Herriman woman, and when she couldn't get her money back, she decided it was time to Get Gephardt.
5 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt: Is your car spying on you?

KSL Investigates the privacy and security that you put at risk when your car is connected, and what to do about it.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Gephardt Busts Inflation: Can Google’s eco-friendly routes really save you gas money?