Fuel efficiency of a smooth road — smooth paving saves you money

How smoother paving results in using less fuel.

There are plenty of ways that paving can be greener. Recycled materials, green and efficient paving, and more result in a lower carbon footprint, lower costs, and less resources used. However, another advantage to green paving is that it also saves fuel. The long and short of it is that cars that drive on smoother surfaces use less fuel. What material is used in asphalt paving, such as the aggregate and binder makes a difference. So does how it is placed. This results in savings on fuel and lower atmospheric emissions.

Not only does the material and its construction affect fuel efficiency, so does maintenance. As our infrastructure, and how we study it improve, we are figuring out new ways to make things more sustainable. Nowadays the entire life of a road are factored into its financial costs, carbon costs, and more.

Why is it important? In the US, we spend roughly 190 billion dollars on highway, bridge, and street construction. On top of the money spent on building, how do almost all of our products get transported? At least one portion of their transport will be on a long-haul semi truck. These massive 12 and 18 wheelers burn through fuel, and smoother roads make enable them use far, far less.

The basic principle

The basic rule is that smoother pavement offers better fuel efficiency. This is a common-sense idea. Smoother asphalt paving equals less friction. Vehicles can thus put in less work in order to drive or crawl along a surface.

Automakers are constantly making vehicles more fuel efficient. These days, electric cars are beginning to dominate in some markets as well. But state and national agencies are also looking for ways to use less fuel in transportation. One of the best ways to do this is to use smoother roads. With over 2.5 million miles of paved roads, even a tiny change in each vehicle’s fuel economy can make a noticeable difference.

There are many benefits to smooth pavement

Smoother roadways are also better in-general. They are more comfortable, have less driver irritation, and are better for cars. Smooth roads result is less wear and tear on tires and shock systems, and are less likely to damage the undersides of vehicles. Anyone who has ever learned how to rollerblade or ride a bike knows how useful smooth roads are. Also, coffee drinkers who drive know the value of a smooth pavement. Finally, smooth roadways are easier to maintain. The smoother and slicker a pavement’s surface, the less upkeep it needs. Rutted and cracked pavements are easily permeated by water. Once water gets into asphalt, it’s game over. Water expands and contracts, causing further cracking and irregularity. Smooth surfaces are much more protected from water entry.

All of this adds up to a few important factors:

  • Less maintenance is required for smoother roads. 25% Smoother roads result in 10% longer pavement life
  • Cars can move more easily on smooth roads. Rolling resistance is the loss of a vehicle’s energy due to contact between pavement and the tire. The loss is usually small, only about 15-20%, compared to other forces like wind resistance. Tire baldness and the level of tire inflation only make about a 1% difference in rolling resistance. The vast majority of this benefit comes from smoothing pavement. Pavement smoothness effects this resistance by 5% or better.
  • Vehicles receive less damage on less bumpy pavements.
  • Smoother roads are more predictable for drivers. This means less chance of a vehicle going out of control and crashing.

These factors result in lower resource consumption over all. Less fuel means cost savings and less environmental impact. Less maintenance means the same thing. It also means that less pavement will be required over all to fix broken elements of pavement and damage. Finally, less upkeep will be required on cars that drive on smooth roads. Think about the difference in wear and tear on your car driving on gravel versus a well-paved highway.

If you are curious, or want more stats, here is a good long-form study. This study was made by the Missouri Department of Transportation. It’s about the relations between fuel efficiency and pavement smoothness. It shows that trucks on smoother surfaces got more mileage per gallon of gas (about .14 miles per gallon on average). SUVs got about .17 more miles per gallon. These may seem like relatively small savings. But considering how many millions of vehicles drive on the roads every year, they add up to enormous fuel and money savings in the long run.

How to get smoother pavement?

In short: use asphalt. Concrete makes good pavement, but it is not nearly as smooth as asphalt. Where concrete paving surfaces join, there are often bumps and seams. These decrease fuel efficiency. The bottom line is that asphalt pavements are easier to lay smoothly, and to keep smooth. Compound that with the facts that they also require less maintenance, and you have a recipe for success. Smooth asphalt paving results in less money spent on upkeep, car damages, and fuel.

Make sure your paving is efficient as possible

If you want to ensure your roadways are safe, efficient, and look great, then find the best paving contractor. Not only can a good contractor repair your asphalt, they can also lay the best quality (and smoothest) new asphalt. That’s what Reliable Paving lives for. We’ve been serving Texas for over 35 years, doing the best paving work available. Our services include asphalt paving, asphalt and concrete repair, seal coating, lot striping and ADA compliance. If you want your paving done right, done efficiently, and looking into a future of low costs and fuel use, contact us today.