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The best 5 ways of saving energy whilst driving

Posted by Giles Kirkland on 23 January 2019 at 10:41 am

Constantly rising fuel costs along with the scarcity of resources and people’s increasing environmental awareness make the concerns for fuel efficiency greater than ever before. More and more people have started minding their ecological footprint and recognising the need for a change in their lifestyle.

Before electric cars, or even fuel efficient hybrid cars are accessible and affordable for everyone, minimising the impact on the environment should be a priority. Therefore it is important that the traditional car drivers take steps towards sustainability.

But how to get the best Miles per Gallon (MPG)? This isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

Here are 5 practical solutions for traditional car drivers to consider.

 

1. Take trips in the right weather

Try planning your next long road trips in summer rather than winter. The cold can negatively affect your MPG while the heater also uses additional power. Vehicles are always more fuel efficient when properly warmed up - and this might become a difficult task when running miles in the cold.

Moreover, when your engine and oil get cold, it increases the transmission friction, hence impacting the fuel consumption. The same rule applies to short trips as they don’t give the car enough time to heat up and reach its optimum temperature. So try limiting your trips in the cold, always plan your route in advance and schedule your errands logistically.

 

2. Carry less baggage

We all know that heavy vehicles like trucks are less fuel efficient than smaller ones. But most of us fail to realise that this applies to our own cars too. Avoid overloading your car with things that you don’t need. Once you reduce your car’s weight, you’ll instantly notice improvement in its performance.

Check your trunk and get rid of any unnecessary objects which can equally await their turn in the attic instead of travelling with you for months.

3. Know the right tyre pressure

The right tyre inflation level is crucial for fuel economy, yet over 60% of cars in Europe have tyres with lower pressure than recommended. Driving on underinflated tyres means that the engine has to work harder in order to overcome the increased rolling resistance and make the vehicle move with the desired speed.

Checking your tyre pressure regularly - once a fortnight to a month, depending on your driving style, will help you keep the inflation on the right levels. It only takes a few minutes and apart from saving money and lowering your car’s emissions, it will also help avoid dangerous road incidents such as punctures or blowouts.

 

4. Adjust your speed

The misconception that driving fast consumes less or the same amount of fuel is, unfortunately, still alive amongst some drivers. In reality, the more you increase the car’s speed, the more its fuel efficiency goes down. Wind resistance makes things worse, especially when driving on highways and high speed roads.

According to most researchers, the ideal speed to maximize the efficiency is somewhere between 50 and 65 mph. Along with maintaining this speed, also make sure that you accelerate smoothly and avoid braking excessively.

 

5. Use air conditioning responsibly

While AC significantly improves driving comfort, unfortunately it adds greatly to your costs and emissions.

AC consumes a lot of fuel, especially in the initial phase when you enter a hot vehicle and set a low temperature. This suggests that cooling the air just slightly might be the solution; and it does help. However, some parts of the AC system burn fuel regardless of the intensity of their work.

Newer car models are equipped with multi-stage compressors. This makes the cooling process more efficient and doesn’t burn more fuel than needed, unlike the older models with a single-stage compressor. So if you like to feel a cool breeze behind the wheel, definitely take it into consideration when choosing a new car.

To lower the negative impact of the AC on fuel efficiency, try opening windows and your sunroof instead, or at least before switching the AC on - the air will circulate and cool down a little. In the first minutes of having it on, use re-circulating mode so that only the air which is already in the car gets cooled, not new hot streams from outside. And remember that the recommended difference in temperatures in the car and outside is not too big, preferably of around 3 degrees.

 

Be aware

There are also other factors which are likely to increase fuel consumption to a certain extent. Some drivers believe that fuel is denser in cool temperatures which means that you get a better deal if you refill your car during early mornings and late nights. Using roof racks is another example as it disrupts the car’s aerodynamics. Even listening to music in the car can hurt fuel economy as the car alternator powers the stereo, so the energy comes from the engine which of course, consumes fuel.

All the above factors may have an impact on fuel economy and avoiding some of them might be easier than others. But being aware of the ways of saving energy whilst driving certainly is the first step to breaking with some bad habits and making better decisions. Knowing what to pay attention to, we can try to change our daily habits in a way which pays more respect to the environment and saves more of our hard earned money.

About the author: Giles Kirkland is an environmentally conscious car expert with passion for electric vehicles and clean technologies. Apart from commenting on the latest automotive innovations, he enjoys sharing his knowledge and giving sustainable driving tips. You can find his articles on Twitter and at Oponeo.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

2 comments - read them below or add one

LouisSmith

LouisSmithComment left on: 21 February 2019 at 4:08 pm

Useful article, thank you.

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Eco Andrew

Eco AndrewComment left on: 3 February 2019 at 10:59 pm

Quote: "the ideal speed to maximize efficiency is somewhere between 50 and 65 mph".  

In practical terms 50mph may be about the most efficient speed when travelling on motorways because it is rarely safe to go slower than this (unless congestion is slowing ALL the traffic down). But it is not the most fuel-efficient speed.  When I was an avid reader of AA 'Drive' magazine they tested vehicles' consumption at specific speeds and cars tended to have their best fuel economy at, or a little below, 40mph.  Of course this would not usually be a practical or safe speed on a motorway with other cars going considerably faster.  But it's important not to mislead drivers into thinking that they need to drive faster on all roads, in all conditions, to save fuel.  I realise that 40mph is too slow to be practical or safe on many major roads and would cause irritation to other drivers there, but on slower country or urban roads it is around the ideal speed to save fuel.

All Giles' other points are good, but I believe the most important advice is missing.  The major enemies to saving fuel (and reducing pollution) are harsh acceleration and heavy braking.  Fuel is used to increase momemtum (gain speed).  Braking destroys this momentum, meaning you need to use more fuel to build up your momentum again.

So when accelerating away from junctions/ traffic lights etc. do this gently, aiming to let the car ahead of you get a good distance in front, so you are around 5 seconds behind it.  Then when that car needs to slow or stop for a hazard (eg. zebra crossing, traffic lights, junction) you  have time to slow by lifting off your accelerator without using your brakes.  On modern cars lifting off the accelerator, while the car is moving, completely cuts off the fuel to the engine until you come to a stop (the fuel supply resumes when you dip your clutch pedal, on coming to a stop, so the engine does not stall). This is the most economical way to slow down because you are using no fuel.  If you still have some momentum left when the car ahead moves out of your way, or traffic lights change, this avoids using more fuel to regain that momemtum.  This gentle acceleration + slowing-without-braking takes some practice, but on regular routes you become familiar with how long stationery traffic takes to clear at lights / roundabouts etc. and you can perfect this technique over time.  

Other advantages are:

- because you are watching the traffic and anticipating hazards further ahead, you will also be driving more safely

- you'll be reducing wear and tear on your engine, clutch and brakes too!

Hope that helps.

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