Hopefully, most drivers are far more conscious about reducing our CO2 emissions these days, and we can’t fail to be aware of rapid advances in cleaner fuel technology.
Although consumer buy-in to hybrid and fully electric car technology is gaining momentum, the infrastructure to support mass adoption is still patchy and the purchase cost quite high. All-in-all, it could be a few years yet before our roads become completely eco-friendly.
If you’re still driving a petrol or diesel vehicle, how can you make a contribution to reducing carbon emissions? Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the impact on both the planet and your pocket, with these tips for more efficient driving.
1. Don’t leave your engine idle
Switch off your engine if you’re stationary for more than a minute or so, for example at traffic lights, at railway crossings or in traffic queues. Modern engines use less fuel when you start them than when you leave them running. Read our blog on Leaving your car Idling Outside School.
In cold weather, it’s better to scrape ice off the car instead of letting the engine idle while the windscreen defrosts.
2. Smooth, steady driving
Up to 50% of all energy powering a car goes into acceleration; aggressive driving uses even more energy. Hard acceleration, sudden braking and rapid changes of speed all use more fuel, and the impact is even greater in built-up areas with more stop-start traffic.
Drive smoothly and accelerate gently for the most efficient use of fuel. You’ll save wear and tear on your car, too.
3. Lower speeds use less fuel
Reducing your speed from 80 mph to 70 mph can result in using 25% less fuel. And cutting your speed from 60 mph to 50 mph can improve your fuel mileage by up to 15%.
4. Maintain a steady speed
Small variations in speed can increase fuel consumption by up to 48%. Maintain a steady speed for the most economical use of fuel.
Cruise control helps to maintain a consistent pressure on the accelerator, ensuring a steady use of fuel. It will also make driving a little less tiring for you on a longer journey. If your car has a cruise control feature, use it.
5. Decelerate gradually
Gentle deceleration saves brakes and helps fuel efficiency. Try to gauge the flow of traffic ahead of you, for example at traffic lights or in slow-moving traffic. Decelerate naturally rather than coming to a complete stop – it’s more economical than braking.
6. Get into a higher gear as soon as possible
It’s actually more economical to drive in a higher gear. You’ll save money by switching up to a higher gear when you reach around 2000 revs in a diesel vehicle or 2,500 revs in a petrol vehicle.
7. Reduce wind resistance
If you’re not using that roof rack or top box, take it off; close car windows to reduce air resistance, too. Streamlining your car to reduce drag will all help to improve fuel efficiency. The exception to this, is if you find yourself using the air conditioning more frequently as an alternative to open windows.
8. Turn air conditioning down or off
Your vehicle’s air-con system can increase its fuel consumption by up to 20% (source: Natural Resources Canada). The extra demand of air conditioning on the engine will depend on the interior size of the vehicle and the outside temperature, but even in optimum conditions, air-con uses more fuel than any other auxiliary feature.
Turn it off, turn it down, or just use it less frequently.
9. Regular car maintenance
A tuned up car works more efficiently, so you’ll get better fuel economy and emit fewer greenhouse gasses if you keep your car well maintained.
Check your car’s manual for the correct tyre pressure, as under-inflated tyres can increase fuel consumption by around 5% for every 0.5 bar drop in pressure. This is because a flatter tyre generates more rolling resistance. Your tyres will wear out more quickly, too.
10.Reduce unnecessary weight
Do you really need that snow shovel in the boot in May? Or the stack of books you were going to drop off at the charity shop but never got around to? Your engine has to work harder to pull more weight. That adds up to using more fuel, so clean out the boot and anywhere else in the car where unnecessary clutter is adding to the car’s weight. Read our blog on How to Declutter Your Car.
11. Plan your route
Planning ahead to avoid traffic congestion and keep the car moving at a steady pace will make your journey more pleasant and more fuel-efficient. But don’t assume that it’s only town roads that can be bad for eco-friendly driving. Rural routes often involve winding roads and plenty of turns, so you’ll be accelerating and decelerating more frequently.
If you know the area you’re driving through, use your best judgement to plan the fastest, most direct route with minimal chance of delay, and check digital route planners beforehand to avoid any known congestion hotspots.
12. Combine trips rather than making several short trips
It’s far more fuel efficient to make one longer journey than several shorter ones. With a little organisation, is it possible to combine a few errands in one trip? In the long run you’ll save some time, and fewer journeys means less wear and tear on your car, too.
13. Intelligent driving aids
We probably all over-estimate our driving skills to some extent. At the end of the day, do we really know how much our driving style affects our fuel economy?
Telematic devices, otherwise known as black boxes have been around for a few years now and provide accurate data about our driving habits. Most commonly, insurance companies use this data to understand a driver’s behaviour and set premiums, but a black box can provide really useful feedback for drivers, too.
A black box can help you save money by showing you where your driving is less efficient. Do you accelerate too fast, or brake too hard? Perhaps leaving for work ten minutes earlier helped you avoid traffic build-up and maintain a steady speed on your journey?
Black box insurance policies are often taken out by young drivers, but are increasingly becoming available for drivers of any age.
What are your eco-friendly driving credentials?
If you already practise some of the eco-friendly driving tips in this list you’re probably already saving money and helping to reduce CO2 emissions.
If you’re about to start, good luck! It’s difficult to change ingrained driving habits overnight, but keep a record of your fuel consumption over the next few months and you may soon start to notice a difference.