We’re all thinking more about reducing our CO2 emissions, but while there are rapid advances in cleaner fuel technology, not everyone can afford an electric or hybrid new car just yet.
In the meantime, our driving tips for better fuel economy will help you increase your car’s fuel-mileage, save money, and you’ll contribute to lower vehicle pollutants, too.
What will reduce fuel consumption?
Follow these tips to reduce fuel consumption and get the maximum mileage from your car:
- Smooth, steady driving. Up to 50% of all energy powering a car goes into acceleration; aggressive driving uses even more energy. Drive smoothly and accelerate gently for the most efficient use of fuel. You’ll save wear and tear on your car, too.
- Don’t leave your engine idling, as this wastes fuel. Switch off your engine if you’re stationary for more than a minute or so, for example, if you’re stuck in traffic, or scraping ice off your car in the morning. Modern engines use less fuel when you start them than when you leave them running.
- 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%.
- Maintain a steady speed. Small changes in speed can increase a car’s fuel consumption by up to 48%. Maintain a steady speed for the most economical use of fuel. Cruise control can help with this, under the right conditions (see below).
- Decelerate gradually. Gentle deceleration saves brakes and helps fuel efficiency. Try to gauge the flow of traffic ahead of you. Decelerate naturally rather than coming to a complete stop – it’s more economical than braking.
- Get into a higher gear as soon as possible. It’s actually more economical to drive in a higher gear, as long as you stay within the speed limit.
- 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 avoid wasting fuel.
- Reduce unnecessary weight. Your engine works harder to pull more weight, which uses more fuel. Clean out the boot and anywhere else around the car where unnecessary clutter is adding to the car’s weight.
- Turn air conditioning down or off. Your vehicle’s air-con system can increase its fuel consumption by up to 20%. Even in optimum conditions, air-con uses more fuel than any other auxiliary feature in the car.
- 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.
- Correct tyre pressure. 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.
- Plan your route. Plan ahead to avoid traffic congestion, and keep the car moving at a steady pace to make your journey more pleasant and more fuel-efficient.
- 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?
- Intelligent driving aids. A telematic device in your car, otherwise known as a black box, can be an incentive to improve your driving style. Not only will careful driving help to cut insurance costs, it’s more fuel efficient, too.
Does cruise control use more fuel?
Cruise control can help boost fuel economy, but only under certain conditions. On long, straight stretches and relatively flat roads such as motorways, the cruise control feature keeps a steady pressure on the accelerator, ensuring a steady and efficient use of fuel. But in hilly terrain, cruise control tries to maintain the same speed, so it’s working harder and using more fuel.
And on normal roads, where a driver might be reacting more to changing road conditions ahead (heavier traffic, junctions, traffic lights etc.) switching cruise control off is probably more fuel efficient. This is simply because cruise control is less adaptive than you are, so it will be asking more of your car’s engine than it might need – and using more fuel in the process.
Cruise control will make driving a little less tiring for you on a longer journey, but if you’re aiming for better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions, it’s probably best to turn it off unless you’re on a free-flowing, level stretch of road such as a dual carriageway or motorway.
Which gear is most fuel efficient?
Does RPM affect fuel economy? Definitely. The faster an engine spins, the more fuel it uses, so allowing your car to reach excessively high revs in any gear is not good for fuel efficiency.
It’s actually more economical to drive in a higher gear. You’ll save money and fuel by changing up to higher gears as quickly as possible, while revs are still fairly low, around 2,500 for petrol vehicles and 2,000 for diesel.
Be aware, though, you can also reduce fuel economy if you drive too slowly in a high gear.
What’s the optimum speed to save fuel?
The most fuel-efficient speed can be difficult to pin down because it really depends on different factors, such as road and weather conditions, tyre pressure, load weight, and of course the vehicle itself.
Official fuel consumption tests used to be based on driving in three different conditions: urban driving, driving at 56mph and driving at 75mph. In most cases, cars were most fuel efficient at the 56mph test. While there’s no definitive speed which will give the best fuel economy, most cars probably do best at between 45 to 50mph.
In September 2018, a new way of testing cars for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions was introduced, aiming to give drivers better “real-world” statistics about new cars’ fuel economy.
What’s less polluting, diesel or petrol?
Diesel cars used to be promoted as being more environmentally friendly than petrol, as they do produce slightly less carbon dioxide emissions than petrol engines. They certainly use less fuel and more air to get the same performance as a petrol engine, so fuel-economy was always a factor in their promotion.
But the car industry recognises that looking at carbon dioxide emissions in isolation was a mistake. In recent years, diesel cars have been shown to emit high levels of toxic gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, as well as the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Both gases are harmful to the environment and to our health. Although newer diesel cars now meet very similar emissions standards to petrol cars, their use is becoming discouraged in many places.
If environmental credentials are a high priority, you ought to be looking at a hybrid or electric vehicle option. The up-front purchase cost is currently an obstacle for many divers, but this should be balanced by the cheaper ongoing running costs . A Which survey based on feedback from tens of thousands of drivers also suggests that petrol-hybrid cars are the most reliable type of car you can buy.
Do automatic cars save more fuel than manual cars?
If you’re not already firmly in one camp or another when it comes to manual vs automatic, you might wonder whether one type of transmission saves more fuel than another. The good news is, if you’re wavering between the two, fuel efficiency doesn’t need to be a significant factor in your decision.
Older automatics were actually a little less fuel-efficient than manual cars, but modern development in automatic transmissions means there is often very little to choose between them. On some car models, the automatic transmission can even be a little better.
Does a brand new car consume more fuel?
A vehicle’s fuel economy will continue to improve for the first few years of its life, but there’s generally a “bedding in” period of 500 to 1,000 miles for a new car, when its engine will use a bit more fuel. Most car dealerships will advise you to take it easy on the car during this period, and the manufacturer’s handbook will usually say the same.
Are older cars less fuel-efficient?
If well maintained, an older car will not become less fuel-efficient just because it has more years and miles on the clock. It might be less fuel-efficient than a newer model with the benefit of improved technology, though.
To get the best fuel economy from an older car, pay extra attention to its maintenance, change or replace fluids, parts or tyres regularly, and so on.
What are your eco-friendly driving credentials?
If you already practise some of the eco-friendly driving tips mentioned here, you’re probably already saving money and helping to reduce harmful fuel emissions.
If you’re planning to make some changes to the way you drive, 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 that you’re getting more miles per gallon.
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