A while ago we looked at five ways of improving your fuel economy without making any changes in driving style.
Simply by removing excess weight from your car, removing roof boxes and other exterior fittings, correctly inflating your tyres, planning ahead and turning off your engine in heavy traffic, it gives your car the best chance of ekeing out a few extra miles per gallon.
But there’s a lot more you can do to save fuel if you’re prepared to alter your driving style too – and it’s a lot easier than you might think.
1. Slow down
Now we’re not about to get all high and mighty here – virtually everyone speeds at some point for some reason, and while it’s illegal and we wouldn’t condone it, nor will you receive our eternal scorn for occasionally creeping over the limit. Unless you’re doing so outside a school, in which case eternal scorn is way too good for you.
Moral issues aside, there are plenty of benefits to travelling a little slower. It sounds daft, but it’s a lot more relaxing rolling along at the speed limit. That constant lookout you do for police cars when zipping along at 90 on the motorway? Not necessary. Scanning the horizon for cameras in 30 mph limits? A thing of the past.
But the real benefit is in the fuel savings. Spending less time at higher speeds, and using less effort to get to those high speeds, can have a real effect on fuel economy. You might think 45 mpg at 80 mph isn’t too bad from your diesel, but the extra 10 mpg you’d get at 70 would be even better – for the sake of spending an extra few minutes on the road.
2. Look ahead
Observation is a key driving skill even when you’re not driving economically, but its benefits to economy are numerous.
Approaching a queue of traffic? Back off the gas early and let the car slow down naturally. You may find the traffic starts to move again before you reach the back of it – even if it doesn’t, you’ll have saved a small amount of fuel by not staying on the gas a little longer anyway. And you’ll have saved some brake wear too by not slamming on the anchors at the last second.
The same can apply on other roads too. If you’re joining a motorway, keep looking for the ideal gap. Rather than trying to out-accelerate that truck before the gap closes, why not go for the huge gap behind it and overtake it with plenty of space? Less risky, and less fuel used.
3. Be smooth, be cool
Many people assume that economical driving means slow driving. Speed is a factor, but not the only one – and with the right technique you’d be surprised how quickly you can make progress while driving economically.
For example, reasonably brisk but measured acceleration combined with fairly early gear-changes can be better than taking ages to get to your chosen speed – since in the latter scenario, you spend more time actually in the process of accelerating, rather than cruising economically at a constant speed. And it’s certainly better for economy than treating every traffic light like the start line at Silverstone…
Smooth driving means minimising braking too. Combined with the “looking ahead” advice above, you could find yourself braking less for roundabouts, corners and queues, maintaining higher speeds, and spending less time wasting fuel getting back up to speed. The added benefit? A smoother ride for you and your passengers.
4. Listen to your car
Many modern cars come with gearchange indicators and other eco-driving warnings and tips. Some can nag a little, we’ll admit – but in general, they can really help you save fuel.
For example, that 30 mph road you always negotiate in third gear: What is the car suggesting you change to? Probably fourth, maybe even fifth if you’re going down hill. As long as the engine isn’t labouring (struggling to pull the car along at low engine speeds) then a higher gear means improved economy.
And it doesn’t mean sacrificing performance when you need it either. Once again, if you look ahead, you can always change down a gear if necessary with plenty of time.
5. Be considerate
The cut and thrust of modern traffic can bring out the worst in even the nicest of people. Wrap yourself in a safe tin box, radio blaring, a road full of “idiots” and the red mist quickly descends.
But, as in any walk of life, you’ll be amazed at the benefits of treating others as you wish to be treated yourself. Cram your car into tight gaps, cut up other drivers, speed to pass someone just before you reach your junction or zoom through a side-street to try and take a short cut and you’ll be forever on and off the gas and brakes – wasting fuel. And people will probably do the same to you, slowing you down and wasting even more fuel!
Accept that some drivers make mistakes sometimes – you almost certainly do yourself on occasion. Others are probably just like you: They want to get home to their families, they’re fed up of traffic, they’re missing their favourite TV show. Understanding that means being at peace with it. Your driving will become more relaxed and you’ll have the pleasant side-effect of using less fuel…
(Traffic jam photo by nicpic on Flickr)