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Ideally, of course, we should all be using electric vehicles (EVs) and public transport. However, we have to be realistic – infrastructure is not in place, the cost of EVs is high, and the automotive industry is not transitioning quickly. Petrol and diesel vehicles will be on our roads for at least another 20 years in most countries.
So, if you have to drive, learn to drive like a pro!
Truly professional drivers drive with economy, environment, safety, and courtesy in mind. Pro drivers are taught to accelerate smoothly, use gears properly, think ahead, use engine braking, and brake smoothly. Top truck, coach and bus drivers are guided by safety, the revcounter, load, road conditions, weather conditions and the environment. The best car drivers will do the same.
Simple measures when driving can reduce fuel consumption in your average family car by over 30%, according the RAC in the UK. A 30% reduction in fuel consumption is a 30% reduction in fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being a 30% reduction in the load on your wallet.
Driving like a pro means you will:
- save money
- reduce fossil fuel use
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- reduce other local pollution such as N2O and CO
- reduce particulates from not only burnt fuel, but also brake dust and tyre dust
- be safer
- be less stressed
How to drive like a pro!
Make sure you maintain your vehicle
Regular maintenance and servicing improves the efficiency of your vehicle, and therefore can improve your fuel consumption. Tyres should be inflated to the correct pressure because underinflated and overinflated tyres both adversely affect fuel economy. Remember that the ideal tyre pressure will vary depending on the load you are carrying: for example if you have four passengers and luggage then you will need your tyres inflated to the maximum recommended pressures.
Gentle right foot: highest gear possible
Speed and acceleration are by far the biggest fuel-guzzle factor so having a light right foot and ensuring acceleration is gentle is very important to fuel-efficient driving. Another big contributor is driving in the highest possible gear for your vehicle. The best advice in town is to change up through the gears quickly – and even miss one or two – with the lowest revs possible. The faster an engine spins, the more fuel it uses.
Keeping the car moving at steady speed is essential to fuel economy; slowing down and having to accelerate again naturally uses more fuel. Drive as smoothly as possible, gently using the steering, accelerator and brakes. When slowing down, stay in gear as the fuel cut-off switch in a fuel injection engine is then activated, meaning no fuel is used while braking.
Like a pro driver, try to anticipate what’s going to happen by looking well ahead. This way, for example, you’ll see the traffic lights on red, or a sharp bend, meaning you can ease back on the accelerator or slow down naturally and potentially keep moving as opposed to coming to stop at the red.
Use cruise control efficiently
Cruise control only aids fuel economy when driving on a constant flat surface, hence why it is usually best reserved for motorway driving. This is because one of the keys to saving fuel is driving at a constant speed and cruise control can do this effectively on flat surfaces, making your driving as fuel efficient as possible by negating unnecessary acceleration.
If you use your cruise control all the time, not on flat roads, you will increase your fuel consumption. This is because cruise control is slow to react to gradient changes, meaning when reaching the brow of a hill your cruise control will keep the power on for longer as it’s unable to see the gradient change in front of you. The most fuel-efficient roads are motorways (freeways) where you can leave the car in top gear and gently cruise along, using minimal fuel.
Drop the drag
Don’t leave roof bars or a roof box on because they create wind resistance and cause your car to use more fuel, an effect which is increased the faster you drive. An empty roof rack adds around 16% drag when driving at motorway speeds, and a roof box around 39%, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient. Even things like little flags can increase your fuel use. Did you know that driving with an open window has a similar dragging effect?
Spare the air conditioning and heating
Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses a lot of engine power and very significantly increases fuel consumption. This goes for heating too. Remember, the energy for changing the temperature in your car – up or down – has to come from somewhere, and it comes from burning more fuel.
Lighten the load
The heavier a vehicle is, the more fuel it will use, so don’t keep unnecessary items in your car as they all add weight to your vehicle, which is not going to help your fuel economy in the long run. 5 litres of oil and 5 litres of screen-wash weighs over 10 kilogrammes, and the energy to move it again has to come from somewhere, i.e. burning more fuel.
Turn off the ignition if you will be stationary for more than 1 minute, this saves more fuel than is used to restart the engine.
Park a little out of town … 5 minutes’ walk is healthier and you won’t be burning fuel looking for a parking spot!
Plan your route! Getting lost costs fuel and time.
Drive off-peak, clearer roads allow you to drive more economically.
Drive like a pro
Driving like a professional makes you a better driver, a safer driver, a courteous driver, and a fuel efficient driver with the lowest possible carbon emissions.
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