Today the Energy Saving Trust urged motorists to drive more smartly to save money. They say that motorists in the UK could save £7bn a year by applying a few simple changes to their driving style and methods. That works out to about £270 per year for each motorist. Now if that’s got your attention, then let’s take a look at what they are advising drivers to do.

A saving of £270 a year for each motorist works out at about 20p of each litre of diesel or petrol spent – it all mounts up. So today the Energy Saving Trust has launched it’s Fuel Your Passion campaign. The campaign will last for 3 months and it’s primary aim will be to encourage motorists to save and thus also cut down on the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into our fragile atmosphere.

tortoise warning slow down

Now at this point you will probably be thinking that we’ve heard this a few times before and a lot of this advice is quite possibly already known to most of us, but as with everything, it takes a while for it to be ingrained into our brains as the ‘right way’ to do things.

Drive Slower

We’ve probably all heard the tired old joke about a man being stopped for speeding and telling the officer: “..I was about to run out of petrol so was rushing to the nearest petrol station..” and we’ve probably all laughed, but what is the logic behind it? Well it doesn’t mean driving like a tortoise for a start. Getting from A to B faster will simply increase the amount of fuel consumption, the EST estimate that travelling at the actual speed limit on the motorway (that’s 70mph by the way) instead of 85mph might save you up to £20 a year.

driving too fast

Drive Your Vehicle Smoothly
And going hand-in-hand with the above, driving smoothly and avoiding excessive braking and acceleration will also save the motorist precious heard-earned cash. I say it goes hand in hand because driving faster than most of your fellow drivers will inevitably result in hard braking followed by rapid acceleration again.

Smooth driving means looking ahead, anticipating what the traffic up ahead is doing and easing off the accelerator rather than immediately reaching for the brake pedal. It also means no tail-gaiting – tail-gaiting results in having to use the brakes more often, annoying the driver in front who will probably brake more often to annoy you and ultimately results in more anger and more stress. If you tail-gate you’re a very bad driver for numerous reasons. It’s that simple.

Decelerate smoothly as well, ease off the accelerator pedal in anticipation of what’s going on ahead and don’t change down through the gears, you can jump from 4th to 2nd without waking 3rd from it’s slumber.

Avoid Carrying Any Dead Weight
No, this isn’t a reference to a night you’d rather forget as you head for Epping Forest, drenched in sweat in the middle of the night with a hessian sack and a spade, it means losing all that excess baggage that you accumulate in your boot and the back seat of your car that adds to the overall weight of the vehicle. Obviously be logical about this, removing the car jack because it’s heavy is not going to help you should you get a puncture, but losing that wooden picnic table you carry around with you for whenever you’re in Epping Forest might be worth thinking about until you really need it.

overloaded pickup

Remove Unused Roof Racks
A bit like dead weight really, but with that added no-no of being non-aerodynamic. Car manufacturers spend a fortune making sure the car you are driving is going to cut through the air in the smoothest fashion. If you search for some wind tunnel footage online it can be quite enlightening.

Turn Your Engine Off
This is pretty obvious really, but if you’re not going anywhere, don’t leave your car idling as it simply means you’re burning fuel while not actually moving anywhere. The Energy Saving Trust’s advice is if you expect to be stationary for more than a minute.

Shift Up Through Gears Early
I was sitting in the back of a car once travelling to Tintagel in Cornwall, with the person in the passenger seat screaming “..Rach..? Rach..! Change gear for god sake!” as the car revved like a plane about to take off rapidly reaching 30-40mph in second gear. Your car engine is like the prized speaker in your expensive sound system set up – you buy bigger speakers and the volume never needs to go about 4 or 5 and everything runs contentedly. Buy smaller speakers and you find the volume is on full most of the time and everything is running at limits and eventually a speaker cone blows. Your engine is the same, change gear at around 2,000 – 2,500 rpm and your engine is running within it’s limits and not straining.

volkswagen beetle herbie getting petrol

Keep Your Tyres At Correct Pressure
We all know this one, but did you realise it could save you up to £31 per year? If the safety aspect of having decent tyres inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended psi hasn’t been enough for you in the past, then surely the saving you can make might now swing it. Check your tyre pressure regularly, at least once a fortnight and more often if you can.

Turn Off Air Conditioning
Along with heated steering wheels this is a bit of a bugbear of mine. We live in the UK and in all honesty, we really don’t need either (especially heated steering wheels). I was working for Nissan at the time when air-con started to filter down from the luxury car to mainstream small hatchbacks. Almost overnight the new car buyer went from wondering what colour to choose, to believing that they simply must have air conditioning no matter what.

Air conditioning eats petrol at low speeds. The AA advises drivers to open a window at low speeds and just turn the air-con off. The effects on fuel consumption are less noticeable at higher speeds, but I would still argue as to whether you really need it at all.

While we’re at it, turn off all other non-essential electrical in-car devices like heated windscreens and demisters. Electrical devices eat petrol.

The Energy Saving Trust says that there has been a 12% fall in fuel sales during the first part of 2012 compared to the same period in 2008. They say that this indicated that people are starting to take the message on board. I’d perhaps suggest that this more likely indicates that fuel is now so expensive that people are gritting their teeth and either taking their chances with public transport or running the gauntlet on our roads astride a bike.  The Energy Saving Trust has created a nifty little Travel Energy Check to enable you to see how you are at saving fuel, you can give it a go by clicking here.

All in all this is good advice. It maybe nothing new, but having it repeated from various sources every so often is no bad thing, especially in these times of astronomical fuel prices.

Some images – crookedbrains.net & go-getters.ca

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