Lesson Prices & Packages
(VIP Driving School Driver Safety Series Article #2, March 2018)
So you’ve just got your drivers licence and got yourself a car, and the fuel is an ongoing cost which digs into your weekly budget.
Stopping at the petrol station to get more fuel is one of life’s unwanted chores and also one of the biggest day-to-day expenses for many people. No one also seems to really understand the weekly price changes which occur, seemingly randomly and without notice, and can catch us out.
So what can we do to make this less of a pain? Try and make the tank of fuel last longer!
There are a number of quick fixes to get an immediate result and several techniques which require more dedication over a longer period to see rewarding change.
Let’s take a look at some tips on how to reduce the amount of fuel you use.
Downsize the Car
Although not practical if you’ve just bought a car, getting a smaller car will always be more economical than a bigger car. A big car with a big engine will be the worst choice for someone looking to save fuel and its cost. Choosing a base model with less luxury features will also be lighter and thus more economical on fuel.
Get a Hybrid
A hybrid car uses both electricity and petrol as power to move the car, but there is a higher initial cost. If you plan to do a lot of driving then it may be worth it in the long run, otherwise avoid the premium price associated with hybrids.
Remove Extra Weight and External Objects
The more weight a car has, the harder its engine has to work to move it. When you carry extra items around, you’re wasting extra effort the motor has to make to move the heavier car. It may only be an extra 50 kg of random things, but multiplied by 5 to 7 days a week, the extra weight of those journeys adds up over time.
Also consider removing items such as the tongue of a tow bar and a roof-mounted luggage carrier if your vehicle is fitted with them.
Drive more Economically
Driving like a grandpa sounds boring and may take the fun out of driving for some, but the way someone drives is in many cases the most significant contributor to how much fuel they use when driving.
The most amount of fuel is used to move a vehicle from rest up to cruising speed. This means that when you are moving off when the light goes green, your vehicle is using much more fuel compared to when cruising at a steady speed. The engine starts in a low gear and moves up towards the highest gear or overdrive.
Once it is up to speed in the high gear, the engine revs drop and a steady speed can be maintained with much less effort. If you stab the pedal to get up to speed, you’re making the engine work hard, and in the case of automatics, hold the low gears for longer, allowing engine revs to climb dramatically.
The higher revs also lead to more wear and tear on engine components, unnecessary noise, higher fuel flow, and wear and tear on tyres and the driveline.
Coasting is when little or no power is applied to keep a vehicle moving, leading to less petrol consumption.
A safe example where this would be applied is when approaching an intersection or a red light. Instead of applying continuous power to drive at the speed limit right up to the point of braking to come to a stop, observe well ahead what is happening, lift the accelerator much earlier and allow the car’s momentum to continue moving it with a very gentle natural deceleration, then gently apply brakes when required.
To make proper use of this method you will need to pay more attention to driving and what’s happening ahead so you can anticipate needing to slow at an earlier time. This method will use less fuel and result in less wear and tear on your brake pads since you’ll be slowing from a lower speed, for a shorter amount of time.
As you gain good practice, you may be able to time your coasting so that the lights become green again and your slowing speed will allow you to approach without stopping, then gently apply power to come back up to speed again.
Some vehicles also have smart engine programming which cuts fuel delivery to cylinders when the car is coasting, saving more fuel.
Apart from reducing your fuel consumption, coasting helps to make you a safer driver as you learn to pay more attention to what is happening around you on the road.
Keep the Vehicle Fit
A vehicle which needs servicing and isn’t being maintained correctly will always be less efficient than a vehicle which has been maintained right.
An engine with oil and an oil filter which needs renewing increases wear and tear on its components, runs hotter and is less efficient overall, making it work harder to do the same ask than a car with fresher oil.
The tyres should also be kept at their optimum pressure to ensure there is minimal resistance when the engine turns the wheels. Tyres which are underinflated will make the engine work harder to turn the wheels against the road surface.
Your air filter sucks in air to pass into the engine. Notice how dirty your windscreen can get while driving? Your air filter receives an amount of dust and other particles while you drive and needs to be cleaned or replaced regularly.
Try a Higher Octane Fuel
The common cheaper ethanol-blend fuels available at petrol stations today are cheap for a reason: they are cheaper to produce but do not have the same energy of premium fuel. The simple fact is that the engine has to work harder and use more fuel to produce a similar level of performance that the same engine would produce if sipping premium fuel.
Premium fuel produces more energy, moving the car with less effort and returning better fuel economy. The downside is its higher cost. Trial and error will determine whether stepping up to premium fuel is beneficial to your situation.
A properly planned trip will provide several ways of reducing your fuel consumption.
Firstly, you can try and avoid travelling on a route which has lots of inclines or mountainous areas which will greatly increase fuel consumption as you climb up higher and higher, making the engine work harder than travelling on a flat road. You can also avoid areas where traffic jams build up.
Secondly, proper planning will lead to less headaches and stress, resulting in gentler driving and not stressful driving as you become desperate and backtrack to avoid becoming lost.
Thirdly, you can undertake several tasks along a planned route which keeps you moving smoothly rather than drive back and forth several times to perform them.
Cruise control is not only there to save your licence when you get caught accidentally speeding but it also provides a smooth control over the accelerator and will kick down to a lower gear only when absolutely necessary to maintain a speed.
Use less Air Conditioning & keep the Windows Up
The air conditioning system places a load on the engine which uses its energy to power itself. For this reason, using the air con when moving at lower speeds can increase fuel usage considerably, while using the air con when moving at higher road speeds is much more efficient, since the engine is in a high-gear and low-rev cruise mode.
When moving at higher speeds, having the windows down creates large drag-generating gaps in the body work which work against the air moving over the vehicle. For this reason, its best to keep the windows up when moving at higher speeds. When moving at slow city speeds, open the windows and keep the air con off.
Improving your fuel economy through these steps shows that there’s a few new ideas towards driving to adopt and adjust to over time, and several things which can be done immediately to make a difference. While not always practical, especially when driving with passengers, all these suggestions will contribute to a positive long term gain in fuel economy.