Eco driving, driving for economy, getting an extra few miles out of every gallon – call it whatever you wish, but what’s it really all about? What can you really get out of it, apart from maybe saving, at best, a couple of hundred pounds on fuel each year? The whole reasoning behind it fails to get through to some people, and a proportion of our readers probably never ever bother to read this page. But we’ll try going right back to the basics, and hopefully offer some proven facts and principles that might just sow a few fertile seeds in your mind.
Firstly, many of us now live in a motoring world where congestion, poor roads, and speed limits all seemingly take away the enjoyment of motoring. Driving fun is now increasingly difficult to find, and the fun is unfortunately often replaced by stress. But by adopting a different mindset, with a focus on efficiency, rather than speed, you really can rediscover that driving enjoyment, making economy driving work for you. With a fresh attitude, you’ll become a more tolerant, relaxed, and safer driver. You’ll be less stressed at the wheel, because the eco driving style reduces accident risks, your passengers get a more comfortable and enjoyable ride, and your car enjoys a better and kinder life that makes it perform better. Don’t just take my word for it – some converts to eco driving have also proved that it cuts their blood pressure! You’ll also cut the risks of getting points on your licence and, with the increasingly popular “black box” insurance system, you’ll get better driving ratings, and thus lower premiums.
So, what’s it all about? Part of the process begins before you even start the engine, and it focuses on time and journey planning. It means thinking ahead and planning your route, even if that means just pre-planning it on your navigation aid, or even using a map. Remember them? You then start out knowing how long your journey should take, and by what route, and thereby avoid the time pressure that makes for bad driving and wasting fuel. As we’ve already hinted, eco driving is generally safer driving, and one important skill involved is good road positioning, that helps avoid sudden stops and reduces delays by easing off the accelerator early, or sometimes even putting your foot down to avoid clashing with other traffic. Create space around you and you’ll see more of the road, get earlier warnings of developing road situations, and avoid wasting fuel by needlessly braking, and avoid the thirsty acceleration that’s needed to regain your previous cruising speed.
But there are also other factors involved. Whether all the various theories on climate change are true or not, it simply doesn’t make any sense to waste fuel, unless you literally have money to burn. Too many drivers do that! You may not always be able to resist the challenge of a good blast on an open road, in safe conditions, but that’s planned enjoyment, and you can still grab it when you can, when it’s legal, and safe. But far too much fuel is wasted simply by mindless speeding, unnecessary braking and bad planning. There’s no merit or justification for it, and you’ll feel more rewarded by saving some fuel, with solid figures to prove it, than from the brief thrill of a pointless blast of hard acceleration in an inappropriate situation.
We’ll build on these thoughts with more detail over the next two or three issues, but do give the idea a chance. Perhaps a good way to kick off is to pick a journey that usually stresses you, such as into the city, or a big town, at a busy time. Firstly, plan to set out five minutes earlier. Then set your car up to record and display the journey mpg and resolve to do a few things differently. Don’t be the driver who switches lanes, undertakes, overtakes, and tailgates other cars. Relax, smile, try and avoid pointless hard acceleration between sets of traffic lights, or hard braking for safety cameras, and keep your right foot feather light on the accelerator. Plus, plan where you’re going to park, so you don’t have to cruise around looking for a space. You’ll be amazed when you take a look at your mpg – and that’s just a starting point!