The Extra Mile

Mnemonics are a bit trendy, and perhaps rather over-used these days, but one popped up recently in relation to driving that seems quite useful, and easy enough to remember. It’s COAST. The letters mean Concentration, Observation, Anticipation, Space, and Time, the merits of all five of which we’ve covered in relation to eco-driving over the last couple of issues. Every one of those involves reducing any time and distance with your right foot down, minimising time spent close to other cars, and using the momentum of your car to keep you moving. It applies particularly when you’re slowing down, or COASTing, and not throwing away all that energy due to avoidable braking. Being short of Time will always ruin a potentially economical journey, and Space is something you always need around you to be in control of your own destiny. Whilst Concentration is also important, you really need the other key features of eco-driving for it to become almost second nature, and something that you automatically adopt whenever you set out on a trip. Even if it’s a fast journey, of necessity, the same basic skills still apply, but there’s very little justification for carrying out any kind of hard braking, in any context. 

Another thing we should point out, though, is that eco-driving, as we’ve chosen to call it, doesn’t in practice mean driving in any kind of extreme style, or for that matter painfully slowly. Not like in fuel economy contests, like the MPG Marathon, where the cars are clearly identified by huge stickers on every car, to explain what’s going on to other drivers. In normal situations, that sort of driving can be severely anti-social, which is inappropriate, and can even provoke road rage. If you appreciate precisely where the fuel and energy get used, and how to be really meagre with it, you will achieve impressive economy with sensible journey times, and without ever getting in the way of other people. If you’re doing things right, and giving faster drivers every assistance to overtake you, there will be few complaints from reasonable people driving at legal speeds. So we’re back to the desirability of keeping plenty of space around you – particularly ahead of you – so that overtakers have a generous amount of room to slip into, and don’t put you at risk by squeezing into small, or even non-existent gaps, and then need to brake hard.

Let’s conclude with some everyday situations where using the right approach can deliver some really impressive economy gains. If you appreciate how quickly short trip mpg figures plummet when you’re touring around a nearly full multi-storey car park, you would be advised to use a car parking app on your phone to identify in advance where there are spaces. Sitting in your car with a cold engine ticking over at traffic lights and junctions is never good news, so try and choose routes that avoid this, even if it means an extra mile on your journey. If you have freedom to choose departure times, think about congestion, and when might be the best time to shop, visit the gym, or even set out on a holiday trip. Before long journeys, check out sources of traffic information for possible problems before you set off – it might save you a lot of time, and stress, and a lot of fuel! And remember that left hand turns are quicker than having to stop for oncoming traffic to turn right.

In concluding this three-part review of the basic principles of driving for economy, and also (dare we add) to help reduce global CO2 emissions, we’ve tried to point out the pleasures of success, and the money-saving rewards of driving this way. Many people find it all a lot more engaging than they had previously thought, and the challenge far more enjoyable than fighting the negative side of motoring on today’s (pre-Covid-19) congested roads. That leaves space for one final thought that has nothing to do with how you drive. Think carefully about when you use your car, and how you might string together several objectives into one trip, rather than going out to do just one job. It makes sense to visit the butcher, the banker and the candlestick maker all in one go, as it’s a lot better for your engine than three separate short trips.

Victor Harman 

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