Want to make a change with financial, environmental and safety benefits? Whether you own a car for private use or are responsible for a company’s fleet of cars, there's little not to like about fuel-efficient driving.
So what are the basics to start cutting costs, carbon and air pollutants? Bob Saynor, transport expert at Energy Saving Trust, highlights three key areas.
Speed is of course crucial too. Driving at 75 miles per hour rather than 70 adds 6.5% to fuel bills and CO2 emissions.
What about more visible first steps like tackling roof racks, tyre pressure and clutter in the boot?
Saynor said: “While these are simple things you can do to reduce drag and increase efficiency, they have a relatively mild impact on percentage fuel savings compared to the main ecodriving techniques.”
Energy Saving Trust has trained 40,000 drivers, with an average efficiency improvement of just under 14% over one-hour sessions. Wider studies of business fleets have shown long-term savings of 3-6.2% - but Saynor believes the figure could be higher for consumers using their own vehicles.
He said: “Of course, fleet drivers are not using their own fuel, so may have a tendency to be less mindful of costs. When it's their own money they're burning, I would expect long-term savings based on applying ecodriving learnings to remain pretty high.”
There is mounting evidence that fuel-efficient driving also improved road safety. Saynor added:
“Studies in the UK and Germany have shown that when drivers are put through fuel efficiency training, there's 28-30% reduction in accidents where the driver is considered at fault.
“We recently responded to a government consultation on the driving test, suggesting that ecodriving should be a more prominent part of testing. This is something that wouldn't compromise safety for new drivers, but increase it. It can also plant the seeds for saving money, which is especially important when new drivers are likely to be paying a fortune for insurance already.”
Saynor thinks that when it comes to fuel-efficient driving it’s win, win, win.
He said: “What we're promoting is just better driving – a lot of what is covered in the techniques of fuel efficiency are those which also feature on advanced driver training courses. It's an aspiration with enough different benefits to interest a wide range of people, whether it’s about saving money, driving more safely or reducing impact on carbon emissions.”
Of course, as well as driving better, choice of vehicle is very important too and technology is progressing quickly. Huge strides in electric vehicles (EVs) and engine performance controversies have only served to provide more food for thought.
He said: “Electric vehicles aren't a practical first vehicle choice for everyone, but are definitely an attractive and cost-saving option for many, particularly if you do predominantly urban driving.
There have been some interesting recent developments such as the new Nissan Leaf with the 2016 model equipped with a 30kw battery that offers 150-160 miles per charge compared to the 80 – 100 miles the 24kw battery was offering.
“With the recent revelations around VW, we'd say if you do a lot of short trips in towns, consider avoiding diesel if you can, particularly if you’re buying an older second-hand vehicle. An electric car, if you have access to charging, or a plug in petrol hybrid, would be the best options. Other benefits of EVs include low running costs, 100% discount of the London Congestion Charge, and significantly lower company car tax.
“More generally, fuel consumption is directly proportional to emissions – whether your priority is the environment or financial savings, it's best not just to think about the headline price of a vehicle but the long-term running costs.”