The environmental impact of cars, from dependency on fossil fuels to the pollution created during manufacture, are well documented. But with train fares rising and electric cars commanding prices beyond the means of most, cars remain the mode of transport of choice for most. 900 million are already on the road in the UK alone and experts are predicting a jump to 1.1 billion by 2020. 98 per cent of these will be dependent on fossil fuels. Clearly, that’s a situation that won’t do the planet any favours, and with peak oil said to be imminent, just keeping them all running is going to be a tough call. Fuel costs are already shooting up, with many finding that keeping their motor on the road means handing over ever growing wads of cash to the likes of BP. Expensive to run and far from green, cars are the ultimate hard-to-break habit. But while avoiding them altogether is tough, there are alternatives. Public transport and car sharing should be at the top of your list, while adopting a more efficient approach to motoring can also help save you money and reduce emissions. So how do you do it? We asked James Hind, editor of carbuzz.co.uk, to give us a few tips.
The easiest way to instantly reduce your fuel costs is to drive more efficiently. Driving less aggressively and with slower acceleration will save you money and reduce the amount of fuel you use, which helps the planet in the process. Aim to change up when your rev-counter gets to 2,000 rpm for petrol cars, or 2,500 for diesel cars.
Stick to the speed limit
Of course for legal reasons you should already be sticking to the speed limit, but by doing so you’ll be reducing your emissions too. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that by travelling at 85 miles per hour, you use 25 percent more fuel than at 70, so reduce speed now. It’s an easy change that will save you lots of money.
Don’t warm your car up
It used to be good for cars to leave the engine running and warm them up before moving off, but new cars don’t really need this. Leaving modern cars idling doesn’t achieve anything, it only uses up fuel.
Don’t have the air-con on all the time
If it’s not really cold, or hot, then turn the air-conditioning or climate-control of. It uses up a lot of fuel and you should find that it’s often a comfortable temperature without it on. By the same token, try turning the heating down a little in winter. Do you really need to drive around in a mobile sauna? Room temperature should be fine.
Remove roof racks
Anything that worsens the aerodynamics of a car also worsens the fuel economy. Such things include roof racks, bike racks, bull bars and wings, although hopefully, not too many of you own the latter. By taking off bike racks of roof racks when they aren’t in use you should see a noticeable impact.
Reduce the weight of your car
Now we’re not suggesting you start stripping the seats out; it’s just thinking about the things you carry in your car that you don’t need. If it’s summer and you’re still carrying about that huge bottle of anti-freeze then maybe it’s time to store it in your house. Or if you always have your golf clubs in the boot then take them out when you don’t need them, especially if you’re planning a long trip.
Check your tyre pressure
Not having your tyres at the recommended pressure can make a massive impact on how much petrol or diesel you use. Check what the right pressure should be and try to keep them at that. You can measure your pressure for free at most petrol stations, and many have free air pumps too.
Turn the engine off when stationary
Now we’re not suggesting you turn off the engine every time you stop, but the AA recommends switching off your engine if you expect to be waiting more than three minutes. Idling engines use up a surprising amount of fuel.
Don’t make really small journeys
The BBC reckon that colder engines use twice as much fuel as warmed up ones. Short journeys won’t allow your car to warm up, so you could be burning twice as much fuel as normal – and that for very few extra benefits.
Check for roadworks
Check online using traffic sites to see if there are any accidents or planned closures on the route you're taking. Avoiding queues will save you both fuel and time.
Bonus tip: measure your results
Have a bit of fun in trying to improve your fuel costs. If your car has a computer that tells you your average mpg then see how high you can get. If it doesn’t, then writing down your mileage and fuel costs mean you can easily work out if you’re making improvements. Tracking your progress can encourage you to make your driving even more efficient.
James Hind is the editor of www.carbuzz.co.uk
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