Caledonian Couriers is a company based on tarmac. We make our living traversing the roads that criss cross the cities, countries and continents of this giant blue marble. When you drive as much as we do, fuel efficiency is important.
A few years ago, the Guardian’s Patrick Collinson gave eco-driving a go. He discovered that even a moderate driver (15,000 miles per year) could save £800 a year with no hassle at all.
So, how did he keep his miles per gallon up and his costs down? Well, there’s no real Holy Grail of fuel efficiency. Teasing up your miles to the gallon is a matter of lots of little things. It’s when those little things add up that your wallet gets significantly heavier.
Let’s take a look at some of Collinson’s tips and some extras from Caledonian HQ.
Sounds obvious? That’s because it is. However, as long as the engine starts and the wheels turn, a lot of people are content to ignore quite what’s going on under the bonnet. Treat your motor to a little TLC, though, and you’ll reap the rewards in no time.
A tuned engine rewards you with an extra 4% on your fuel efficiency. Properly inflated tires provide up to 3%. Using the correct oil can boost it by another 4%.
One of the big focuses of modern car manufacturers is cutting the weight of their cars. If there’s less weight moved, there’s less petrol burned. However, if you pile your back seats with junk and keep your boot fully loaded with objet d’art, you’re undoing all their great work.
Each kilogram bumps up fuel efficiency by around 0.04%. Get rid of the weight of a person and you’ll enjoy a 3% boost to your fuel performance.
In the world of efficiency, smooth is king. So, put on some Barry White and become a zen master.
Smooth driving is tricky to define. If you accelerate too hard, it strains the engine and wastes fuel. If you accelerate too slowly, you burn off petrol in the inefficient low gears.
Smooth is the sweet spot between the two.
When get going, keep your speed constant. Absent mindedly prodding at the accelerator is a brilliant way to waste fuel and not actually achieve anything. If you have it, use cruise control. If you don’t, think gentle thoughts.
I know it might seem attractive at the time but that extra ten minutes snooze in bed will cost you more than a stern look from the boss. Driving quickly is the easiest way to burn through your petrol tank.
Vehicles, as you know, are pretty varied but in general fuel efficiency peaks around 40-55 miles per hour. However, after 60 miles per hour fuel efficiency drops off a cliff.
Get up earlier, drive slower and enjoy that extra wallop in your wallet.
Drivers tend not to look at the rev counter. In their defence, they have important things to concentrate on. Like oncoming traffic. Instead, we use our ears and listen for the whine of the engine that tells us to change gear.
However, it turns out we aren’t all that good at listening for the correct engine whir. The ideal RPM for shifting up a gear is 2,500 for petrol engines and 2,000 for diesel. Most of us overshoot that mark by 500 or so.
Try to pay attention to your rev counter and retrain your ears to listen for slightly throatier whine.
If you race to the traffic lights before stamping on the brakes, I have bad news. Not only are you inflating your fuel costs, you are needlessly wearing out your brake discs and tires.
Instead of stamping on your brakes, think ahead and allow your car to slow down using friction and engine braking.
This advice comes with one proviso: safety comes first. Only coast to a halt when it can be done safely.