Fuel efficiency and fuel-efficient driving is a topic that few drivers give a second thought about.
This is not to blame as in today’s world of fuel abundance, most drivers just pour the fuel and drive the way they’re used to.
Many drivers are not aware that through some simple changes in the way they drive and using a few useful tips they can achieve car fuel efficiency and gain benefit from it.
What is car fuel efficiency?
The term pretty much explains itself but it doesn’t hurt to say a few words about it.
Car fuel efficiency is the maximum energy you can get from some quantity of fuel.
That energy can be manifested through longer traveled distance or more engine power with the same amount of fuel.
To simplify, you get more out of one fuel tank.
Why should you improve your car’s fuel efficiency?
Two reasons come to mind instantly:
1.Budget and saved money
This is the factor that turns most heads. Whether it’s a home budget, company budget or else, fuel expenses are a big factor. The car has become a part of our everyday lives;living and working without it is more or less impossible. As everything has a cost, less fuel money is more money in your pocket or company account.
Many of us neglect this fact, but we live in the era of ecological awareness. I know it sounds corny, but every time you have a heavy foot on the accelerator, you’re hearting Mother Nature. More fuel consumption means more exhaust fumes and this hurts the environment.
Both of these tips work on a long-term basis and are not noticeable in the near future (which makes lots of people give up on this).
To make things clear:you won’t get rich by driving fuel efficiently nor should you expect a medal for saving the polar caps from melting.
But what you’ll certainly achieve is a substantial money-saving overtime (keep a record if you don’t believe me) and reduce your pollution at least by one-third of what it previously was.
These should be good enough reasons to give it a try.
Why do people avoid fuel-efficient driving if it’s that good?
To make a comparison: how many people wash their teeth immediately after eating?
Few. Why? Because most people tend to lay down, watch TV and rest after a meal.
This is just something people do. Indulge themselves rather then use common sense.
Although washing teeth after every meal saves your teeth and improves their quality, rarely does anybody do it.
It’s the same with driving. Let’s be honest: most of us (who like driving), if given the chance will floor that accelerator, go to the end of the speed limit or just forget about fuel efficiency if we’re in a hurry.
It boils down to three reasons:
- Annoyance :(let’s face it, driving in a fuel-efficient manner is a bit boring)
- Necessity :who needs this kind of driving when you’re in a hurry or it’s an emergency
- Simple fun:how the heck am I going to show other people what my car can do with this kind of driving?
Lets try to answer (in same order):
- How annoying is more money in your pocket then in the fuel tank?
- Nobody’s asking for you to give fuel-efficient driving a fanatical status. When you have to, let’s say, save your job or drive someone quickly to the hospital, of course the pedal goes to the metal (with safety). But let’s face it, those cases are pretty rare.
- Indulge yourself from time to time, especially if you’re a car enthusiast. The point here is using these tips in the long run. The benefits lie in changing the everyday driving habits.
To return to dental terms, you’ll just have to wash your teeth almost every time you eat. Almost.
What driving speed is best to increase fuel efficiency?
City driving-stick to the speed limits.
They are mostly set up for a normal pace of driving so you should be OK.
On the highway
See that your speed doesn’t exceed 120 km/h (75 miles/h). This speed is both safe for driving, is a decent traveling speed and is reasonably fuel-efficient.
The best speed for fuel efficiency is 90 km/h or 55 miles/h (most car manufacturers state their car models consumption at this speed).
So where it’s possible and safe, drive at this speed.
How to increase your car’s fuel efficiency?
1.Change your driving habits.
Some of them may be:
Flooring the gas pedal.
Driving under high revs.
Sudden speed changes and accelerations;if possible keep a steady pace when driving.
Exhibition driving;I don’t recommend this anyway, fuel efficiency or not.
Slow driving;slow driving doesn’t mean that you’re saving fuel. On the contrary. If you’re bogging the engine down, the fuel consumption only goes up.
Letting the car run and idle for a long period of time;when waiting in a parking lot, in a traffic jam or else turn the ignition off.
But just to make one thing clear:put safe driving in first place!
As we all know, some situations in traffic demand that you just can’t drive in this manner (takeovers, fast lane changes in city traffic etc.). Safety first, fuel efficiency second.
However, as mentioned, the key to gaining car fuel efficiency is in changing those everyday driving habits.
2.Keep the engine tuned up
The actual fuel consumer is the engine. The rest of the car is pushed or pulled by it.
Matter of fact is that a good and tuned up engine is more fuel-efficient.
Regular checkups on your own or visits to the mechanic will assure that your engine will be in good shape.
Some of the things you should pay attention to :
Very important as they safeguard the engine from all the outer filth and dirt that can come in. If they are clogged up, this reduces both performance and fuel efficiency. Main filters to change regularly: air filter, oil filter and fuel filter (polution filter also but this is more rare).
Oil is the “blood” of the engine. The whole engine heavily depends on good lubrication which in return keeps the engine in good condition. Always see that you follow the engine oil change intervals and use engine oil that the manufacturer has recommended.
Regular inspection and check of all the main car systems
Buy these I mean things like: spark plugs (in petrol engines ), glow plugs (in diesel engines), spark plug cables, lambda sensors, exhaust system, DPF filters etc. In short, all of the systems that affect proper combustion and functioning of the engine.
Car fuel efficiency isn’t possible if any of the above mentioned are not in order.
Check the board computer while driving
This is one aspect of car electronic technology that is great from the beginning (unlike some others).
Almost all cars today, even the low-budget ones have an onboard computer and fuel consumption reading.
Although they aren’t 100% precise, they’re a big help in giving an overview of the fuel consumption.
Two main readings you should pay attention to: current fuel consumption and total fuel consumption (for some given distance).
The one that’s important for fuel efficiency: the current fuel consumption reading.
Make a habit of switching to this reading during driving. As you’ll see, the digits will change according to your driving style (for instance: more acceleration, the digits go up which means the fuel consumption goes up also).
Just don’t make an obsession of it and let itinterfere with safe driving. Rather give it a casual glimpse from time to time.
This should give you a pretty good picture of how you can adapt your driving to increase fuel efficiency.
The tires are the only connection your car has to the road surface. They bear the entire burden of your driving and assure quality friction between your car and the road.
Needles to say that your car tires should always be in good shape, regularly checked (or replaced) and in accordance to the season of the year.
However, most drivers and car owners don’t pay attention to one check up that is, perhaps most easy to do, but yet is rarely done.
This is the tire pressure check.
Low inflated tires are one of the main reasons for decreasing the car fuel efficiency.
Simply, think of a car with low inflated tires as driving through mud. The engine has to output more energy to keep the car going. More energy means more fuel consumption.
The tire pressure check is done very simply, just unscrew the valve cap on the tire, take a manometer (device that measures pressure) and take a measurement.
Also, make the pressure check regularly, don’t wait until you see the tire flat.
Don’t drive the car while the engine is cold (cold start);let the engine warm up.
There are two main opinions on this matter. One is that you should drive the car immediately after starting (maybe wait a minute or two for the oil pressure to build up) and then go.
The second is that you should wait at least 5 minutes and then start driving.
Since we’re talking about fuel efficiency, the second opinion is better. Not only for fuel efficiency but also for the engine longevity.
This goes double in the winter season when the temperatures are low.
You see, if you make a cold start, the fuel consumption goes sky-high. It only starts to decline when the engines starts to warm up..
Just take a look at the board computer. Set it to view fuel consumption and see for yourself.
If you let the car warm up for at least 5 minutes, that difference until the engine achieves its working temperature won’t be that drastic.
So, if you can, plan your time for those extra five minutes, especially in the winter.
One of the worst “enemies” of fuel-efficient driving is the climate control.
The reason ,of course, is that the whole climate control system is powered by the engine.
(the climate control compressor is connected to the engine via the serpentine belt)
This means that it puts a pretty heavy load on the engine thus increasing the fuel consumption.
Don’t get me wrong, no one’s asking you to stop using it, but the fact is that through some simple steps you can save fuel.
1.Turn off the climate control when the weather allows it
Most of us have a pretty nasty habit of leaving the climate control on, although it isn’t needed. When the outside temperature allows it, turn it off. If not the whole system just leave the ventilation fan on so fresh air can keep coming in. On every climate control you have a separate button for turning the climate compressor on and off.
2.Try keeping the climate control on normal settings
By this I mean that a lot of drivers tend to over cool or over heat the passenger cabin. This is mostly unnecessary and isn’t good;mainly for yourself and your passengers but also for the fuel consumption. Just keep the temperature at mid range; just enough to be comfortable. The climate control system will then use less power from the engine and this will, in return, give lower fuel consumption.
3.When going up a hillside, also turn the climate control
Besides the fact that you’ll save some extra fuel, you’ll get a few extra horsepower that will let you overcome the hillside much easier (again the compresor-engine connection).
Reduce air drag
How many times have you heard the term: air resistance coefficient?
I know this sounds like something from the aerospace industry, but you’d be surprised at how much air resistance influences fuel efficiency.
Car manufacturers give this factor big importance when constructing the car.
Although your car has an air resistance coefficient of its own which you can’t influence, there are a few ways that you can reduce it:
Driving with open windows
This is a major reason for boosting up the air drag. When your window is open, the air does not move around the car as it should. It enters the car and disrupts the proper air flow. This, in a sense, creates down force which by itself is additional load. More load means more fuel. So if possible keep the windows up;if they need to be down make it minimal.
Car roof boxes, luggage on the roof
If your car has a small boot, a car roof box is the next logical solution. If you have to install one, see that it’s one of those roof boxes that are very aerodynamic. The more sleek it is, the less drag it will produce. Less drag means more fuel efficiency.
If possible, get rid of excessive things in your boot, storage compartments etc. All of us, at some period of time, fill these up with tools, accessories of all sorts, gadgets and so on.
Always have with you the standard car kit and what you might need in case of emergency or repair. Sort it out and remove the rest. Every kilogram or pound saved means more fuel efficiency.
If you’re planning a road trip, especially with kids, spare some time and give some thought on what you might really need rather than hauling half of the household.
Drive the car that you actually need.
Perhaps by writing this I’m touching the Holy Grail of car owners and drivers.
How many people have thought about fuel efficiency when buying a car? If you see what you REALLY like, this factor simply flies out the window.
Every driver and car owner (present or future) has the right to drive whatever car they choose, like or can afford.
That’s not my point here nor am I trying to influence that decision.
Rather take this as a suggestion: when buying a car, new or used, just stop and ask yourself a simple question:”do I really need this?”.
After that the second question comes in:”what will I use this car for” (city driving, runabouts, long distance travel)?
If it’s for long distance trips a bigger engine is pretty much OK. Power means speed, agility and more comfort.
On the other hand, if you commute on short distances and in city traffic a smaller, less powerful but more fuel-efficient engine would be OK.
Doing it the other way around spells doom for fuel efficiency. Bogging down a big engine in city traffic is the same as revving the hell out of a small engine on the highway (in terms of high fuel consumption).
Maybe the best range (for the power-to-fuel consumption ratio) is somewhere between 1600 ccm and 2000 ccm.
These engines, with today’s technology easily produce over 150 bhp and still have relatively good fuel consumption.
Just have in mind:smaller engine mean less fuel altogether.
Install LPG (Liquid Petrol Fuel)-for petrol cars only
The LPG system is something that most drivers are not very much acquainted to.
It has yet to gain popularity in countries that have a better standard of living and where fuel costs are not that much of a fuss.
However, in countries that don’t do that good, the LPG system is becoming ever more popular.
In this article, I wouldn’t go in to the details of the LPG system, you can find the whole professional explanation here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquefied_petroleum_fuel.
Simply the car is equipped with a system that injects liquid petroleum fuel (which is in a gas state) in to the engine instead of regular petrol fuel.
Although the car consumes more liquid petroleum fuel, the fact that LPG is ,in average, cheaper 50% then other fuels speaks for itself.
It is, to be honest, a pretty costly investment (from 500 euro-s up, all depending on you car type, engine type etc). But the money returns through lower fuel costs within a year (month or two give or take).
The LPG systems have been developed and perfected for almost all car brands and models in the world. Also, this installation , if installed properly and from quality manufacturers, can last at least ten years without any major problems or costs.
The installation can also be bought and installed afterwards.This is also one of the main advantages of this system.
Then there’s the ecology part: the combustion is much more cleaner and less hazardous to the environment.
To sum up the mathematics: if everything is done correctly,expect the fuel costs to get reduced up to 50 percent on the same mileage (or kilometers).
As you can conclude, the LPG system is a onetime investment that is costly at the beginning, but shortly starts to pay off. In the long run it’s a very, very good investment.
This is fuel efficiency, perhaps, at it’s best.