Monday, 14 September 2009

SPHERE:eco tips - increase your Car Efficiency

Whether its for the environment or a personal motive, running a car has become extremely costly. Many have looked to a company car as a solution to the costs but in every case getting the best efficiency out of the car is most certainly at the for front of everyone's mind.

As a consequence we're all making decisions and shortlisting our cars by their efficiency: Miles Per Gallon (MPG). When we've bought our vehicle we believe we've ticked the right boxes, we're doing or have done our bit for sustainability in buying an efficient car, whether a hybrid or not. However how many people actually achieve the MPG performance marketed for the car we shortlisted and conscientiously bought? If we're honest the answer is very few – if any!

So why is that we struggle to achieve the MPG performance out of our cars?
The answer is simple yet difficult for many to accept, as it is our driving style and habits that hold us back from achieving the performance from our vehicles.

[1] Tyres: they are one of the most less understood aspects of the vehicle and viewed by most as merely providing “traction” to support braking; however tyre pressure and grip are vital ingredients to achieving and helping to increase your driving MPG.

Having the right tyre pressure (correct pressure information can usually be found on the edge of the driver's side door & in your car manual) ensures the car delivers the power to the road and coasts/travels optimally. If the tyre pressure is less the vehicle wont coast or travel very well, requiring the engine to work harder to maintain speed/momentum. Under inflated tyres reduces the control of the vehicle, increasing braking distances and wearing out the tyres more rapidly.

Quote from Kwik fit website “Vehicles with under-inflated tyres have increased rolling resistance that require more fuel to maintain the same speed.” For more detail view link at bottom.

[2] Reduce loads: a large proportion of increasing your driving efficiency can be achieved by reducing the amount of unnecessary baggage being carried around. Commonly the car will be used as an extra storage area for items like work documents, years worth of leaflets & brochures to name a few.

Your vehicle's marketed MPG performance will be based on a new car with a 1 person driving and testing it. Therefore carrying around all the trip over items from your house or workplace is costing you through the performance of your car.

[3] Air Conditioning: most cars these days have air conditioning which helps efficiency on hot and humid days as opening windows creates drag reduces performance. However, air conditioning uses horse power from the engine and reducing the performance of the vehicle.

[4] Maintain your vehicle: everyone knows the old phrase “a well maintained machine performs and lasts longer” but how many of people know that good oil can increase the performance of your engine. Warming up the engine is a practice valuing oil in the performance of a engine, lubricating it before inflicting driving stresses on it.

The 'warm up' practice uses fuel but with modern engines and advanced oil technologies mean there is no need for the practice anymore; however cheap oils are a different story. It's worth considering whether having a modern medium or high spec oil has an advantage over cheap oil where it would be advisable to 'warm up' the engine; any cost savings is dependent on the vehicle – environmentally not warming up is better as you'll be using oil anyway, and not using fuel is a reduction in your emissions.

For more detail I've attached a few great links on Engine Oil and Engine Flushes at the bottom.

The remaining and following tips are a change in driving styles and habits; after a 3 month experiment these tips showed an increase in participants MPG of between 7&11.

[5] Engine braking:
an engine, road and air have a natural friction to the vehicle and each gear in a vehicle has a maximum speed. Using these components together can increase the performance of your vehicle and reduce tyre and brake wear. For example, judging in advance of a hazard and coasting up to the hazard without dropping the clutch will result in the vehicle gradually slowing. However, dropping a gear from 4th to 3rd before a hill decent has been a common safety practice for heavy vehicles to keep a constant speed down a hill – try it.

[6] Smooth Driving: many drivers drive hard which is to say, they accelerate away hard and break hard which is not smooth driving. The skill of smooth driving is maximising the momentum of your vehicle and will increase the performance and safety of your driving. Most of us focus on a journey as the time taken to get from A to B. However the momentum of the journey is the average speed, distance divided by time taken.

For example, if two cars travelled the same distance, one drove at a constant speed whilst the other drove hard, accelerating hard and braking late but both reached the finish at about the same time. The first kept with the traffic whilst the second stopped and started, the first car would have performed better.

The success of smooth driving is [a] the focus on accelerating gently, slowly increasing the revs and changing gear between1500 and 2500 revs and [b] involves judging the road ahead, braking (engine or other) in advance of the hazard – not braking at/ upon the hazard.

[7] Don't ride the clutch: riding the clutch is a fancy but lazy technique used in replacement of brakes/ hand brake and an MPG inefficient solution to controlling a vehicle.

[8] Plan your journey: common sense but it really brings all the above into action, plan a route that enables you to get the best out of your vehicle and maximises Smooth Driving.

Increasing your driving MPG is about your Driving Style - you've made a great effort at finding an economical vehicle and the cheapest fuel, the easiest step to get the most out of your vehicle is with these simple changes?

Plan your journey.
Check tyre pressures frequently.
Reduce loads.
Drive Smoothly: accelerate gently & keep speed constant.
Use engine braking.
Don't idle your engine.
When necessary use air conditioning.
Don't warm up your engine.


Great links:
Tyre pressure Kwik fit reference
Should I warm up my engine?
Engine Flushes Pros & Cons

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