According to the EU, driving accounts for around 12% of CO₂ emissions. Cutting down on car journeys can help slow climate change and reduce your travel costs – but when you do need to drive you can do it in a more eco-friendly and green way. In this section we will show you a range of ideas to squeeze the maximum kmpg (kilometres per gallon) out of a tank of petrol as well as other practical ideas to help you save money and the environment.
The ideas below will apply to electric cars as well as diesel and petrol cars, unless stated.
Money saving tips
Find the cheapest fuel
A nifty tool to find the lowest cost fuel near you is www.petrolprices.com. The differences can be huge!
If you run an electric car, the cost for electricity will change according to the method of charging – see electric car section.
Watch your speed on longer journeys
Driving at 70mph uses up to 10% more fuel than at 60mph, and up to 15% more than at 50mph. If you are a complete rev head and drive at 85mph your car will consume 40% more fuel than if you travel at 55mph.
Don’t accelerate or decelerate sharply
You can reduce fuel consumption by 20% if you accelerate / decelerate gently.
Avoid slamming on the brakes
Anticipate traffic and red lights and brake gently. This will reduce wear on brake pads and prolong their life, saving you money.
Keep your engine revs low
Change gear as soon as possible without labouring the engine – try changing up at an engine speed of around 2000 rpm in a diesel car, or around 2500 rpm in a petrol car.
Switch off your engine
If you think you’re going to be stopped in traffic for more than about 10-15 seconds, reduce fuel consumption by switching off your engine. It also helps reduce air pollution.
Do not leave your engine idling
If you are sitting and waiting in the car, please do not leave your engine idling. You are wasting fuel, your car is emitting greenhouse gases and you are polluting the immediate area.
Make sure tyres are at the optimum pressure
Save 1% of fuel by making sure your tyres are at the correct pressure. Under inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel.
Use the right gear for the speed you are travelling
A vehicle travelling at 37mph in third gear uses 25% more fuel than it would at the same speed in fifth gear!
Remove any unnecessary weight
Take rubbish out of the boot! Losing 45 kg could improve fuel economy by around 2%.
Coast (If safe to do so)
When going down hills and approaching red lights, put the gears in neutral and let the engine revs drop.
Keep windows and sun roofs closed
This reduces wind resistance and can save 2% on fuel.
Take off roof bars and the top box
This reduces wind resistance, makes your car more aerodynamic, and saves on fuel costs.
Drive a small, efficient car
You could save 50% on fuel costs compared to driving a big gas guzzling 4×4!
Keep your car tuned and serviced
It can improve mpg by up to 4%, in addition using the correct oil is good for an extra 2%.
Take care how you use air conditioning
At low speeds it can reduce fuel economy by more than 10% if on a high setting.
Monitor your fuel economy
It may be boring, but it matters in two ways. Firstly, check over multiple tanks of fuel or for consistent trips (like commuting to work). Measuring fuel economy helps you to see if making changes to your driving has an effect on your mpg. Secondly, if you have instantaneous estimate of fuel economy on your dash-board you can use it to help you optimize your driving style for mpg. This is particularly useful for improving the way you accelerate and finding the speed at which your car is most economical.
Walk or cycle shorter journeys
7% of car journeys in the UK are less than 1.6 kilometres. If you walked or cycled you would keep fitter, save £60 a year on fuel costs and reduce your CO₂ footprint by 10kg.
Peter Kay had it right in the recent comedy ‘Car Share’. More people travelling together reduces costs for everyone in the car and reduces individual CO₂ footprints. If you share a 32 kilometre round trip to work 5 times a week with a friend in a diesel car, it will save both of you around £6 and 20kg CO₂ a week.
Service your car annually
Looking after your car can help improve fuel economy a little, but is also important for safety and the longevity of your vehicle.
Lower your CO₂ footprint – buy a car with better fuel economy
A study in USA found the vast majority of CO₂ emissions – 86% – came from the car’s fuel use. Just 4% of emissions came from making and assembling the car.
Reduce your travel by telecommuting, or working from home
This option is becoming increasingly viable for many office-based jobs, and if your workplace offers it, look into the potential of using it for at least some of your working week.
Burning petrol and diesel creates greenhouse gases
When we burn diesel and petrol in a vehicle, some greenhouse gases are emitted – carbon dioxide (CO₂) we know about, but there are other harmful greenhouse gases called nitrogen oxides (NOx). These are particularly harmful to us and thought to be responsible for up to 40,000 deaths in the UK every year.
Scary CO₂ statistic
An average driver travelling 11,900 kilometres annually in a medium sized car will emit –
1,475kg CO₂ from a diesel car and 500kg CO₂ from an electric car.
Car production creates pollution
The production of an average car before it is driven away by the new proud owner creates around 15 tons of waste and 75 million cubic metres of polluted air.