This ever-fluctuating cost is a constant source of frustration for motorists.
Sometimes known as ‘hypermiling’ or eco-driving, the following advice could help you to increase your all-important miles per gallon (mpg) figure.
While the speed you drive at is arguably the most influential factor affecting fuel consumption, there are a number of other ways you can change your driving habits that could have a significant impact on the money you spend at the pump.
Tips and tricks
Regular maintenance and servicing improve the efficiency of your vehicle and therefore can improve your fuel consumption.
It’s particularly important to make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure as indicated in your owner’s manual as underinflated and overinflated tyres both adversely affect fuel economy. Tyre pressures will vary depending on the load you are carrying. For example, if you have four passengers and luggage then you will need your tyres inflated to the maximum recommended pressures.
Excessive speed is the biggest fuel-guzzling factor so having a light right foot and ensuring all acceleration is gentle is very important to fuel-efficient driving.
Of course, you will always have to accelerate a number of times on a journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to pull away like you’re on the starting line at Silverstone!
Probably the biggest secret to achieving high mpg is driving in the highest possible gear for your vehicle while keeping within the speed limit. The best advice in urban areas is to change up through the gears as quickly as you can with the lowest revs possible, probably at around 2000rpm. Remember the faster an engine spins, the more fuel it uses.
While there is an ideal speed, road conditions and gradients don’t often allow you to do that speed so you have to improvise and learn to adjust your driving according to the road ahead, a technique often referred to as hypermiling.
Generally speaking, no one driving speed is optimum for fuel economy. Over the years the speed of 56mph has often been talked about as being the optimum speed. This was due to the old fuel consumption test being run at three speeds: urban, 56mph and 75mph, and 56mph was always, unsurprisingly, the most efficient of these. Typically, cars are most efficient at 45-50mph.
As well as fuel economy differing from vehicle to vehicle, it is also dependent on a number of other factors such as tyre pressure, the presence of roof racks, and driving style etc.
Keeping the car moving at the right speed is essential to fuel economy. Obviously, this depends on traffic conditions and what’s happening on the road ahead, but slowing down and having to accelerate again naturally uses more fuel.
The best advice is to drive as smoothly as possible, gently using the steering, accelerator and brakes. When slowing down, it’s important to remain in gear as the fuel cut-off switch in a fuel injection engine is then activated, meaning virtually no fuel is used while braking.
Try to anticipate what’s going to happen in front of you by looking well ahead. This way you’ll see the traffic lights are red meaning you can ease back on the accelerator or slow down naturally and potentially keep moving as opposed to coming to a stop.
Driving up hills destroys fuel economy. When you spot a hill coming try to accelerate a little before you reach it, then ease off as you drive up. The extra momentum should be enough to minimise additional fuel consumption.
Cruise control only aids fuel economy when driving on a constant flat surface, hence why it is usually best reserved for motorway driving.
One of the keys to saving fuel is driving at a constant speed, cruise control can do this effectively on flat surfaces, making your driving as fuel-efficient as possible by negating unnecessary acceleration.
However, if you were to use your cruise control regularly, not on flat roads, you would encounter problems that would increase your fuel consumption.
This is because your cruise control would be slower to react to gradient changes, meaning when reaching the brow of a hill, at which point you would normally take your foot off the accelerator to maintain more of a constant speed when descending, your cruise control will keep the power on for a little longer as it’s unable to see the gradient change in front of you.
Driving in this way regularly would lead to worse fuel consumption.
Interestingly, the most fuel-efficient roads in the country are not extra-urban dual carriageways or 20mph city streets, they are motorways. This is where you can leave the car in top gear and gently cruise along, using minimal fuel.
Don’t leave your roof bars and roof box on because they create wind resistance and cause your car to use more fuel through the ‘drag’ effect. This is increased the faster you drive.
An empty roof rack can add as much as 16% drag when driving at 75mph. At the same speed, a roof box can add 39%, making your vehicle much less fuel-efficient.
Driving with an open window also has a similar effect.
Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption.
This goes for heat as well as cooling, so try to dress for the weather, even inside your car, if fuel efficiency is a big concern.
Consider making one round trip rather than several short trips. Once the engine is warm it will operate with more efficiency whereas several cold starts will increase fuel consumption even though the total mileage could be the same
The heavier a vehicle is, the more fuel it will use.
Don’t keep unnecessary items in your boot as they all add weight to your vehicle, which is not going to help your fuel economy in the long run.
What is hypermiling?
In light of fuel cost increases, the technique of hypermiling has been gaining popularity as a fuel economy best practice.
Simply following the tips above will save you money on fuel.
Adapted from an original article by rac.co.uk