A 'How to' guide to cutting fuel costs
Back in 1988, a gallon of unleaded petrol would set you back - on average - £1.67, according to theaa.com. By 2005, this had increased to £3.97. For diesel, the figures are £1.56 and £4.15 respectively. Whilst inflation has played a large part, the rises are still over what they would be had the market correlated with the Bank of England base rate.
In short, this means that even after inflation has been accounted for, Brits are paying more for their petrol now than they were two decades ago. This, coupled with increases in tax, insurance and road tolls, means that driving or running a fleet is expensive business - and is getting more so with each passing year.
Having this to contend with, rather unsurprisingly, has led many to consider their own fuel efficiency - especially for those with large fleets, as the issue is compounded with every new vehicle taken on. So, with this in mind, here are a few ways to help combat the seemingly ever-rising fuel prices.
Any statistician worth their salt will attest that little can be done without the facts. Motorists can work out their fuel usage and miles covered, but this is only half the story. Fuel efficiency has many facets and can - therefore - be affected in a great many different ways. For this reason, it's worth looking into the details in order to make specific changes.
Influencing factors include speed maintenance, tyre pressures and total weight - which can all can play a surprisingly large role.
To measure efficiency, vehicle tracking systems can be used to provide real-time information covering not only fuel usage but the location and even time spent idling. These will not only provide all the relevant information to measure and act upon fuel inefficiency but also help choose alternate routes, if some prove to be more efficient than others.
Get a fuel-efficient vehicle
Getting a fuel-efficient vehicle is one of the most effective way of boosting fuel efficiency pretty much overnight. Buying a new vehicle outright, however, will be out of the question for many people; especially those already looking at ways they can cut costs. Getting a more fuel-efficient vehicle does not necessarily mean buying new, though, but can also concern amending that which is already owned.
The quickest and easiest way of boosting fuel efficiency is to have a good clear out. Excess weight means the engine is working hard transporting items which are surplus to requirements. Therefore, any items weighing down the back that only sit around doing nothing should be cleared out to make the vehicle lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient.
This issue doesn't just involve weight but also aerodynamics. Admittedly, some large vans aren't exactly the most slimline of vehicles, but removing such items as the roof rack can make a huge difference; lessening drag and therefore requiring less work from the engine.
Those with a little more mechanical nous - or who know someone that could do the job for them - can replace the air filter. Changing the filter on vehicles made before 1980 could improve fuel efficiency by anything between two - 14 per cent, depending on how clogged the old one is. Whilst it's unlikely to make such a difference on newer, fuel-injected engines, it could still improve acceleration somewhat.
Tyres are also prime areas for efficiency. Pumping them up to the ideal pressure means they're not having to sluggishly churn under-filled sacks of rubber over and over, which steadily eats away at fuel levels. Put another way, for every psi unit under the ideal total, a vehicle's mileage is dropped by 0.3 per cent.
Those unable to make amends to their vehicle, or are already running at the best fuel efficiency they can manage, may still be able to benefit from changing the way they drive.
For example, driving with the windows down can make as much difference to fuel efficiency as having a full boot or unused roof-rack. Another victim of heightened drag, open windows lower a vehicle's aerodynamics and make the task of propelling it much more difficult. Whilst not always practical, driving with the windows up can save a huge amount, especially on long journeys.
If keeping the windows shut is out of the question, coasting to a stop should be a much more attainable request. Leaving the vehicle in gear but letting it slow to a natural stop will save much more energy than braking harshly at the last minute. Whilst it may seem like putting the vehicle into neutral would save even more energy, this is not the case. Cars in neutral are still idling, meaning they use just as much fuel as those in gear without the accelerator depressed. In fact, many modern vehicles - and not just electric or hybrid ones - use no fuel whatsoever when slowing in gear, meaning it could be less fuel-efficient to coast in neutral. Furthermore, leaving a car in neutral is more dangerous as handling is worsened and it means the driver is less able to accelerate past a hazard.
One last idea is quite simple but not so well known: fill up on cold mornings. Petrol is denser when it's cool and as pumps measure by volume, motorists filling up before the sun comes out may well be able to eke a little more out of the pumps than everyone else that day.
Many of these alterations require a little effort; some more so than others. With prices at the pumps continually rising, these techniques have started to make people wonder not whether they can afford to make such alterations, but instead, can they afford not to?