There are dozens of factors that affect a vehicle’s economy but with the fuel price seemingly rising further out of affordability for many South Africans we have put together some key steps to help improve your driving efficiency and reduce your monthly fuel expenditure.
It looks like the price of fuel is soon going to be costing as much as R21/litre for some parts of South Africa in March of 2021 and while there is nothing we can seemingly do about it other than have it reviewed by an AA petition, there are certain habits that can be addressed to improve driving efficiency.
ICE vehicles operate under a simple principle where fuel is converted to energy which propels itself and any occupants forward. EVs use a similar principle with the only difference being that their fuel is battery life. Understanding this fundamental concept is key for helping improve driving efficiency with the high fuel price. Smooth driving is probably the simplest and easiest way to get the most bang for your buck at the pumps since up to 50% of all energy powering a car goes into acceleration and aggressive and sporadic bursts of driving use more energy.
Once you are in motion, you also want to drive with anticipation to maintain a constant velocity and when the time comes to stop; decelerate gradually. What this means in practice is to leave a safe following distance to the vehicle in front of you and use the engine or existing momentum to decelerate naturally when approaching an intersection or stop. Not only will these two factors improve economy but also extend the lifetime of components like brake pads, discs and tyres.
Accelerating up to speed only to slam on the brakes 50 metres before a red traffic light just seems counter intuitive. Remember that once your vehicle has burned energy to get up to speed, forcing it to slow down converts the spent fuel energy into friction on the brakes and tyres and is far less economical than gradually decelerating under natural momentum.
Speaking of tyres, keep regular tabs on your tyre pressure to make sure that your four contact patches on the tarmac are as firm as recommended. Under inflated tyres will create more friction on the ground and thus require more energy to propel forward. Vivid childhood flashback of pedalling a bicycle with a deflated tyre while using considerably more effort than normal should be flooding your memory right now.
The next point may not be a fan favourite but is the easiest solution to better economy and keep up with the rising fuel price is to drive slower in an optimal gear. While we don’t condone Polo and Kwid drivers enjoying an 80 km/h cruising speed in the fast lane of the highway, it is true that lower speeds use less fuel, as much as 25% less depending on the vehicle and engine. Leave 5 minutes earlier for that monday morning meeting you always rush for and travel 10 km/h slower than you normally would. Extra points to you if you keep left and allow faster moving traffic to pass on the right while you do.
Most passenger segment vehicles enjoy their best economy when travelling between 80-110 km/h in top gear at lower rpms, just make sure the engine is comfortable at this speed and is not labouring excessively as this may cause damage and unnecessary wear. Travel any faster than that and your engine will need to use more fuel to break through the air and maintain a higher velocity. The frontal shape of our vehicles can’t be changed to improve drag coefficient but reducing wind resistance when at speed is key to bettering efficiency. Roof racks and top carrier compartments are detrimental to fuel economy so when they are not in use, take them off.
Logically, the less weight the engine has to pull the more efficient it will be so reduce unnecessary weight when driving. We are not saying kick your mother-in-law out of the car but clear the boot of any non-essential items and remove the half dozen water bottles in the interior compartments, you only really need one.
While some people might be unable to choose when they need to commute for work or daily commitments, it is strongly advisable to avoid using the roads at congested times when slow moving traffic is at its peak, who likes sitting in traffic anyways? Plan your route and times more effectively to keep your car moving at a steady pace and use online navigation systems to avoid congestion.
Other than using power sapping eco-modes in newer cars and opting for a sweat fest by turning the air conditioning off when it isn’t really needed, make sure your vehicle is maintained regularly with all moving parts of the drivetrain lubricated. Not only will this prevent premature wear but it will also reduce unnecessary friction on engine components, driveshafts and wheel bearings and improve driving efficiency as a result.
Driving is a great responsibility and as much as we may be reluctant to focus on these principles behind the wheel after a long day, they are key to better fuel economy and improving the longevity of your vehicle. Give these driving efficiency tips a go and let us know if you start to see improved fuel economy to combat the rising fuel price!