Cars eco driving

Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Tim Tyler


Eco-Driving Habits Could Save Drivers 20% On Fuel

July 17th, 2013 by  

A new campaign started a few days ago by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is encouraging motorists in the UK to become more eco-friendly drivers. According to the society, businesses would be able to save up to 20% on fuel expenditures from their fleets and this could potentially save UK motorists £6.8 billion ($10.2 billion) a year.

eco driving

Image: eco driving via Shutterstock

It is really not surprising that if drivers would use more efficient driving techniques and change driving habits they could potentially save on fuel. The goal of the campaign is simply to help drivers obtain the official miles per gallon (MPG) that is recorded in laboratory testing by automakers.

The campaign encourages drivers to service vehicles regularly, use air conditioning only when needed, and even attend a driving efficiency course.

According to British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) chief executive, Gerry Keaney, “UK companies operate some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on our roads, but many of these cars and vans are not being used to their full carbon reduction potential due to the way they are driven. By encouraging staff to adopt a more efficient driving style, firms can cut carbon emissions and save on their fuel costs. It is a no-brainer.”

While trying to achieve a laboratory-tested MPG that is set by the automakers is a notable goal, it may not be realistic. During an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), it was concluded that the gap between the laboratory-tested MPG and the real-world MPG increased to 25 % in 2011 from 10% in 2001.

“A spokesman for SMMT acknowledged that while it might be very tough to meet the official MPG figure of a car, expert websites such as What Car? and Honest John have shown drivers could improve efficiency by 13-17 percent by embracing green driving best practices.”

Here is some tips to help with fuel efficiency:

  1. Plan your trips. Keep lists of needs that will require a trip and try to accomplish multiple objectives with each.
  2. Lighten your load. Get the lightest car that will serve your needs. Weight is one of the biggest causes for loss of kinetic energy in non hybrid cars.
  3. When you fill up with gas, fill up halfway and try to keep your tank above one-quarter full. If your fuel runs low,you could put stress on the fuel pump. 10 gallons adds 60 pounds of weight
  4. Slow down. The faster you move, the harder your engine has to work to push through the wind. Speeding can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 33%.
  5. Use cruise control. In most situations, using your cruise control reduces fuel consumption by maintaining a constant speed.
  6. Accelerate smoothly with moderate throttle. Engines are most efficient with moderately high air flow (throttle) and at revolutions per minute (RPM)s up to their power peak (for small to mid-sized engines this is generally somewhere between 4k to 5k RPM).
  7. Plan your route carefully. Take the route with the fewest stops and turns and least traffic.
  8. Avoid braking wherever possible. Braking wastes energy from fuel that you have already burned, and accelerating after braking consumes more fuel than driving at a constant speed.
  9. Set your tires to the proper inflation. Properly inflated tires can reduce fuel consumption by up to 3%.
  10. Avoid excessive idling. Idling a vehicle wastes a significant amount of fuel.

While achieving the MPG set by a laboratory environment is difficult to obtain in a real-world environment, it is still possible to achieve better fuel efficiency by adopting a more fuel efficient driving style and servicing your vehicle regularly, among other things.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

Holds an electronic's engineering degree and is working toward a second degree in IT/web development. Enjoy's renewable energy topic's and has a passion for the environment. Part time writer and web developer, full time husband and father.

  • 1a. Drive to the farthest destination first, so that the engine warms up; it will then stay warm for the shorter distances on the way home.

    2a. Remove all unnecessary weight like boxes of books, but a few pounds here and there won’t matter very much. Pump up your tires to close to the maximum printed on the sidewall – this will reduce your rolling resistance far more than removing even 100 pounds.

    3a. If you want to actually measure your MPG accurately (so that you can know if you are actually improving your ecodriving) then you should just fill the tank up all the way each time, and keep a record, in a notebook or on your smartphone.

    4a. This is huge – the aero drag goes up with the square of the speed, so 55-65MPH is *much* better than 75MPH. Also, coast in neutral down all hills, and use the engine to slow down – this shuts *off* the fuel.

    5a. Well, again I have to quibble – if you can hold the throttle steady (whereas the cruise control tries to hold the *speed* steady) you will save more fuel that way. GET A ScanGauge or an Ultragauge TO SEE YOUR ACTUAL FUEL USE is real time. There is nothing like feedback to help you learn how to ecodrive.

    6a. This relates to 8a (see below). Moderate acceleration is best up to the appropriate cruising speed. Instead of accelerate/brake, you should accelerate/coast/brake – this uses the kinetic energy you have “invested” in the moving car to actually move the car, rather than just heat up (and wear out!) your brakes. Again, downshift ahead of and during braking as this shuts off the fuel to the engine, and lessens the use of the brakes even more.

    7a. Yes, avoiding thick traffic will save fuel. If you are at a traffic light where you know the pattern, and you can see when the light will turn green – and you are sitting still for 15s or more – shut off the engine. I drive a standard so restarting is easy; though in automatics, you’d have to shift into neutral, so use your judgement.

    8a. This step is better titled “Drive Like You Don’t Have Brakes” – don’t accelerate to a stop. Accelerate, then coast, and then brake also using the engine to slow down. If you need to, accelerate/coast/accelerate/coast/etc. -and you can learn to use the terrain to improve your coasting. Your MPG will jump up to 200-300+ MPG while coasting.

    9a. As I mentioned earlier – tires should be *at least* as much as recommended in the owner’s manual and you can safely go as high as the sidewall maximum; which is usually 44PSI or 51PSI on some better tires. You will notice better coasting, and you can back off accelerating earlier – and you will save even more fuel.

    10a. Warming up an engine ahead of time just wastes fuel – it will warm up just as quickly if you start driving right away, and you get some actual use out of what you have paid for.

    As I mentioned earlier, a few simple mods can save you a lot more fuel, and once you try some, you may want to try some more:


  • Ecodriving and some simple ecomods can improve your MPG to 40-75% above the EPA rating. My Scion xA is rated at 30MPG Combined, and I am averaging more that 50% above that all year round. In the summer, I can average as high as 75% above.

    In other words, I average ~46MPG all year round, and I have averaged well above 50MPG in the summer. So, instead of ~350 miles a tank, I average about 475 miles and as many as 620+ miles on a tank. In five years or so, I have saved over 1,200 gallons of gasoline.

    It is well worth learning to ecodrive, and the best tool you can get to help you save gas is a ScanGauge or and Ultragauge. These plug into the ODB II diagnostic plug under the dash, and read out lots of useful things like average and instant MPG, and also temperature gauge, voltage, etc.


    • Thanks, Neil! Super useful. 😀

    • anderlan

      I use any old OBDII bluetooth adapter for $10-$15 from miscellaneous Amazon vendors. Then I installed the Torque app for Android.

      • Thanks for the info about the Bluetooth adapter and the Android app.

        Keep trying on the ecodriving – the xB is mechanically the same as my xA, save the boxy shape and the longer wheelbase. There are 29 xB’s (1st gen) in the garage: two are about 47MPG, and about four are at about 40MPG, and the rest are 34-40MPG.

  • anderlan

    Another reason to drive electric: the eco button! No discipline required to be miserly with your driving.

    • Although, ecodriving an EV *will* extend the range a fair bit.


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