Monday, 26 March 2007

Taking it easy

According to the government every motorist should do their best to save fuel. They have even issued advice on how to drive in a fuel-saving manner. Some of the advice is good, sensible stuff; check your tyre pressures, don’t carry un-necessary weight, remove your roofrack if you don’t need it and try to plan ahead to avoid heavy braking. Other stuff is just plain nonsense; you expect governments to tell you to stick to the speed limit whether there is a good reason or not. Even stranger was the advice to change up at no more than 2,500 rpm in petrol cars and 2,000 in diesels. How that advice can be considered right or sensible for all cars escapes me.

In the spirit of enquiry I thought I would try and practice my own economy driving technique. Because my car has automatic transmission and an old-fashioned carburettor with a stiff linkage economy is not its forte. The very worst economy I ever had was 18mpg, when the fuel-air mixture was way out. I have seen this improve to 25 and then 30mpg as I’ve had work done to repair the carburettor. It is telling that the government does not remind us to have our cars tuned up regularly – a telling sign that most cars now have engine management systems that never need tuning.

As for economy driving, my aim is to drive economically with the minimum sacrifice in journey time. One of the most effective techniques, I hope, has been trying not to stop wherever possible – a technique that is good for journey times as well as economy. It requires careful observation, planning, timing and nerves of steel. I always err on the side of caution, however, so the economy benefit might not be what it could be.

The result of my careful driving; so far the fuel economy has increased to 31mpg, which hardly seems a worthwhile return for all the effort. It was disappointing because I had expected more; the needle on the fuel gauge was only just past halfway where I would have expected it to be on the ¼ mark. Whether you agree with saving fuel or reducing CO2 emissions there is no doubting the benefit of easing a few more miles out of a tank and, therefore, making the pound in your pocket go further in every sense.

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