Fuel efficiency is a hot topic these days. With global warming hogging all the headlines and many of us somewhat pushed for cash, we're all now looking for ways that we can make a tank of fuel go further, reduce our running costs and shrink our carbon footprint.
Car manufacturers are well aware of this and that's why they often brag about just how fuel efficient there vehicles are. Today this is one of the biggest concerns that most car buyers will have when deciding on a make and model to be their new runaround. This is also particularly important if you live in a busy city and are likely to be going on lots of busy commutes with lots of stopping and starting. This the most fuel-hungry type of driving you're likely to find yourself doing, so in that scenario you need something efficient.
But with so many companies vying for your attentions and with so many other factors involved in keeping your emissions down and efficiency up, this can be a very confusing subject to get to grips with.
This then will serve as your ultimate guide to understanding fuel efficiency. We'll look at how to choose the most fuel efficient car for your money as well as how you can then drive in a manner that ensures you get the very most out of that initial decision.
In order to know which cars are the most efficient, you need to compare the 'MPG'. This stands for 'Miles Per Gallon' and tells you how many miles your car can cover on one gallon of fuel. The figure is written this way, because different cars have differently sized tanks – thus giving you the distance for a full tank wouldn't be a fair comparison. Sometimes you will also see this written as 'L/100km' which of course means 'liters per 100km'. The Prius for instance has 44mpg and that's considered very good. Something like 20mpg on the other hand would be a much more modest number.
You mustn't compare this figure on face value though, as sometimes it will be a little 'optimistic'. More realistically mpg will be represented as a range. A car might offer 30-40mpg, meaning that it can do 40 under optimal conditions – i.e. on a highway. It's worth reading around some of the reviews in order to get the truth behind the numbers.
Types of Car and Types of Engine
There are numerous different factors that contribute to this MPG. Things like the weight of the car for instance factor heavily (no pun intended), as do things like the size of the engine. A huge SUV with a V6 engine is unlikely to get much more than 20mpg even under good conditions, whereas the 1.0 liter 4-cylinder engine in the Buick Encore will get you much further. On the other hand though, it will struggle to get up to highway speeds and especially on a gradient and it won't exactly knock your socks off. There is a compromise to be made and a fine line to be walked.
Hybrid cars meanwhile are cars that use a combination of an electric battery alongside a regular gas engine to power themselves. These often offer much better fuel efficiency. Better still of course, are electric cars that don't require any gas at all. It's important to think carefully about electric cars though, as they do have many drawbacks including small trunk spaces (normally), long charging times and batteries that need upgrading from time to time. Remember too that electricity comes from power plants that aren't exactly 'green' themselves.
Getting the Most From Your Car
Once you've chosen the most fuel efficient car that also suits your other needs, you'll then want to make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck by driving in the most optimal way to save fuel. There are several things you can do in order to do this.
Let's start with a few 'quick tips' that can make a lot of difference:
Keep your windows closed on the motorway – They create drag, making your car less aerodynamic and meaning it has to work harder
Keep your tires fully pumped up – As they get flatter, they will create more friction causing your engine to have to work harder simply to turn the wheels
Take anything you don't need out of your boot – It will only slow you down and again create more work for your engine
Don't run anything you don't need – That includes things like music, lights etc.
Top up your gas first thing in the morning – Or last thing at night for that matter. The reason for this is that when it's cold, the gas is compressed. When it's hot meanwhile, the gas expands. That means that when you top up in cold weather, you actually fit more into your tank for the same amount of money. You'll save a fraction of the cost but it can certainly add up in the long run!
Drive at unsocial hours – Where possible, it's a good idea to drive when there aren't going to be that many other people on the roads. This will normally mean driving early in the morning or late at night. It will also get you to your destination quicker though, so overall it's a very good thing!
Choose your route carefully – The right route will cut the distance between you and your destination, it will avoid queues and it will keep you on smoother roads that won't take extra force to drive over.
These small tips will all help you to fractionally increase your mpg. It all adds up, but none of these elements on their own are going to knock your socks off.
What's more important is the way you drive. Eco driving means driving in the most fuel efficient way possible and that in turn usually means you're trying to stop stopping wherever possible. Eco driving doesn't mean driving any more slowly, rather it means maintaining a constant momentum rather than stopping and starting every five minutes.
In order to do this, you need to hang back from the cars in front and to constantly be reacting to what's ahead. The overall objective is to slow down without braking wherever possible by simply taking your foot off the acceleration soon enough. This means you need to leave space and you need to drive defensively. Some cars come with built in indicators that show you how economically you're driving.
Finally, while petrol heads won't want to hear it, the very best way to save fuel is to drive less. This might mean getting the bus a little more often, or it might mean doing lift shares with colleagues. It could mean riding your bike, or it could mean driving part way to your destination and walking the last mile or so. Not all of these things will always be practical but when you can do a little more walking or cycling you'll find that there are many other benefits besides just those that come directly from saving your gas and shrinking your carbon footprint. And remember: every little helps!