Fuel Consumption & Environmental Damage

Vehicle manufacturers' CO2 figures taken in isolation are not enough if you are concerned about worldwide climate change and levels of pollution in the environment. CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are related in terms of the impact they have on the environment. On top of this, global oil resources are increasingly scarce in relation to the increased demand worldwide from emerging economies and crude oil and other energy resources seem to be often entangled in political sensitivities.

Factors that can affect fuel consumption

  • Tyre pressures should be regularly checked. Incorrect pressures will cause a vehicle to use more fuel as well as being a safety hazard that can result in poor road grip and inefficient braking power.
  • Short journeys. All fuel consumption figures are derived from standardized tests where the vehicle's engine is brought to optimum operating temperature for the test. A sub optimum temperature will cause the vehicle to use more fuel.
  • Sitting in traffic jams or elsewhere with the engine running. Result - zero miles to the gallon.
  • Carrying unnecessary weight
  • High speeds. Tests show that there are diminishing returns in fuel economy above 65 mph.
  • Uneven driving style. The more you accelerate or break the higher your fuel consumption. Seeing the conditions ahead and maintaining a smooth relaxed driving style is better for you, other drivers and your pocket.
  • Use the right gears for the right speeds. The higher the gear (when conditions permit) the less fuel you use.
  • Air conditioning. Try not to get used to this and have it on by default. Any electrical equipment in use worsens the fuel economy of the vehicle with air conditioning being the biggest culprit.
  • Unfortunately, if you wind the windows down you decrease the aero-dynamic efficiency of the vehicle and lose more fuel that way as well.
  • Make sure your vehicle is serviced properly by qualified technicians. Engine settings and many other mechanical factors can all affect fuel consumption.

Will technology solve these problems or should we try to make a difference by focusing on the resources we use?

The problem with technological solutions is that they take time and massive investment to develop. Often the prototypes are expensive for the average person until manufacturers get into mass production. For very many people a vehicle is a necessity and for most of us an addictive luxury that we're reluctant to forsake. However, a few simple calculations show that if everyone had a go we can make a difference right now. A Department of Transport document published in 2003 has our average annual mileage at 8700 mpa. That has almost certainly increased. If you have a vehicle that is supposed to get 44 miles to the gallon (combined urban and extra urban) the likelihood is that, for all the reasons above it doesn't. If you only get 40 mpg but can increase it to 44 you will clearly save yourself around 10% in fuel bills. That's about £100 a year. If that doesn't seem like much to you consider the effect of about 10% less pollution from motoring and a 10% reduction in one factor that contributes to climate change. Most of the measures listed above will not inconvenience us much.

More fuel saving measures

  • Smaller, cleaner cars often use less fuel and pollute less
  • Hybrid vehicles are increasingly an option to consider
  • Get a bike for small local journeys and get fitter. It's an odd thing to consider that while other countries with developing economies get off their bikes and into their cars (just as we did) we are increasingly getting out of our cars and onto our bikes.
  • Don't make unnecessary journeys. We have so many alternatives for communicating with people. More companies should question the idea that showing your face at a meeting is always a necessity to show commitment and politeness. Talk to your business partners to see if they agree that we can reduce unnecessary visits to each other.
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