Drive smarter, drive greener

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Jim Holder
22 May 2008

Drive smarter, drive greener

Can you drive in a more environmentally friendly way and still get to your meetings on time? What Car?'s Jim Holder hitched a lift with greener driving instructor Mike Fletcher to find out.

Compare and contrast
The test was simple: driving on a seven-mile route around Cornwall, Fletcher first assessed my driving techniques and then made me drive the route again, this time taking into account his advice.

Our car for the trip was Ford's new Focus Ecomotive. Although the route of B-roads and town driving was never going to let me hit its stated average consumption figure of 67mpg, I reckoned 41.1mpg was a fair effort after my solo run.

Fletcher, of course, had different ideas.

Learn the rules
'There are four simple rules,' he explains.

'The first is to always look as far ahead as you can, and plan your driving accordingly. There's no point rushing up to a roundabout and queuing, for instance. Just cruise up and try to arrive as the car ahead joins the roundabout.

'Then, try to use the geography of the roads to keep momentum up. You don't need to accelerate hard down hills, so just let the car build up speed without using more than an average amount of revs. 2500rpm is the most you should use in normal conditions.

'Block gearchanges are another trick. If the road conditions are right, go from second to fourth, let the car build speed downhill and then engage the accelerator gently.

'Finally, don't be afraid to turn your engine off if you come to a standstill at, say, some traffic lights. Put it in first gear and turn the ignition on, so all your lights are showing, but only restart the engine when you are ready to set off again.'

Practice makes perfect
I repeat the route using these tips and the result is a near 10% gain in fuel efficiency, as I record 45.1mpg.

Surely, though, all this has been achieved at the cost of driving more slowly, which is hardly realistic in the cut and thrust of modern motoring?

'You averaged 19mph on your first run,' says Fletcher, 'and 18mph on your second run. Most people would settle for getting 10% more mileage from their tank of fuel for the possible loss of 1mph of time.'