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Most of us are painfully aware that petrol prices are at an all time high, the latest increase sending the price inland straddling the R20 per litre mark, which is bad news for all of us.
As a quick comparison, exactly a year ago in February 2021, the inland price of 93 ULP was R15.50. It is now R19.89, which means a year on year increase of around 22%. This means that unless your fuel consumption comes down by the same factor, you will be spending more of your income on fuel, and have less to spend on the important stuff.
Saving 15% to 20% of fuel is not impossible, but it does require developing the correct driving and maintenance habits. Heck, even if you can get your fuel consumption down by 10%, it certainly softens the blow.
If the average motorist does 15 000km a year, at an average fuel consumption of 10l/100km, he/she consumes 1500 litres of fuel annually. At R19.89/l, your yearly fuel spend will be R29 835. Now, let’s say you get your fuel consumption down to 9l/100km’s, that figure becomes R26 851. It may not be a massive saving, but it sure helps. Everything helps in todays’ tough times.
A 1l/100km saving is easy to achieve if you follow the tips we have compiled below. But first, let me say this: there is no silver bullet, and there are no wonder devices that will magically lower your fuel consumption. To see a real difference in your fuel consumption, you will need to follow all the tips outlined below. Picking one or two but negating the others won’t make as an appreciable a difference.
1. Accelerate gently
The harder you accelerate, the more fuel you use. In urban driving, you can use less fuel by easing onto the accelerator pedal gently. To be as fuel-efficient as possible, take 5 seconds to accelerate your vehicle up to 20 kilometres per hour from a stop.
2. Maintain a steady speed
Maintaining a steady speed will also result in a lower fuel bill. When your speed dips and bursts, you burn more fuel and more money, than is necessary. Tests have shown that varying your speed up and down between 75km/h and 85km/h per hour every 18 seconds can increase your fuel use by 20%, then driving at a constant 80km/h.
On the open road, consider using cruise control for highway driving, where conditions permit. Be mindful, however, that small variations in speed can be good when gravity does the work. Where traffic patterns permit, allow your speed to drop when you travel uphill, then regain your momentum as you roll downhill.
3. Anticipate traffic
To maintain a steady speed, and thereby reduce fuel, always anticipate what is ahead. If the upcoming robot is red, ease off the accelerator and coast the last few hundred metres rather than driving that distance to brake sharply at the end. Keep a comfortable distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, so that if he brakes suddenly or unpredictably, you do not have to follow suit and lose all your momentum. Become accustomed to paying close attention to what pedestrians and other cars are doing, and envisioning what they will do next, so that you can keep your speed as steady as possible and thereby use less fuel. There are also many safety advantages of driving this way.
4. Use your smart phone
Why not avoid traffic altogether? Apps like Waze and Google Maps give you real time traffic information and help you avoid congestion along your commute. Even though these apps use time as the barometer for rerouting suggestions, and not fuel consumption, in most cases the extra distance you travel to avoid traffic on your preferred route is offset by the fact that your engine is particularly thirsty in stop start traffic and at low speeds.
5. Find The Sweet Spot
Each vehicle has an optimum speed or ‘sweet spot’ where they are the most fuel efficient. Of course, it depends on the vehicle and how it is geared. If your vehicle has a digital fuel consumption read out, keep an eye on it and you will soon find your vehicle’s sweet spot.
In general, it is fair to say that above 80km/h, vehicles use increasingly more fuel the faster they go. For example, at 120 km per hour, a vehicle uses about 20% more fuel than at 100 km per hour. On a 50-km trip, say from Johannesburg to Pretoria, this spike in speed – and fuel consumption – would cut just four minutes from your travel time.
6. Coast to decelerate
Every time you use your brakes, you waste your forward momentum. By looking ahead at how traffic is behaving, you can often see well in advance when it is time to slow down. You will conserve fuel and save money by taking your foot off the accelerator and coasting to slow down instead of using your brakes.
7. Avoid idling your vehicle
Turn off your engine when you are stopped for more than 60 seconds unless you in stop-start traffic. The average vehicle with 3-litre engine wastes 300 millilitres (over 1 cup) of fuel for every 10 minutes it idles. Waiting in the school pick up line for 15 minutes for your kid, with your engine running, is a definite no no.
8. Measure your tyre pressure every month
Driving a vehicle with tires under-inflated by 56 kilopascals can increase fuel consumption by up to 4%. That means if your tyres should be 240 but are sitting on 185. This seemingly small oversight can also reduce the life of your tyres by more than 10,000 kilometres. Find the right tyre pressure for your vehicle on the tyre information placard. It is usually on the edge of the driver’s door or doorpost.
9. Service Your Vehicle Regularly, According to Manufacturer’s Instructions
A poorly tuned engine can use up to 50% more fuel and produces up to 50% more emissions than one that is running properly. Even if you can’t afford a full service, replacing a dirty air filter will make a substantial difference. The same goes for spark plugs - a strong spark means cleaner, more efficient combustion - and you’ll go further on every litre of fuel. Neither the plugs or air filter are expensive parts, and on the majority of cars, it’s a quick and easy Do It Yourself job. A YouTube video will show you how.
10. Do not carry unnecessary weight
While having the golf kit in your boot may save you a few minutes every Sunday morning, it will cost you in fuel. Remove unnecessary items your vehicle. The less it weighs, the less fuel your vehicle will use. The fuel consumption of a mid-size car increases by about 1% for every 25 kilograms of weight it carries.
11. Remove roof or bicycle racks
Streamline your vehicle by taking off the racks when you are not using them. Aerodynamic drag can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20% on the highway.
12. Use air conditioning sparingly
Air conditioning can increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 20%. Open the windows when you are driving in the city and use the flow-through ventilation system with the windows up on the highway. If you do use air conditioning, use the re-circulate option. It will minimize the impact.
13. Use a fuel consumption display
See the impact of the all the fuel-efficient driving techniques first-hand with the help of a fuel consumption display, a feature now standard on many vehicles. Many drivers consume 15% less fuel by acting on the feedback that fuel consumption displays provide.
14. Drive Less
It seems a no-brainer, but the best way to save fuel is to simply drive less. There are a few ways to achieve this, with varying degrees of interruption to your lifestyle.
As a quick tip, go onto the AA website and see what the running costs per Km are for your particular car. I have only been talking about fuel, but your actual running costs are much higher – they include depreciation and insurance and wear and tear. Lets say you see your combined running costs are R4/km. Checkers is 7Kms each way – so 14km combined and that’s costing you R56 just getting there and back. Or you can use their Sixty60 app which is R35. It really begins to make sense. And that’s the pure Rands and cents benefit, we haven’t even touched on the time and convenience element.
Are you ready to begin saving money and using less fuel? If so, here is your action plan:
Your fuel-savings target: ………%
Ways to reach your goal
1. Drive for maximum fuel efficiency
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