With petrol breaking the R10 barrier today, I’m sure the newspapers will be hauling out the AA’s list of fuel-saving tips yet again. We’ve all read them least a dozen times. The list is generally sound: use the correct tyre pressure, don’t accelerate too quickly, etc., etc., etc. Our eyes are glazing over, however. It’s time for a new list. It’s time to push the envelope.
The fuel consumption numbers in the literature for new cars (and now on windshield stickers in South Africa) are useful for comparing between cars. But few people can keep their fuel consumption that low on the streets. The official stats are derived under very controlled conditions that don’t really reflect the habits of typical drivers.
I hate to brag, but I do sometimes match the official fuel consumption figures for the cars I drive. You can, too. Follow me.
[Lawyer's note: Use these tips at your own risk. GreenerHouse is not responsible for your prang. Safety first.]
1. Don’t brake.
2. Hold your right foot in the air
3. Watch your rev counter
4. In town, windows down
5. Ride the roller coaster
6. Drive your spouse’s car
7. Change your clocks
8. Know your numbers
9. Rearrange your “To Do” list
10. Drive farther . . .
1. Don’t brake
Ok, if a ball rolls out into the street with a child running behind it, slam on the brakes, but most braking is an unnecessary waste of energy. You must learn to feel guilty every time you brake, converting all of that good momentum your engine has given you into wasted friction and heat, requiring you to accelerate all over again.
Not braking requires planning ahead, allowing space in front of your vehicle and exercising patience. A typical example is a street with speed bumps. Most drivers accelerate after each bump and brake before each bump. It makes no sense. The bumps are there because the people who live on that street convinced the government that cars should drive slowly for the safety of the neighbourhood’s children and pedestrians. Settle into the speed at which your car can handle the bumps and stay there. Unless you’re heading downhill, you shouldn’t have to brake.
Look way ahead to the traffic lights and let your car slow naturally well in advance of a red light. People are always in a hurry to sit at a red robot, wanting to give the poor smash-and-grabbers a sporting chance. Don’t worry about the guy behind you flashing his headlights. You’re saving him petrol and a smashed window, too. Smile and wave.
If you have to brake at the bottom of a hill or before a curve, it probably means that you were accelerating unnecessarily a few moments before. Slow down in advance—it’s not safe to brake on a curve, anyway—and keep your foot off that darned brake.