Eco-Driving versus New Vehicle Green Technology

Extract from “Easy on the Gas” a report on Eco Driving by the RAC Foundation. This is a very comprehensive in-depth analysis of the benefits of adopting eco-driving as a method of safe and efficient driving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“There have been significant efforts to lower the carbon impact of the UK parc (the entire population of vehicles on a country’s roads) and of new vehicles coming on the market. In terms of new low and ultra-low-carbon vehicles (hereafter abbreviated (U)LCVs to mean both categories together), the RACFoundation has published reports considering the technologies (Lytton, 2010), their take-up (Lane, 2011), their environmental performance (Lytton, 2011; Lorf Introduction & Lytton, 2012), and their implementation (Hanley, 2011).

These reports, andothers, highlight that there is a wide range of technologies and policies that areable to lower the emissions of vehicles; there is, likewise, a similarly wide rangeof costs and benefits associated with them.

Standards for new vehicles have led to significant improvements in their emissions and economy. For example, in 2011, Toyota had virtually met 2015 CO2 targets, with PSA [Peugeot Citroën] and Fiat both needing small cuts of 5% or less to meet these targets (Transport & Environment, 2011). Furthermore, low-emissions technologies are now widespread and cater to all sizes of buyer’s budget – cleaner, more economical vehicles are now commonplace.

According to the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), the average lifespan of a car in 2009 (from purchase to scrappage) in the UK was 13.2 years. It will therefore take a significant amount of time for vehicles featuring these new technologies to filter through. The modest turnover rate of the vehicles which make up the UK parc underlines the importance of reductions in carbon footprint that can be applied not only to new vehicles, but also to older vehicles, regardless of their economy or emissions.

Easy on the Gas – The effectiveness of eco-driving

In addition, it is important to remember that the impressive improvements in emissions and fuel economy for new vehicles are not based on real-world data, but rather on carefully specified tests – the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) (Directive 93/116/EC as amended by Regulation (EC) 692/2008) – around which the vehicles have been specifically designed. Real-world data for vehicles can be significantly worse. In fact, the new vehicle technologies associated with low-carbon vehicles (such as hybrid power trains) are particularly susceptible to this difference (ECMT & IEA, 2005; Smokers et al.,2006). This difference is becoming more common (Mock et al., 2012).

This problem of ‘shortfall’, where vehicles fail to live up to the expectations created by data displayed on the vehicle fuel economy label, can be attributed in part to the differences between test conditions and real journeys, but it also owes much to driver behaviour.

Data collected from the 2010 RAC Future Car Challenge, an event which tested the energy economy of 63 new (U)LCVs, highlighted the significant influence of driving style and gross vehicle weight inidentical vehicles’ fuel and emissions performance. Preliminary analysis of the 2011 event appears to confirm this finding. For example, consumption ranged from 65 mpg to 126 mpg for one hybrid model driven over the same route, and ranged from 38 mpg to 76 mpg for one of the diesel models entered (Howey et al., 2011).

Comparatively simple changes to make driving styles more economical are known collectively as ‘eco-driving’. Eco-driving is a driving style that is both ecological and economical. These small changes to how one drives can improve the carbon emissions and fuel economy of vehicles regardless of vehicle type, thereby reducing the occurrence of shortfall and ‘locking in’ the potential gains made by new vehicle technologies”.

You can download the full RAC Foundation report in PDF format at:-

Read further in this series - Ten Practical steps you can take before you drive