Tips for Eco-driving


To become an eco-driver you need to make a series of positive and practical actions in order to develop a smooth anticipatory driving style.

Look well ahead and anticipate

Your ability to drive efficiently depends on being able to anticipate changes in the driving environment. The way to do this is by constantly scanning well ahead in your intended path. If you can see people braking ahead, ease off the accelerator to reduce your speed, cruise towards the traffic changing down a gear if need be. Holding back slightly will give you more time to manoeuvre, the aim is to avoid coming to a complete stop, keeping the car in a forward motion conserves the vehicles kinetic energy which saves fuel and reduces Co2.

Be smooth

The aim is to use the cars steering, transmission and brakes in a smooth considered way. Rather than last minute braking, decelerate smoothly by easing on the throttle as early as possible. This allows the car to decelerate using engine braking, when it comes to acceleration, gradual is always better than instantaneous, avoid harsh or erratic acceleration, it’s not only more comfortable for you and your passengers but it's also more efficient producing less scrubbing of tires and energy loss through suspension movement.

Use the cars momentum

Provided it is safe to do, when you can, stop pressing down on the accelerator and let the momentum of the car take you forward, travelling down a hill with your foot off the accelerator can save a considerable amount of fuel.

Maintain appropriate following distance

Avoid driving so close behind another vehicle that you are forced to abruptly apply the brake if the traffic flow slows down. You should always travel at a safe distance from the vehicle in front but it is particularly important in city driving where traffic changes speed more often. In addition, the greater your following distance, the better your forward visibility will be, which enables you to anticipate changes in your driving environment.   

Drive within the speed limit

Not only is it the legal thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. The faster you go the greater the fuel consumption and pollution. Driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph is illegal and can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph. Travelling at faster speeds especially within the limits of what’s legal, does little to cut down journey times.

Maintain a steady speed in as high a gear as possible

Driving at a steady speed over the course of your journey requires little e­ffort on the part the engine. Surges of acceleration only to brake sharply moments later massively increases fuel consumption. Sudden and abrupt variations in speed eats up fuel and shoves out loads of Co2 emissions. Sticking to a more moderate style of driving is not only safer, but is much better for you and the environment.

Use cruise Control

Use cruise control while traveling on dual carriageways and motorways. This helps you maintain a constant speed, which in turn helps you use less fuel while going easy on the environment. Caution! Do not use cruise control in inclement weather where you could aquaplane nor if you are feeling tired. If tired, take a fifteen minute break and try to drink coffee, if still tired DO NOT DRIVE.

Don’t use the clutch as a break

The clutch is not a substitute for the hand or foot break “balancing” the clutch wears out clutch components. Avoid unnecessary coasting i.e. putting clutch down too early causing the car to free wheel. This uses more fuel than easing off the accelerator pedal whilst remaining in gear.

Take the Lane of least resistance

In multi-lane traffic, choose the "lane of least resistance" to avoid unnecessary and unpredictable braking or changes in speed. For Example, avoid lanes where buses are starting and stopping.

Conserve momentum

Whenever possible and only when it is safe and legal to do so, try and avoid coming to a complete stop. When multiple vehicles ahead of you are progressing through a road junction, this represents a mini 'stop and crawl' situation normally found in a bumper to bumper traffic jam. It takes much less energy to accelerate a vehicle when it's already traveling just a few miles per hour than it does from a complete stop. Provided it is safe and you are not hindering the flow of traffic, try and time your approach, to arrive at the junction as the last car ahead is departing, this will allow you to advance smoothly through the junction without hindrance.

Red Traffic Light Timing

When approaching a red light, slow down early if there's a car in front of you. Letting the car in front trip the light sensor avoids you coming to a complete stop.

Green Traffic light timing

When approaching a green light, watch the pedestrian signal crossing light which will help determine when it is likely to turn from amber to red. Also if you see pedestrians standing at the crossing the likelihood is that the lights are about to change to red.

Speed Bumps - Sleeping Policemen

When approaching speed bumps drive smoothly and at a constant speed of between 15-20 mph. Braking sharply, accelerating, then braking sharply for the next speed bump will consume a lot more fuel than taking things steady.

Minimalize idling when stopped

An idling vehicle gives off much more pollution than one that’s moving. Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because the engine is not operating at its peak temperature. This leads to the build-up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption. If you're going to be stopped for more than a thirty seconds and it is safe to do so (no risk of a rear end shunt) shift to neutral and switch off your engine. This is one of the main reasons hybrid vehicles get such good fuel economy in urban driving.

Change up a gear early

Using the correct gear is vital for saving fuel, in some cases cruising in third gear can be 25 per cent less efficient than cruising in fifth gear. When accelerating change into the highest appropriate gear as soon as you can. For example, block change from 4th to 2nd gear or 4th to 1st is preferable than changing down or up through each gear. Keeping the engine in low gear longer than necessary consumes large amounts of fuel.

Avoid over-revving the engine

Try to keep your engine running at its most efficient level, for the majority of engines this is between 2,000 and 3,000 revs per minute. For maximum efficiency you should shift up a gear when the engine is revving at around 2,500 rpm for petrol engines and 2,000 rpm in a diesel car. Correctly matching engine speed and road speed plus using the gears in the most cost effective way will reduce fuel consumption and also reduce wear and tear on the engine and gearbox.

Reduce the use of low range gears

Many 4 wheel drive and AWD vehicles also come with high and low transmission ranges. Low range increases engine RPM and fuel consumption, best to use a higher gear choice when practical.

Minimalize your use of 4 wheel drive

The added friction of drive components in four wheel drive mode greatly increases fuel consumption.

City Driving

When city driving you should know what's happening at least 10 to 15 seconds ahead. On the motorway or on dual carriageways at least 30 seconds visual lead time is appropriate. This allows you to react smoothly to the driving environment presented in front of you.

Maintain a space cushion by driving defensively

When driving on a multiple lane motorway or dual carriage way, try to maintain a "space cushion" around you. For example, avoid driving for any length of time beside a vehicle in the next lane. The more options you leave open for making a prompt lane change if one is needed, the safer and more efficient you'll be.

Close the sunroof at higher speeds

Some sunroof styles are better than others. The worst offenders are the kind which tilt and slide to the outside, on top of the roof. When open, these "roof-top spoilers" can significantly increase aerodynamic drag.

Keep windows closed

Drive with windows up at higher speeds to minimize aerodynamic drag. Use flow-through ventilation instead.

Reduce accessory loads

Use air conditioning and electrical equipment wisely and switch it off if not needed. You will also consume less fuel if you decrease the use of electrical and mechanical equipment such as the window defrost function, heater-blower, electric heated seats, mirrors, windows and  DVD players etc.

Park facing out

When parking in a car park, find a spot in the least-congested area and reverse in so that your car is facing outward into the drive lane(s). Not having to back out, stop, and then move forward is a simple but extremely important fuel saver. Whenever possible, park on a down slope as the car will use less energy when you leave.

Aggressive Drivers

If you encounter an aggressive driver, stay well clear. Don't try and keep up, it’s easy to be competitive when driving. Resist  retaliation to other drivers' aggressive actions. Don't let other drivers dictate how you drive, concentrate on safe driving within your eco-driving style.

Don't drive while hungry, angry or tired

Often easier said than done, aside from the obvious safety issues, these conditions and emotions don't exactly promote patience and gentleness. If you are experiencing any of these conditions, count to ten, eat a snack or catch a twenty-minute power nap.

Listen to gentile and slower music

We know it sounds mad, but fast paced music can make a driver more impatient, more aggressive and likely to rush. Alternatively, easy listening music, is more laid back and tends to promote a more relaxing style of driving which is safer and less stressful.

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