A – Acceleration
Think for a moment of what your engine has to do in an average day. Your car is a remarkable machine that can transport well over a tonne of weight - comprising of you and your cargo plus its considerable metal - from a standing start to motorway speeds without much fuss.
Sprinting up to the legal speed limit uses far more fuel than a more gentle approach to acceleration – think more Tortoise than Hare. Hard acceleration forces more fuel into the engine to deliver the maximum power to the car’s wheels – so avoid it whenever possible.
Published fuel economy figures always show the car in the best light and are recorded in controlled circumstances and not in your world. In urban areas, where you will seldom get to cruise in top gear, it is even more vital to accelerate gently with a light right foot. Anticipate when you’ll no longer need power and lift off the throttle early to save fuel.
B – Brakes
Friction is great when you need to stop but it is a waste of energy. The only exception is with hybrids and cars that can regenerate power from braking. If you have been careful accelerating gently why go and waste that momentum and fuel by applying the brakes?
Apart from emergencies and of course coming to a complete stop, applying the brakes in flowing traffic should be seen as fuel wasting. The speed you have scrubbed off will need to be built up again and this uses more fuel. Anticipation is key to smooth driving. Scan the road ahead systematically; firstly in the far distance, then mid-distance, immediate proximity and to the rear. Observe what is likely to impact on your course and speed of travel and use your right foot accordingly.
When overtaking, drivers naturally accelerate to make a quick passing manoeuvre, but most drivers accelerate for too long and end up applying the brakes once the move is completed. Ease off the power when you are beside the car you are overtaking and you will still have enough momentum to complete the overtake and return to the left-hand lane while using less fuel.
C - Car
A serviced vehicle will always perform better than a neglected one. Generally, lighter cars will use less fuel than heavier ones. Diesel engines again are more economical, especially in bigger cars, than petrol ones (although that will change in the coming years). Engines are all about friction.
There are explosions and metal banging off metal so coolant and oil levels are vital to easing an engine’s workload. 'Tyre pressure' plays a massive role in fuel consumption. Under-inflated tyres generate more friction and this means the engine has to work harder to move the car along. They can overheat too, and this is a serious safety issue, plus they wear out quicker (another cost you don’t need).
Over-inflated tyres may not generate enough grip and create other safety issues also. Correct pressures are a key element in your car’s ability to run fuel-efficiently. There is usually a metal plate or sticker inside the fuel flap with the recommended pressures on it (or in the door jamb). Don’t carry any unnecessary weight in the car - after all, you wouldn’t try to climb Kilimanjaro with a few rocks in your backpack (you’d burn too much fuel doing so).
Think of your car as a long distance runner and not a sprinter. Be gentle and you’ll be rewarded at the pumps.