If there was an easy and guaranteed way to use less fuel, I think most of us would jump at it. It would mean less expenditure on fuel and also less pollution. Two good outcomes.
However, when I explain what this easy and guaranteed way to use less fuel is, I suspect the majority of people won’t be interested. Sad but true.
Let me explain…
Drive more slowly
This is by far easiest and most guaranteed way to use less fuel. You can drive everywhere you want, whenever you want, but drive more slowly. From all the experimenting I’ve done, just easing off the speed a little can save 10% fuel/energy consumption and easing off a moderate amount can save 20% quite easily.
As an example, if you have a trip that normally takes 40 minutes to drive and you’re prepared to slow down your speed so that it takes 50 minutes instead, I’m pretty sure you’ll be using around 20% less fuel on that trip. It’s that easy to help your wallet and the planet.
But are we prepared to take a bit more time? Probably not in general.
Drive more smoothly
Another sure-fire way to use less fuel is to drive more smoothly. Accelerate more slowly and brake more slowly over a longer distance. Even if you don’t reduce your top speeds, changing your driving style can give you a 5-10% reduction in fuel usage.
A better driving style also means not accelerating too hard up hills, as this is where the maximum energy usage is made. It’s even a good idea to allow our cars to slow a little going up hills and getting the speed back going down hills.
Driving more smoothly usually means driving more calmly. Every time you push the accelerator harder than necessary, you’re using more fuel. Every time you brake hard, you’ve used more fuel than necessary to get to the point where you break. Anticipating what’s ahead and easing off earlier, is a good way to use less fuel. Even in Formula 1 racing now, where they have to complete the race on a set maximum amount of fuel, you hear them talking about “lifting and coasting” where they can to save fuel.
Take the shortest route (within reason)
What’s the normal setting in our GPS navigation systems – “Fastest Route” most probably. Why is fastest considered to be best? “Fastest” also means most polluting, most usage of fuel, most expensive and, often, most frustrating.
If you really need to get somewhere quickly (and I mean “really” need to), then it’s worth paying the extra money and taking the fastest route. Otherwise, it’s better to save money, pollute less and take a shorter route.
From my home to my office is almost 20 miles using the “Fastest Route” yet I’ve found other roads that cut the driving distance to just under 17 miles. That’s 15% less driving distance. I immediately save 15% of fuel and pollute 15% less.
And it gets even better. The “Fastest Route” is longer because it requires me to go out of my way to join a motorway near my home and then get from the motorway to the office at the other end. Of course, the top speed on the motorway is much faster than the smaller roads that I’ve found that go more directly between my home and the office. You’ll be thinking that the motorway would be much quicker, but remember that it also requires driving 15% more distance, and motorways often have more traffic, especially at peak times.
In the end, driving the back roads takes me just under 40 minutes to get the office and the motorways takes me just under 30 minutes (when the traffic is ok). So I spend 10 more minutes on the road but, in return, I use 15% less fuel because of the shorter distance plus another 10% less fuel because of lower top speeds.
Overall I save 25% on my fuel bill and I’m polluting 25% less.
And there are even more benefits…
Take advantage of driving time
Whenever I get on a motorway I feel like driving has become a race and I feel anger all around me. People who need to get around me. People who need to get in front of me. People who want me to go faster. People who want to make sure I don’t pull out in front of them. In general, it’s a stressful nightmare.
In contrast, taking the smaller back roads is a dream. I have time to think, take everything in, enjoy the drive and be calm. I also find most of the other drivers on the smaller roads courteous and calm as well. They are commuting, not racing, and they understand that driving well and courteously helps all the traffic move more smoothly. Maybe the severe traffic jams on the motorways are just a symptom of all that stress they contain.
People might easily say that I’m wasting 10 minutes by not taking the motorways and driving more slowly. My question to them is what do you do with the 10 minutes you’ve “saved”. I often find the stress of the motorways can get the day off to a bad start. It affects your ability to function throughout the day, and I argue that the extra 10 minutes I take on the road in the morning benefits me all day long.
What future could we have?
I’m suggesting that taking smaller back roads on a shorter route to our destination and driving more slowly would reduce fuel usage and pollution by about 25% (as long as the shorter route doesn’t involve excessive stopping and starting). At least that’s my experience. But what if everyone did this? What would happen to the world?
Would all our roads clog up? – No worse than they do now would be my guess. People would be taking all sorts of different routes across the country and maybe there would be even less chance of having traffic build up in one particular area. I imagine that a vast network of smaller road would function like the capillaries in our bodies. It’s amazing what they can achieve. Of course, people would complain that it’s slower. I’m not suggesting that we get rid of motorways but I’m saying we don’t have to use them all the time (more the exception than the rule).
Would everything slow down because of wasted time? – Would the economy weaken? It’s more than possible that people would be more productive in general if their drive to and from work was more peaceful and calming. They would exert less emotional energy on dealing with the pressures of the drive.
25% Less Fuel Usage – The world uses about 95 million barrels of oil equivalent (MBOE) per day. In the US alone, they consume about 20 MBOE (source) and about 9 MBOE of this is in gasoline. So if everyone reduced their fuel usage by 25%, this would mean 2.25 MBOE less fuel consumption just in the US. Roughly extrapolating worldwide, this could mean over 10 MBOE per day less usage. That would be absolutely huge. It would solve the global warming issue and it would create a huge change in how the world’s economies work.
We can do it today
We have the power to use less fuel today. If everyone in the world instantly took the decision to drive more slowly and on more direct routes, we would suddenly need 10 MBOE less of fossil fuels per day (that’s about 11% or what we use per day now), and that would be enough to pause global warming and allow us to get it under control.
This doesn’t need any government bills, no infrastructure and there’s no financial cost.
It does require us to be a bit more patient, that’s all. And, as a bonus we save money because we use less fuel.
Are we ready to lift off the accelerator, choose shorter routes, bring more peace and calm into our lives and use less fuel? We might just save the world, and ourselves, if we do.