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by Tegan Lawson

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How would you like to share in more than $8 million every day? That’s the staggering amount of money drivers in Australia could collectively save each day, simply by reducing fuel consumption by 10 per cent.

Here’s how I figured that out: according to the latest Survey of Motor Vehicle Use Australia conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and released last year (it’s released every two years), in 2014 there were 13,421,357 passenger cars registered in Australia, each of which were driven an average of 13,200km. That’s around 36km per car, per day.

Now, that doesn’t sound like much but, add it all up and we consumed a total of 18,893 megalitres (18,893,000,000 litres) of fuel  at an average rate of 10.7-litres per 100 kilometres.

If everyone of us reduced our fuel consumption by just 10 per cent, based on a rate of $1.60 a litre, that would save us collectively $8,309,622 EVERY SINGLE DAY. Or, to make it personal, that’s around 62 cents a day or around $226 a year for each and everyone one of us. Including you. More than enough for a nice cup of coffee every week, or a good chunk of your registration or insurance costs. These figures don’t even include light commercial vehicles, trucks or motorbikes.

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So how many of us actually try and drive as frugally as possible, or think the way we drive doesn’t have big impact on fuel consumption? Well we should, and it does. And it doesn’t have to relegate us to life in the slow lane. Improving fuel economy by 10 per cent is not impossible, and really, not that hard.

Fuel usage is often one of the most important things to consider when looking for a new car – along with other ownership costs, fuel is an ongoing expense that needs to be taken into account because over the course of a few years of ownership, there’ll be a massive difference in the cost of running a car that uses 7.0-litres per 100 kilometres and a car that uses 15L/100km.

I’m guilty of deliberately not thinking about driving efficiently, telling myself that it won’t make that much difference. But, after hearing what John and Helen Taylor from Fuel Academy had to say, I won’t be doing that any more!

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Between them, John and Helen have broken 46 world speed driving records, 47 fuel economy driving world records and national fuel economy driving records in many countries around the world. They know what they are talking about, are incredibly passionate about what they do and also conduct workshops around the globe teaching people how to reduce fuel consumption.

Ford Australia recently hosted an event, at which we were able to test out some easy ways to conserve fuel and, in the process, save some cash.

Ford provided two cars for the event – the Focus with its 1.5-litre four cylinder EcoBoost engine which produces 132kW and 240Nm and with a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 6.4L/100km; and the fearsome Mustang, although in this guise the Pony car loses some of its fearsomeness, with a 2.3-litre four cylinder EcoBoost engine under its bulging bonnet which produces 233kW and 432Nm and has a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 9.3L/1ookm with the automatic transmission. The manual transmission figure is slightly lower at 8.5L.

There are some pretty easy ways to lower your fuel usage by doing a few simple things every day. And the world’s most fuel efficient couple are happy to share them with you. We tried them and yes, we managed to get both the Focus and Mustang under their claimed fuel figures – low 5s in the Focus and 7s in the Mustang consistently throughout the day.

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1. Drive smoothly

Instead of racing off at the lights, try steadily building speed, keeping calm and focussed on putting gradual pressure on the throttle, braking gently when coming to a stop at traffic lights when possible and keeping steering inputs smooth and even.

2. Stay in a high gear

Stay in the highest gear you can, without labouring the engine. Keeping revs under 2000rpm can help reduce fuel consumption by lowering the engine speed. Of course this is easier in a manual, but if you have paddle-shifters or manual mode, you can have a little more control over which gear you’re driving in.

3. Don’t keep stuff in your car

Every 45kg of extra weight can use up to two per cent more fuel. So if you don’t need something in the car, get it out of there.

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4. Check tyres regularly

Make sure your tyres are correctly inflated. Just one PSI under can increase consumption by up to three per cent.

5. Combine trips and plan travel

Don’t make four trips to the shops each week when you could make one. And plan your travel. Obviously, the less kilometres you drive, the more fuel you save.

6. Fill it up

Every time the cap is opened, a little bit of fuel evaporates. It’s not much but it all adds up. Rather than regularly popping $10 in the tank, fill ‘er up each time and run it down to a reasonable level before returning to the service station.

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7. Use air-conditioning sparingly

Unless it’s a sweltering summer’s day, wind the window down. Air-conditioning increases fuel consumption, and while no one wants to arrive at a party or meeting with big sweat patches, if you don’t need to blast it, don’t. Set the temperature at a comfortable level rather than turning the cabin into a refrigerator.

8. Turn off the engine when idling for long periods

If you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam, turn the engine off. At idle, fuel is still being used, at a rate higher than you’d expect. And if you have stop-start technology, don’t switch it off.

9. Use quality products

Choosing the correct grade of oil and making sure it is good quality will help keep everything running smoothly and ensure your vehicle is operating efficiently. The same goes for fuel; premium fuel burns cleaner and more efficiently. While you may pay more at the pump, there are benefits and potential savings.

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10. Maintain your vehicle correctly

Follow manufacturers’ recommendations when it comes to servicing. Making sure the engine is well-tuned and the oil is changed regularly will make a big difference in the long run.

11. Know how to handle hills

I used to do this when I was younger, because I didn’t know any better. Putting your car into neutral and coasting down a hill doesn’t save fuel. By keeping it in gear, you won’t use any fuel, and if you maintain steady engine revs you’ll pick up speed which will have you in a good position to use the momentum to either tackle an uphill run or keep cruising along without having to put significantly more pressure on the throttle.

12. Don’t speed

Not only could you cop a fine and demerit points, but even just 8km/h over the speed limit can burn up to 23 per cent more fuel. Wind resistance will increase at speed too, making you car work harder and working harder means, yep, using more fuel.

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13. Keep calm

The more relaxed and at ease you are as a driver, the smoother your inputs will be and the more reasonably you’ll react to any circumstances that require braking or acceleration. A calm person is more likely to gently roll to a stop at the traffic lights, whereas an agitated, edgy person might be distracted and notice the red light later, resulting in an aggressive stab on the pedal and therefore, increased fuel consumption. Travelling outside of peak times can also help keep your stress levels down. And ladies, rushing out of the door and doing your hair and make-up in the car only results in distracted driving – not smooth, calm, efficient driving.

If this is all new to you or it seems a bit overwhelming, the MAP method is an easy way to get started.

M is for maintenance: maintain your car properly.

A is for action: driving calmly, smooth inputs on the brake, throttle and steering wheel.

P is for product: using high quality oils and fuel.

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Fuel economy is a priority for a lot of drivers, but of course many still want power and performance. Over the years engine design and technology has changed drastically with the focus shifting to smaller capacity, lighter engines that are turbocharged, with direct injection and variable valve timing to reduce fuel consumption while still delivering on performance.

We’ve also managed to debunk a few common myths. If you thought popping your car into neutral will help you save fuel, that is incorrect.

Winding your windows up isn’t going to help reduce wind resistance unless you’re doing over 80km/hr. Also when you’re sitting at idle, it’s best to turn your engine off if you’re going to be there for a while, because it does still chew fuel.

How far do you think the Mustang EcoBoost could get on one litre of fuel? Well, that was put to the test using extreme fuel efficiency driving techniques and it went 27 kilometres before is started to get the dry heaves searching for every last drop of the good stuff. Twenty-seven kays! Incredible.

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Though the focus of the event was to learn how to improve fuel economy and get an understanding of how Ford’s EcoBoost engine works to assist in this regard, we didn’t spend the whole day driving like tightarses around the Sydney Dragway. We had a bit of fun too and were put to the test through a series of challenges including a slalom, water bucket challenge, 0-100km/h time and, of course, a fuel economy run.

Getting to experience the ‘Boost’ part of the EcoBoost engine in the Mustang by smashing the accelerator and racing to 100km/h, was a definite highlight. And the individual driving tests served as a competition for the assembled journalists. Guess who won?

Being more aware of the way you drive and how you look after your car can save you money. But remember to always drive safely – driving slowly and clogging up traffic in a misguided effort to save fuel is not what this is about.

Driving sensibly and efficiently does not mean tootling along at 40km/h in a 100km/h zone.

You can still move with the traffic while also being aware of the small changes you can make to alter your driving technique that will, in the long run, help you claim your share of $8million every single day.


Podcast

Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss this topic below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.

 

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