Transportation is the second-largest expense for Americans after housing. We spent, on average, 16.0% of our household budget on it in 2021, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is, however, one way to significantly reduce expenditures at fuel stations. It is sufficient to follow the principles of eco driving. In this article, we will tell you more about it and share some tips which could help reduce your transportation costs.
What is Eco driving?
Eco driving or economical driving are terms used to describe ways of covering a given route as quickly as possible while maintaining safety and saving fuel. These concepts have come to us from Scandinavia, where eco driving principles have been used for years. Driving in this way reduces fuel consumption and increases the lifespan of car parts and reduces the carbon footprint, thereby benefiting society as a whole.
Despite what you might think, driving economically doesn’t require special sacrifices or skills. Just by being more attentive on the road and changing some of your habits, you’ll find that eco driving becomes habit-forming and saves money over time.
Moreover, it is not just for specific road conditions – economical driving on the freeway is just as effective as eco driving in urban conditions. It does not mean becoming a traffic jock.
It is worth remembering that eco-driving is not just a fad but a principle that all drivers should follow. There is a reason why, since 2015, the rules of eco-driving have been introduced into driving courses – the idea is that trainees should immediately learn to drive in accordance with them. Thus, in the driving test, eco-driving means testing whether the candidate driver can apply the theoretical rules in practice.
Rules of Eco driving – Driving technique
All right, so what are the rules? The rules of eco driving can be divided into two main groups: those related to driving techniques and those related to driving behaviors. First of all, let’s look at the first one.
Economical driving – taking off sooner
One of the most critical lessons in Eco driving training is to get off to a good start. It is essential to go on the road as soon as you turn the key. An engine that is running when stationary wears more quickly and uses more fuel. In some European countries, stopping the car with the engine on for more than a minute is prohibited in a built-up area.
Economical driving – gear change is essential
Choosing the gears and changing them smoothly in manual cars is essential. The first gear in most cars should be used only to start from a standstill; the second should be shifted after driving 10 meters. The third gear can be selected between 30 and 50 km/h.
There is no contraindication to skipping a gear (e.g. going from third to fifth gear immediately). You should also remember to reduce gears before acceleration; that should be decisive (depress the accelerator pedal to 3/4 depth) and as short as possible.
Eco-driving – Engine speed
A general rule of eco driving is to drive at a constant speed in the highest gear possible while keeping the engine speed as low as possible. Therefore it is important to have a good sense of when to change gear, which varies for cars with different types of engines:
- Petrol engine eco driving – you should change to a higher gear no later than at 2500 rpm.
- Diesel eco driving – change gear to a higher one no later than at 2000 rpm.
Economical driving – Engine braking is crucial
Engine braking is also important in eco driving, which reduces gears when slowing down and pressing the clutch before the car stops. You should use it when you see red lights from a few hundred meters away. It is also recommended to use engine braking when driving on mountain roads when descending hills.
Eco driving behaviors
Following the rules mentioned above of eco driving, technique is crucial in eco driving, but they do not end there. To make sure your driving is really economical, you should also remember to prepare your car properly and assess and react to the situation on the road. So what are the main principles of eco-driving?
Driving smoothly and at a constant speed
Especially when starting quickly, speeding up and avoiding sudden braking. It is equally vital to shift into higher gears optimally and to reduce gears while slowing down.
Look after your car and its engine
Check the technical condition of your vehicle regularly, including tire pressure. Change engine oil and air filters regularly. Do not overuse the air conditioner, which increases fuel consumption.
Plan your journey
Particularly before making long journeys, so that it consists mainly of expressways. Make sure you avoid traffic jams and rush hour traffic. Avoid traffic jams and rush hour traffic, and avoid overloading your car with unnecessary luggage.
Watch the traffic situation
Monitor the situation around and in front of your car to be able to react in time (e.g. when traffic lights change). By anticipating what will happen, you will avoid sudden braking or accelerating maneuvers and keep your driving smooth. But at the same time, expect the same from yourself as you do from other drivers, too, so that you can be predictable and signal early.
Don’t warm up the engine in winter
One example that goes against the principles of eco driving is warming up the engine when stationary in winter. This damages engine parts and don’t warm up the car as much as the first few minutes of driving. Additionally, the cold engine emits the most exhaust fumes, which is uneconomical and leads to higher air pollution.
Eco driving – the hybrid is made for it
Even though the aforementioned principles were developed for use in cars with traditional gasoline or diesel engines, it appears that putting them into practice brings the most pronounced effects in hybrids. Why?
First, you have to realize that hybrid vehicles reward smooth driving. When they are used, accelerating aggressively is counterproductive – increasing fuel consumption without providing any noticeable benefits. So applying eco driving principles fits hybrids perfectly, enabling you to get the most out of their technology.
Are the principles of eco-driving hybrids different from those of other cars? For the most part, they do not. The rules for driving a hybrid are no different from most other cars, so take good care of the car, properly prepare it for driving, watch the road while driving, responding to events early.
You should handle the pedals smoothly – press the gas firmly, but not completely, while the brake should be pressed gently and for a relatively long time. Once up to speed, it is a good idea to keep it steady at 60-80 km/h, allowing you to drive using only the electric motor.
Some hybrids can be forced to use only the electric motor. Such a solution works best on short distances, in traffic jams, in a city or during a parking maneuver.
Eco-driving with automatic transmission
The automatic transmission can be adjusted to a higher gear in most cases. You need to slightly ease off the gas when you reach the desired speed to do this. This is the signal that we will no longer accelerate, so moving to the highest gear can be done without putting too much strain on the engine.
Experts recommend that you press the accelerator pedal in cars with automatic only with the tip of the foot, half the available depth. The movement should not be too fast. In this matter, adopt the principle: softly but firmly.
Some automatic transmissions have an additional ‘eco’ function, which, if activated, will ensure that the gears are always changed most rationally. Car manufacturers boast that this can reduce fuel consumption by up to 6%. The eco mode can be found in cars from Volkswagen, Toyota and Fiat and many others
Economic driving of motorcycles and trucks
Eco-driving does not only apply to passenger cars. The principles of economical driving can also be implemented by drivers of motorcycles and trucks. In both cases, the benefits will be lower fuel consumption and a longer life of the clutch, gearbox or suspension, and therefore lower repair and maintenance costs.
The truck should not be warmed up before the journey. Using a Webasto parking heater to warm up the truck is better. Use the first gear only for starting, and shift into the second gear soon after take-off. When changing gear, it’s an excellent idea to depress the clutch down. Trucks, just like cars, use engine braking and cruise control.
And what about motorcycles? You need to take care of the vehicle’s technical condition, replacing filters and topping up the engine oil level. Fuel consumption is also influenced by a chain that is too tightly stretched. As far as the driving technique is concerned, one should pay attention to early gear changes, keep an even pace, drive smoothly on turns and avoid frequent stopping.
To maximize savings when using trucks and motorcycles, prepare well in advance:
- Plan your route to avoid traffic jams;
- Spread the load/luggage evenly in panniers;
- Avoid overloading, which will increase fuel consumption;
- Check your tire pressure as even 1 bar less can increase fuel consumption.
Eco driving is a way of driving a car that leads to reduced fuel consumption, lower wear and tear, and lower emissions. By implementing the techniques we mentioned above and following the rules, you will be able to reduce your fuel cost and save on car repair. If you know any other tips for eco driving, let us know in the comments below.