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My Top Fuel Saving Tips

First off let me say that I drive a rather a lot during the week, my daily commute is almost a 140Km round trip covering both highway and city conditions. As a result, when the fuel prices started to go up it hit us hard and I started to look for ways to save money.

The car I drive is a large automatic sedan with a 3.8L V6 engine. Before I started worrying about the costs I was averaging between 500 and 550 km per tank or about 8.5 – 9km\L of fuel which at the time I thought was ok.

After modifying my driving style following these tips my fuel consumption improved considerably so that I was getting between 650 and 700km per tank or around 11 – 11.5km \ L. The change effectively gave me an immediate 20% reduction in the cost of getting to work with little to no effort required. Needless to say, I’m quite happy with the results.

Fuel Saving Tip One:  Turn off your air conditioning.

It may seem obvious but turn off your air conditioning. I have heard it said that running the air conditioning can use up to 10% more fuel. I know on my car, when it’s idling the trip computer shows that my car uses 1.6L/hour. Turning on the air conditioner immediately bumps this up to 2L/hour or a 20% increase. The effect is not as pronounced at higher revs though so I’d estimate 10% is about right.

The one exception to this rule is if it’s a hot day and you are driving at high speed. At around 90km/hr the wind resistance generated by opening the cars windows is more detrimental to fuel economy than running the air conditioner.  

Fuel Saving Tip Two: Relax and slow down.

Of my 140km daily commute, 100km would be on a three lane freeway. Before I started this exercise my primary concern was time so I was always weaving through the lanes of traffic trying to maintain speed. After changing my driving style so as to just cruise along rather than trying to rush, not only did the fuel bill go down, the stress levels did too. As a side note, the length of the journey only increased by a couple of minutes so in the end I realised just how pointless trying to go fast on a busy road really is.

Fuel Saving Tip Three: Pick your travel time.

I’m fortunate enough to have a job that allows for a flexible start time. It means that by starting work at 10am rather than nine I miss the peak hour traffic and can cut up to an hour off my daily travel time. This huge reduction in travel time obviously has a huge impact on how much fuel I use.

Fuel Saving Tip Four: Don’t accelerate up hills.

Don’t accelerate up hills if it can be avoided. Why fight gravity if you don’t have to. It takes less energy to maintain your speed than it does to increase it so just keep going at a steady speed rather than trying to race to the top. If you don’t want to do it yourself, using the cruise control makes this especially easy.

Fuel Saving Tip Five: Read the Road.

Reduce your use of the breaks. This tip is actually more about reading the road that using the breaks. When you accelerate you burn fuel to give your car kinetic energy. When your car has too much kinetic energy for the driving conditions or in other words is going too fast you use the breaks to slow down, the breaks use friction to turn this kinetic energy into heat which is of no use to anyone.

So, how do we avoid using the breaks, really it’s as simple as if you know that you are approaching an intersection where you will need to slow down, rather than pushing the break, you could take your foot off the accelerator earlier and coast up to it. Of course this is not always possible so common sense needs to be applied however on roads you know well such as your daily commute I think you’d be surprised just how many opportunities there are to do it.

Fuel Saving Tip Six: Avoid over acceleration.

Accelerating hard does get you up to speed faster but it also uses more fuel than a more measured approach. For my car, I found that if I just ensured that the engine didn’t cross the 2000rpm line while accelerating I would get an acceptable rate of acceleration and good fuel economy. Of course, this will not be the same for all cars.

There you are. The six things that reduced my fuel bill by more than 20%. Nothing complicated, mostly just common sense.

Elevation Profile

My commute starts on Brisbane Waters Drive in Tascott and ends in Belrose, one of the northern suburbs of Sydney following the major roads shown on the map below. The above elevation profile shows the scale of some of the hill climbs that I have to do and should help explain why some of my tips work.

Route Map
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