Saturday, 13 August 2011

How to drive a car and still save money

A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to the Museum of Science and Industry to learn how to save money by driving more efficiently. Not the most exciting invitation you might think, but I was keen to learn how to save money. Every little helps, as they say and I resent having to pay the inflated fuel prices at the pumps.
Johanne Smith from Shell, and Quentin Willson doing jazz hands. 
We heard from Johanne Smith, a fuel scientist at Shell who talked about their new product, Fuelsave and from motoring expert and former Top Gear presenter, Quentin Willson. This is the official Shell blurb:

First of all, the innovation behind the fuels lies in the Shell Efficiency Improver. In the case of Shell FuelSave Regular Unleaded, it works to reduce energy losses by lubricating parts of the engine where oils are less effective. For Shell FuelSave Regular Diesel, it is designed to ignite and burn more effectively than regular diesel, helping to produce more efficient combustion in the engine. The fuels can help drivers save up to 1 Litre per tank at no extra cost. Johanne Smith, Shell Fuels Scientist, says:
“Shell FuelSave Regular Unleaded and Diesel are a genuine technological breakthrough that mean millions of drivers in Britain could become more fuel efficient and save money at the same time.”

Johanne told us that only 25% of fuel is used efficiently in a car engine and so Shell wanted to develop a fuel that helped to use some of the wasted 75% and Fuelsave is designed to leave fewer deposits on the engine which makes it run more efficiently in the long run. 

Quentin (yes, I'm on first names terms with him now *cough*) was full of fuel saving tips. Some of them might be obvious:
  • keep your tyres at the right pressure. Under inflated tyres can reduce fuel economy by 10%;
  • make sure your car is serviced regularly and the engine is tuned;
  • use higher gears and avoid over revving - change up a gear when you can without labouring the engine;
  • drive smoothly - aggressive driving can use as much as a third more fuel;
  • avoid accelerating and braking too hard;
  • using the air conditioning uses up to 10% of fuel energy. Opening the windows uses up to 5% because of drag. Avoid both if possible but if you can't stand it, open a window rather than using the AC.
Basically, the bottom line is that every time you use the brake pedal you are wasting fuel energy. The key is to read the road ahead - for example by slowing down before roundabouts and traffic lights instead of braking suddenly when you actually reach them. Seems so obvious doesn't it? But how many of us do it?

Other, less obvious, tips included:
  • if you have time in the mornings, allow your engine to idle for a minute before driving off, it allows the engine to warm up and work more economically;
  • don't fill the fuel tank to the top - only ever halfway - as the extra weight will reduce the car's efficiency; 
  • always reverse into a parking space - it uses less fuel if you manoeuvre into a space when the engine is warm than doing it when you've just started the engine and it's cold;
  • don't keep 'stuff' in your car, get rid of unnecessary car clutter - all that extra weight is making your car engine work harder.
Now, I'm not the most confident of drivers but when I was offered the chance to go out for a 'masterclass driving lesson' by Mr Willson (with two Ls by the way, if you don't mind) I jumped at the chance. After driving around Manchester for a few minutes so he could observe my driving he told me that my foot was permanently attached to the accelerator and that I had to learn to 'hover' over it, and use to only when necessary. He gave me lots of good tips and I've been trying to adopt them (although it's so difficult to get out of those bad habits!)

So, there you have it. Shell Fuelsave, can it save you money? Well I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and I've started using it because a) it's the same price as standard non-leaded, and b) anything that promises to save me money is onto a winner with me. 

And Quentin's driving tips? My average MPG is up from 38.7 to 39.8 and rising. I'm a happy driver.

Disclosure: I was invited to the event and given lunch. And a driving lesson!