Driving 101: How to Stay in The Green

There are few facts in life, but fuel prices being constantly on the rise is seemingly one of them. While the price of gas is going to differ depending on your location, if you were to look at the trend globally over the last few years we’re pretty sure you’re not going to be paying less.

how to stay in the green while driving

It’s for this reason that sticking to green principles whilst being behind the wheel is perhaps even more important. Not only are you providing relief for the environment, but your gas bills are going to sink enormously as well.

Of course, the best piece of advice when it comes to staying green on the road is to choose your vehicle wisely. On the downside, not all of us are in a position to convert to a brand new Tesla, which is why we have comprised the following techniques which can lower your emissions and bring your bills down in the process.


The importance of preparation

importance of preparation

Perhaps one of the biggest techniques relates to before you even step into your vehicle.

The old phrase “if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail” couldn’t be more apparent here and even if your vehicle isn’t officially regarded as a green one, you can still prepare it to give it the best possible chance of saving you money.

As there are so many different areas of preparation, we have broken this section down into the following.


Decreasing the weight of your vehicle

This first suggestion will probably be completely expected; make sure that the weight of your vehicle is as low as can be. Whether it’s all the bags in the trunk, or the golf clubs lurking around somewhere – they are all contributing to the green-factor. It’s a pretty simple scientific equation as well; the heavier the vehicle, the more energy that is needed to move it.


Only carry a roof rack unless it’s essential

We could have lumped this into the previous section, but really it deserves a mention on its own. Taking away the extra weight that a roof rack adds to a vehicle, there’s also the issue of wind resistance. A roof rack hinders your car’s effectiveness immensely from this perspective, so if you don’t need it for a journey make sure it’s removed.


Basic maintenance

Most cars have guidelines over what sort of fuel consumption you can expect from them. If you notice that you are significantly falling short of these guidelines, you should pop your vehicle in for a spot of maintenance. Simply making sure that your energy is tuned accordingly can make the world of difference – and potentially bring you closer to those guidelines that all of the marketing material sold you when you bought the car.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely you will reach such performance targets, as these tend to have been achieved in the best possible settings. There should be nothing stopping you at least getting closer to them though.


Tire pressure

Here’s a statistic for you; you will use around 1% more fuel for every 6psi that your tire is under-inflated. Little else needs to be said here; most gas stations provide free air so you can quickly and freely check your tire levels and make sure they are performing acceptably.


The perils of driving with the windows open

perils of driving

We talked about wind resistance earlier, and here’s another window for it to appear again (pardon the pun).

While it can be tempting to drive with the wind blaring through your hair, particularly if your vehicle doesn’t have air conditioning, it can severely impact the amount of fuel you use. Driving with the windows down increases drag and as such, makes your vehicle work that little bit harder to move.


…But don’t compensate with the air conditioning

air conditioning

The previous point leads perfectly onto this next one. While it might be baking hot outside, and we may just have told you to travel with your windows up, your next port of call for temperature regulation is also off the agenda in the aim of staying green.

Air conditioning is something which does use a lot of fuel, meaning that it needs to be limited as much as possible whilst you’re in transit.


The 50 mph factor

50 mph factor

This next suggestion isn’t going to be practical in all circumstances, but if you happen to have plenty of time for your journey traveling just a little bit slower can make a monumental difference.

Let’s hone in on this 50mph example. Most people will drive over 70mph on the motorways – but toning this down to 50mph will lower their fuel usage by 25%. Sure, this is a significant speed difference, but if you’re not rushing around it’s certainly something that can be drafted into your journey and make an incredible difference to your bills over the course of a year.

At the same time, if you are watching your speed, avoid the temptation to brake or accelerate harshly. Some studies have found that people who engage in such techniques will use almost a third more fuel than those that don’t – so when this is coupled with the other speed-related technique the benefits can be huge.

Let’s also talk about pollution in this area. While some drivers might not be as keen on this subject, as it doesn’t directly cut their costs, an interesting fact is that speeds between 15mph and 60mph generate the least pollution. Anything below or above these figures creates a lot more pollution – which again adds to the theory that a constant speed is the best approach for green driving.


Don’t be lazy when the temperature drops

temperature drops

There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up to a frozen vehicle, with your windscreen so clouded with ice that it’s completely unusable. At the same time, most of us revert to sitting in the car – waiting for the heating to take care of the rest of the job for us.

Well, it’s time to ditch the above approach. In a similar vein to having the air conditioning on, your heater is also going to impact your vehicle’s efficiency and will use up a surprisingly high amount of fuel. Instead, buy a scraper or some De-Icer to complete the task for you. Your hands might get a little colder, but it’s all with the aim of staying green.


Keep revs to an all-time low

Keep revs

The fact that new cars have been manufactured with gear shift indicators says everything you need to know about staying green in this regard. While some people might see it almost fashionable to rev the engine to thousands of rpm, the general advice is to change gears at around 2,000 rpm in diesel cars and 2,500 rpm for petrol.


Be wary of the “switch off whilst stationary advice”

switch off whilst stationary advice

Over the last few years there has been a lot of commotion about turning off your engine when you are stationary at traffic lights and other pauses in your journey. Well, some of this can actually do more damage than good. Unless you know that you aren’t going to move for the next three minutes, you should be looking to keep your engine on. Any less than this and the process of turning off your engine, before turning it on again, will use a lot more fuel than just constantly keeping it ticking over.

Of course, if you have an automatic system, it’s a different story. These vehicles have been designed to specially adapt in these circumstances, with many having an up-rated battery, a second battery and other components that facilitate the process.

Who is Graham Ramsey

Graham writes for the travel and transport section of GreenKing. He has been covering clean technology topics since 2007. He contributes to The Guardian and EcoGeek.
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