However committed we are to caring for the environment, it’s an undeniable truth that the car is an essential part of life for most of us. Some industry analysts estimate there are more than 1.4 billion vehicles on the world’s roads, a number that is only expected to increase.
The effects of so many vehicles on the planet are well-documented, and car manufacturers have begun to focus on electric and hybrid models as a result. Governments too are bringing in laws to make motoring more eco-friendly; in the UK, for example, no new cars powered solely by petrol or diesel will be sold from 2030.
While choosing to buy an electric or hybrid car is the obvious way to become a greener driver, realistically that’s not necessarily an immediate option. But don’t worry – there are other steps you can take to ensure more eco-friendly motoring and, as a bonus, they’ll help you save money through reduced fuel usage, too.
Plan your trips
You need to go shopping, so you jump in the car. Later, you need to take one of the kids to football practice; you drive them there, then go home and wait until it’s time to pick them up. That makes three journeys. How about dropping your child off, going shopping while they’re at football, then collecting them straight after? Then it’s just one.
It’s all too easy to hop in the car every time you need to do something, but by combining chores or activities you can reduce your driving time – and the effect on the environment.
Don’t drive unless you have to
If you run out of milk or bread, how far away is the nearest shop? If it’s only a few minutes in the car, why not walk instead? As well as saving on fuel, a brisk walk is great exercise. Helping the planet, saving money and getting fit at the same time - there’s no downside!
The daily commute might seem unavoidable, but it might be possible to car-share with colleagues. Some companies have already set up official car-pooling schemes, with benefits or rewards for employees who sign up.
Remote working is also becoming more popular, especially as businesses have had to adapt to life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Technology makes it easy to connect with co-workers on different sites, so it’s worth exploring if you could work from home even for just a day or two each week.
Look after your vehicle
Making sure your car is well maintained means it will function properly. It will be more fuel-efficient and cause less pollution, as well as being less likely to break down. Learn how to do simple tasks yourself, such as checking and topping up the oil, and carry them out regularly. Make sure you book it in for a full service in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
It’s not just under the bonnet that’s important, either – inspect your car’s bodywork and wheels frequently, too, and take action to prevent deterioration and keep them looking their best.
Warm it up
A car uses more fuel and releases more emissions when the engine is cold. Although it’s tempting to start the ignition and drive away, wait a couple of minutes. Allowing it to warm up is better for the engine, as well being more fuel-efficient.
How often do you sit with your vehicle in gear when you’ve stopped at a traffic signal, or when you’re at a junction waiting to turn? Sometimes it’s necessary to let the engine idle but put it in neutral first. As well as fewer emissions, it’s easier on your clutch.
Take care with gear changes, too – experts recommend switching gear at between 1,500-2,500 rpm for most efficient fuel consumption.
Stick to the speed limit
This should go without saying, but most people do exceed the speed limit sometimes. As well as keeping you on the right side of the law, slowing down means you’ll need to brake and accelerate less frequently, which makes for greener driving. You’ll use between 15%-30% less fuel and be safer on the road, as there’s also less chance of an accident.
Your vehicle’s weight and how you carry any large loads has a considerable effect on how much fuel it uses. Don’t carry anything you don’t need on a trip – even small items can add up. If you need to carry luggage or heavy items, put them inside the car when possible – roof racks add to the overall weight and increase drag when on the move.
Use less a/c
It’s tempting to use air conditioning to regulate temperature inside the car but try not to make it your default. Taking off a layer of clothing or opening the air vents might be enough – try that first. One study suggests that using air conditioning in a stationary vehicle can increase fuel use by up to 90%, so this could be a big money-saver.
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