The Extra Mile

The Extra Mile

extra mileNot everyone feels inclined to make an effort to save on their fuel costs, or is even the least bit interested in the whole concept. Perhaps it’s the impression that any such effort involves a restraint of driving pleasure. That’s a pity, because we would argue that, in many circumstances, driving for economy can often enhance the pleasures of driving, and reduce the stress of being behind the wheel, particularly when driving conditions are difficult.

We’ve previously observed on this page that you need to be in full control of your driving style to save fuel and, before you even think about economy driving techniques, you need to be in control of the time factors for your journey. People who live hectic life patterns, particularly in business, probably find it hard to achieve this situation, and may often be driving under time pressure as a result of circumstances beyond their control. That makes it more difficult, but it’s not really safe to set out on any driving journey badly pressed for time, as this is when accidents typically happen, and it certainly won’t help your fuel economy. If your arrival time is critical though, you should have a planned route, know how long it will take you, and have a safety factor of time built in to cover possible delays.

All sorts of things can put you under time pressure, some easily avoidable. How many drivers set out with enough fuel in their tank to comfortably take them to their destination? Fuelling up is best done when you’ve time in hand, when filling stations are quiet, and at a regular spot where the price is right. Ideally then, you’ll be setting off with time to spare, with a full fuel tank, knowing the likely traffic conditions, and having planned a route least likely to throw up any delays. With a good navigation system in action, you’ll have a forecast of arrival time, traffic updates and warnings, and the facility to quickly find an alternative route if necessary. You’ll be able to adjust your speed as you progress, and take a short break every couple of hours. But you do need to be aware of things like school pick-up times, and when industrial areas disgorge their employees, and any notorious bottlenecks, or you’ll get behind schedule and waste fuel by having to drive harder and faster to recover lost time.

On such longer journeys, steady cruising speeds are best for fuel economy. Quite often on busy roads it’s pointless to do anything but ìgo with the flowî of most other traffic, be that 50mph, 60mph or 70mph, and to avoid pointless overtaking that often won’t gain you more than a few hundred metres, or a couple of minutes. It’s always good though to take advantage of favourable road and traffic conditions and gain a bit of time whenever possible, easing up your cruising speed a few mph when the road ahead is clear ahead. Higher speeds inevitably use more fuel, but it’s stop/go motoring that really drinks it up, and a steady 60mph is more economical than an unsteady 50mph, with regular acceleration and braking. You should be looking to create, whenever possible, a ìbubbleî of safe and manageable space around you.

At times you may need to work a bit to overtake small bunches of slow, closely spaced vehicles, or alternatively drop back a bit from them, if overtaking is difficult. Either way, you should be looking to establish a piece of road that’s clear for 50 yards ahead, and behind if possible, in which you can cruise at a fairly steady speed, unaffected by other drivers. Within this space that you create, and then maintain, minor speed adjustments can be made without using your brakes, without being obstructed by other road users, and giving you and any passengers a smooth, stress-free, and comfortable ride. It’s safe, sensible, and enjoyable driving, and very good for boosting your fuel economy. Finally, it’s better to arrive safely, but a few minutes late, than the possible grim alternative that can come from pushing your luck out on the road.

Victor Harman 

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