Eco-driving fact sheet

Not everyone is ready to abandon their favourite car for an electric vehicle and charging point just yet so this blog offers some tips on how to adopt an eco-friendly driving style in any vehicle.

Eco-driving is a simple concept that incorporates safety, saving money and an awareness of the environment. These ideas have always been a key element of learning to drive but they are often covered using slightly different terminology, such as anticipation, fuel consumption and avoiding pollution.

The ideas behind eco-driving are part of the driving test but for situations in which the driver must decide between being “green” or being “safe”, safety will always win. For example, driving at 30 mph down the motorway when 70 mph could easily be achieved may be greener, but it could be deemed unsafe because it would probably cause congestion, leading other road users to perform potentially unsafe overtaking manoeuvres.

When adopting an eco-friendly driving style, the aim is to eliminate any harsh use of the brake and accelerator. Poor use of these controls causes a rough ride, high fuel consumption and the possibility of being involved in an accident. It can also cause more damage to the environment through excessive fuel combustion, as well as wear and damage to several parts of the car, particularly the engine. The best way to avoid harsh use of the controls is by anticipating hazards early, with enough time and space to make an adjustment that involves little more than a quick glance in the mirrors and a bit less pressure on the accelerator. Another good tip is to avoid constantly changing position in the road when overtaking rows of parked vehicles. It is better to pull out and stay out where possible, rather than weaving in and out.

Good driving is less about a physical adjustment and more about focusing on the road, pavements, other road users and the environment, as well as the time of day. Most of your driving is done in the mind, using good cognition and observation skills that diminish the need for much action. A good exercise for keeping your anticipation skills sharp is to get up to fourth gear and aim to stay there when driving around town. Doing this makes it necessary to ease off the accelerator well before most hazards in the hope that they will have dispersed before you reach them, allowing you to continue with no need to start braking and ultimately change down through the gears.

It might also be wise to start thinking about your next car with eco-friendliness in mind. Some of the options out there are currently tax free due to their low emission values, and certain councils occasionally offer free parking for these vehicles. Lower fuel and insurance costs are also incentives that the government is using to encourage us into more eco-friendly vehicles. However, there will come a point when tax will be collected on all vehicle types, probably in the form of charging drivers by the mile instead of by emissions/fuel etc. This process is likely to be managed via a sort of virtual “black box” — in other words, by recording how many times you recharge an electric vehicle. With this in mind, now could actually be the best time to invest before electric cars become mainstream and these government incentives are taken away!

Perhaps we should all start getting used to the charging points, regenerative braking, kickdowns and exterior noise settings associated with these futuristic electric vehicles while there are still advantages to be gained. In fact, we will soon be able to try before we buy here in the Heatons: Enterprise Car Club will be putting a couple of electric vehicles around the area. These cars can be hired for a monthly fee of around £7 plus a per-mile charge for power. All elements can be booked online. I can’t wait!

Hilary Hughes on behalf of SLH

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