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Eco-friendly driving tips

Apr 28, 2021

We’re all trying to do our bit for the environment. But it’s a huge challenge. Climate change, plastic pollution, food waste and air pollution are some of the biggest environmental problems we’re facing right now.

What’s more, we only have a limited time to take action. But change doesn’t just need to happen on a global level, we all need to play a role.

Luckily, there are things we can do on an everyday level. Perhaps you’ve already placed more emphasis on recycling and cut down on the amount of meat you eat. But have you thought about how your driving can impact the world around us?

You may not be in a financial position to buy a new electric or hybrid car, but there are ways you can take a greener approach every time you get behind the wheel.

Insurance with a black box can help you monitor how much you’re driving so you can take practical steps to reduce your carbon footprint.

Reduce emissions, drive greener

The transport sector is one of the key culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a Climate Change Committee report published in 2020, cars account for 61% of road transport emissions in the UK. Meanwhile, HGVs account for 17% and vans for another 17%.

However, just by changing the way you drive could help reduce those emissions and make your car journeys kinder to the planet.

According to research, by taking a more mindful approach to the way you drive can reduce fuel consumption by around 25% – and that means big savings on your weekly fuel bills, too.

Just by changing the way you drive could help reduce those emissions and make your car journeys kinder to the planet.

A man driving with a woman sitting in the passenger seat holding a phone up to speak
How environmentally conscious are we behind the wheel?

So, the question is: do you know how to drive your vehicle in the most environmentally friendly way? Research suggests the answer is probably no.

According to a survey by pre-17 driving school Young Driver, just 11% of UK motorists said they knew how to be a greener driver. In the 25 to 34 age group, that figure dropped to just 6%.

Luckily, there is an appetite to learn. The survey also revealed that 24% of those questioned said they aim to be environmentally conscious behind the wheel, and those aged over 45 years were the most likely to make an effort to be environmentally conscious while driving.

How to be an eco-friendly driver

Eco-driving is all about reducing fuel consumption through better driving – something that the data gathered through having black box insurance can help with.

Everything from watching your speed to changing gear and knowing how much stuff you have in the boot are all factors in how much – or how little – fuel you use.

If you’re hoping to expand your eco-driving knowledge, you’re in the right place. Here are our top 10 tips on becoming a greener driver.

1. Vehicle maintenance

Keeping your vehicle in good working order is as important for fuel efficiency as it is for road safety.

Getting your car regularly serviced will help ensure it drives efficiently. But don’t just wait for the next MOT to come around, there are lots of checks you can do yourself frequently (and before long journeys).

One of those checks is making sure your tyre pressure is at the optimum level. Tyres account for 20% to 30% of a vehicle’s fuel consumption and under-inflated tyres will cause your engine to work harder and your car to use more fuel.

Equally, over-inflated tyres can also adversely affect fuel economy. If you’re not sure of the optimum pressure for your tyres, it is usually printed on the inside of the driver’s door.

2. Plan your journey

No one wants to sit in traffic for hours a time – not only does it increase your journey time, it also increases exhaust emissions. If you can, try to avoid driving at peak times.

But if this is not an option for you, why not check for alternative routes before setting off? Even if a different route is longer in mileage terms, it may actually take less travel time and avoid having to idle for long periods.

Did you know? An idling engine can produce up to 150 balloons of exhaust emissions every minute.

According to research by emissions consultancy Cambustion, if you drive a diesel car made before late 2015, it is worth switching off the engine if you expect to be stationary for at least 30 seconds.

For those manufactured after 2015, it is worth switching off your engine even if you’re only staying put for three seconds.

It’s also worth trying to consolidate your trips wherever possible. Once the engine is warm it will operate at its most efficient. By contrast, several cold starts will increase fuel consumption even if the mileage is the same.

Did you know? An idling engine can produce up to 150 balloons of exhaust emissions every minute.

A sat nav with a journey planned out on screen
3. Get rid of the clutter

The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it needs to move. Before you set off on any journey, see if you can get rid of any unnecessary weight.

Take a look in the boot and make sure you’re not carting around a load of items you really don’t need to. Camping chairs, tool boxes or golf clubs might come in handy from time to time, but they also cost money to transport.

Remember, your car shouldn’t be used as additional storage space. Extra weight will simply burn more fuel. This might not make the biggest impact in terms of fuel efficiency, but it all helps. Plus, the less stuff you have strewn around your car, the neater and cleaner it will look!

4. Be more aerodynamic

Leaving your roof rack and roof box attached to your car all year round might be convenient, but it will also cause your car to use more fuel as a result of the drag effect. And the faster you drive, the more you’ll get dragged down.

According to figures from the Energy Saving Trust, an empty roof rack adds 16% drag and a roof box adds 39% drag when driving at 75mph. The higher the drag, the more fuel you’ll use.

Anything from having bikes strapped to the roof to driving with the window open will cause your car to become less aerodynamic. So, before setting off on your next journey, take the time to remove any unnecessary items so your car stays streamlined.

5. Think about your speed

Driving too fast is dangerous, but it also uses extra fuel. Sticking to the speed limit will help you adopt a more eco-friendly driving style. Most cars have a speed range in which they perform the best – this is often between 60 and 65mph. For optimum motorway driving, try to find that spot and stick to it.

Not convinced? Here are some figures that might change your mind. When you drive at 70mph, you’ll use up to 9% more fuel than when you drive at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph.

Increase your speed to 80mph, and you can use up to 25% more fuel than sticking to 70mph. Motorways are fast roads, but that doesn’t mean you have to speed along in the fast lane when you’re driving on them.

By taking out a black box insurance policy, you’re able to keep tabs on things like how fast you drive and take steps to actively reduce your speed. Steps that will save you both fuel and money.

When you drive at 70mph, you’ll use up to 9% more fuel than when you drive at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph.

A car speeding along a motorway at sunset
6. Use the right gear

Moving up through the gears as quickly as possible will help you use fuel more economically. That’s because when you cruise along in a lower gear than needed, you instantly lower your fuel efficiency (and create more emissions).

Higher gears are more efficient, so the faster you get into them as you’re accelerating, the better. You might even want to skip a gear if you are accelerating quickly as missing a gear can help you save fuel.

Cars that were made since 2014 are usually fitted with a gear shift indicator which helps you drive in the most efficient gear.

When it comes to changing gears and being fuel efficient, the general rule of thumb is to be in the highest gear possible within the speed limit.

7. Keep your cool

Air conditioning can feel great on a hot summer’s day, but it can also whack up your fuel usage. Unless it’s swelteringly hot, it’s best to keep the air conditioning turned off when you’re driving for long periods of time.

Air conditioning puts a lot of strain on the engine – especially at lower speeds. The same is true of heated windscreens, demisters and other bits of in-car tech, so only use them when required.

Rather than automatically switching on the air conditioning as soon as you get in the car, try to open windows instead. The one exception to this rule is when you are driving at speed – in which case air conditioning is definitely more fuel efficient than opening a window. If you’re on the motorway, keep the windows up and the air conditioning on.

However, not using your air conditioning for months at a time can cause issues down the line, so make sure you do switch it on from time to time.

8. Don’t fill up the tank

Having a full tank might mean you won’t have to go to the petrol station for a while, but that extra weight of fuel won’t do much for your fuel efficiency efforts. In fact, driving with a full tank will itself burn more fuel. The answer is topping up the tank with what you need, when you need it. This way, the fuel that you do have in your tank will go further.

Saying that, it’s not easy to judge how much fuel you need for any given journey. To help you work it out, you can jot down how many litres you put in and how many miles you get out of it.

Bearing in mind the size of fuel tanks on cars these days (some can take more than 100 litres), that’s a huge amount of added weight. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t drive around with 100 litres of bottled water in your boot. You’d think twice about carrying 50 litres. So why carry so much additional fuel?

9. Switch off the engine

Lots of modern cars have a stop-start engine. This is an automatic function that cuts out the engine when the car is stationary, in neutral, and your foot is off the clutch. If yours has this function, make sure you use it.

Keeping your foot on the clutch while waiting at traffic lights means your car continues to burn fuel. By taking your foot off the clutch while the car is in neutral, the stop-start system will kick in, saving you both fuel and money.

When it comes to changing gears and being fuel efficient, the general rule of thumb is to be in the highest gear possible within the speed limit.

A person holding their car key in-front of their steering wheel in a car
10. Make use of telematics data

Black box insurance is often associated with helping drivers (especially younger drivers) save money on their insurance. But as well as being a cheaper insurance option, it could also help you use less fuel.

By fitting a black box into your car, data can be gathered about how fast you drive, how efficiently you brake or accelerate, and how safe you are on the road. Your insurer will then use this data to give you a driving score and price your insurance accordingly.

However, you can also make good use of this information. Use it to keep track of your own driving and become a greener, more fuel-efficient driver.

Smartdriverclub: Drive green, drive smart, drive safe

Black box insurance is just one way you can make your driving more eco-friendly and do your bit for the planet.

At Smartdriverclub, our insurance helps you keep track of your driving style and make changes to become a greener, smarter driver. Whether you’re a young driver looking for cost-effective car insurance or more experienced behind the wheel, telematics information can help you save money when you come to renew.

As a Smartdriverclub policyholder, benefits include help to locate your car if it’s stolen, and 24-hour claims and accident assistance.

To find out more about black box insurance and how it can benefit you – and the world around us – get in touch with the Smartdriverclub team today.