How eco-driving saves on fuel

Apr 16, 2015   | Categories: Canadian Fuels Association, Energy, Environment
Eco-driving is a 21st century term for the increasingly popular use of driving techniques that save on fuel. Some of the country’s best eco-drivers are members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), who demonstrated their chops at the recent EcoRun in British Columbia. Canadian Fuels was a sponsor of the event.

The annual event brings together journalist drivers with the newest fuel-saving cars, including hybrids, electrics and fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. This year they drove these fuel-sipping cars over several days, starting in Vancouver and then heading down the Island to Victoria.

We’ve asked some of these journalists for their views on eco-driving, the new vehicles, and other interesting things they did or learned at the event. This is the first post in a series.

Chris Chase, an Ottawa-based freelance journalist who loves guitars almost as much as cars, was the winner of the “green jersey” at the end of the EcoRun. Not unlike the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, it’s presented to the best driver at the end of the run.

“Eco-driving encompasses a whole range of driving techniques that can be combined in different ways, depending on how serious you are about saving fuel,” said Chase.

“There are a number of very simple things you can do that will help save fuel, and these are the things I did during the EcoRun that helped me win the green jersey.”

Tips for eco-driving in the city

Techniques vary somewhat based on whether you’re driving on the highway or in the city, said Chase.

“In city driving, one of the keys is gentle acceleration: go easy on the throttle, because in most city situations, you’re only going to have to slow down or stop again shortly, making hard acceleration one of the most wasteful things you can do.”

Once at speed, look well ahead and try to anticipate what other drivers and traffic signals are going to do, he said. For example, if a traffic light half a kilometer away just turned red, it’s time to get your foot off the gas pedal and start braking gently.

“The idea is to spend as little time as possible stopped: idling and accelerating are the two states in which a car is least efficient, so the less you have to do either of them, the more fuel you’ll save,” he said.

Chase calls this “the anticipation technique,” and says it can be used in highway driving, too.

“It works a bit differently because, assuming the road isn’t bumper-to-bumper, you don’t have to worry about stopping,” he said.

“Here, watch not just the car in front of you, but look two, three or four cars ahead. If you see those drivers brake to slow down, then you should start to slow down as well, rather than waiting for the driver in front of you to react.”

In this way, he said, your driving will be smoother, and on any kind of road, in any kind of traffic, that’s the name of the game when you want to save energy.

Chase will elaborate more on highway driving, managing hills, and how to drive different kinds of cars in next week’s blog. Stay tuned.
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