You’re a rubbish driver and its costing you hundreds per year

Every year, Aussie drivers spend thousands of dollars at the petrol station. Many of us look over fuel economy numbers at the time of a vehicle purchase, but quickly...

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Every year, Aussie drivers spend thousands of dollars at the petrol station. Many of us look over fuel economy numbers at the time of a vehicle purchase, but quickly forget about having any influence on how much fuel we use. By applying some attention to how you drive, you can stretch every litre of petrol further and save yourself hundreds of dollars per year.

Last Thursday Ford invited the media to jump into some of their vehicles with the EcoBoost engines and drive to Sydney International Dragway for some education. We’ll get to that in a second, but first, lets talk about the branding EcoBoost.

Your initial reaction when you hear of an EcoBoost engine is an underpowered power plant where the tree hugers on the engineering team won the internal battles. The reality is that EcoBoost engines can be quite powerful, when called to be, evidenced by the fact they put one in their Ford GT supercar. Since introducing the name, Ford have spent years battling the branding and this event did a lot to help their cause.

EcoBoost really could have been titled better, that positioned it as a powerful engine that also delivers economy, instead Ford did the opposite and went with an economic engine that also delivers power. It may sound like a subtle difference, but in the hearts and minds of potential customers, its an important differentiation.

The drive allowed us to understand the power available in the Focus, the Mondeo and the 2.3L EcoBoost Ford Mustang. The power and economy of engines today are seriously impressive. As good as the engine design is, its often down to driver input that makes the biggest input.

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On the day, we met Helen and John Taylor of fuelacademy.com. This amazing couple have an acute focus on their driving to yield the optimal economy from driving. Since 1982, these two have broken a staggering 93 world driving records and country national driving records. These are made up of 46 speed world driving records, as well as 47 fuel economy world driving records.

These two had just completed a drive from Sydney to Melbourne in the Mustang, on a single tank of petrol. Yep, didn’t think that was possible either. Not content with proving it with a powerpoint slide, Ford put on a demonstration during lunch. The drained the Mustang of all but 1 litre of fuel. While they didn’t clear the fuel in the lines like a full scientific test, it was close enough to make the point. So then came the question.

How far could a Ford Mustang drive on just 1L of petrol ? The driver implemented many of the tips you’ll find below, including smooth acceleration and avoiding harsh braking events, while travelling up one way of the drag strip at 100km/hr and returning at 80km/hr.

The result was a staggering 27.3km before it coughed. According the manual, that car should have stopped at around 12-14km, so at around double that, most of our guesses were not even close.

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After listening to Helen and John speak, after participating in a number of driving activities on the day, I feel like I learnt of lot of valuable information that we all should be implementing in our day-to-day driving. These are listed below and definitely worth your time to read through. In the few days since the event, I’ve noticed myself shifting into 5th gear where I’d otherwise be in 4th to knock a couple hundred RPM off the clock. I’m using engine braking rather than heavy braking to slow the vehicle.

Its too early to tell for sure, but I suspect the next time I visit the petrol station, I’ll have a much larger number on the trip meter. Now I love driving, so driving economically is great when you can, but I can guarantee I’ll still be engaging in some spirited driving from time to time, that’s what makes cars fun and exciting. If I save some money in between those sessions, all the better.

When we’re in the throws of day-to-day driving, it can be difficult to drive optimally. This is where technology should really assist the driver in achieving perfect operation to maximise fuel efficiency. Through the use of different drive modes, different reminders on the visual display in front of the driver and certainly automatic gearboxes are already helping.

This problem of fuel efficiency may actually solve itself with the evolution of battery technology in all-electric cars that are eventually charged by your solar roof. Until we all have those, then the tips below are worth a read.

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Ford EcoBoost: Fuel Efficiency Hacks

It’s easier than you think to keep things efficient when driving. By employing the following fuel
efficiency hacks, you’ll transform into a more fuel efficient driver in no time, and save some
money in the process!

Planning makes perfect
It may sound obvious, but simply cutting down on the time spent in your car is the easiest way to conserve fuel. To reduce driving time, try to combine all your short trips and errands into a single journey.

Keep your cool
When you’re not calm, you’re more likely to make errors in judgment. Fuel efficiency is all about smoothness and keeping calm is absolutely crucial to achieving good fuel economy, so maintain your focus and cool attitude.

Put a cap on it
Fuel evaporates every time you open your vehicle’s fuel cap. To limit the losses from this, fill your car up completely instead of repeatedly topping up your tank with smaller amounts of fuel.

Rack off!
If you’re not using your roof rack, then remove it. Having roof racks attached reduces aerodynamic efficiency of vehicles and creates drag, which hurts fuel economy.

Gradually does it
Maintain consistent speeds whenever possible. Accelerate gradually when moving off from rest, as fast starts burn a lot more fuel. Driving at a moderate steady speed requires relative little energy.

Tune in and tune up
A well-tuned engine can help improve fuel economy, so always follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation on servicing intervals.

Under pressure
Correctly inflated tyres are safer and also last longer. A tyre that is under inflated by just 1psi (6.89kPa) can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as three percent. Multiply that by four… Tyres should be checked and pressure corrected when they are cold, ahead of a journey – not after the vehicle has been driven for a length of time.

Get into gear
The higher gear you drive in, the lower the engine speed is, which can improve fuel economy. Using a manual gearbox, change up a gear whenever you can, without labouring the engine. In an automatic vehicle, accelerate gently and your transmission will get into the highest gear sooner, keeping your engine speed – and fuel consumption – lower.

A load of hot air
Air-conditioning places added strain on the engine and needs fuel to operate. Limit use to particularly hot days and when possible, use the fan instead or simply set the temperature to a comfortable, not cold setting (e.g. 22C).

Keep your weight down
You may be surprised, but every extra kilogram matters and affects your fuel efficiency. So keep your boot and back seat clear of unnecessary items that you use merely once in a while which are otherwise merely dead-weight in your vehicle (e.g. golf clubs).

The kids are alright
When driving with children and babies, it is important to have them settled before you begin your journey. Ensure they are content and you will have no unnecessary distractions (easier said than done sometimes!). If you can do this, the result will be a smoother and safer journey!

Switch it up
If you’re looking to change vehicles, why not choose one with a more fuel efficient engine. Ford EcoBoost-equipped models are designed to be as efficient as possible but not at the cost of drivability and performance.

Along with modifying your driving behaviour, its important we dispel some common misconceptions that lead to bad behaviours.

There are even more tips available at fuelacademy.com.au

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Changing times

Earlier this year Ford commissioned an online survey of almost 10,000 respondents from 11 markets across the globe. The survey found that attitudes are shifting in releation to new vehicle choices. Many consumers who are planning to buy a new car in the next year are considering more fuel-efficient vehicles. 32% plan to buy a vehicle with a more fuel-efficient engine than their current car and 23% plan to downsize to a smaller vehicle.

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Misconceptions: Where Australians can save money on fuel through driving smarter

Australian drivers’ misconceptions about efficient driving mean that there’s significant opportunity for them to keep their tanks fuller for longer. The survey revealed that:

One-third (33%) of Australian drivers do not know that harsh acceleration and braking can have a dramatic affect on their car’s fuel consumption

Reality: Aggressive driving – like braking harshly or taking off too quickly – is the worst offender when it comes to wasting fuel.

 

One in five Australian drivers believe that keeping the engine running while idling will save more fuel

Reality: Turning the engine off and restarting it again is actually more fuel-efficient, as proven by start-stop technology in key vehicles such as the Ford Focus and Ford Escape.

 

70% of drivers are unaware that cruise control can deliver fuel efficiency benefits

Reality: Cruise control is a secret weapon against wasting fuel. It keeps drivers from needlessly driving faster than they should, and it helps maintain a constant speed, which means you don’t waste fuel through unnecessarily braking and acceleration.

 

Only one in 10 drivers use GPS to map the quickest route before heading out

Reality: It seems obvious, but the longer and further you drive the more fuel you’ll use. Ford’s SYNC® systems will plot the fastest route, and also allow you to save time and money by avoiding heavy traffic situations.

 

40% of respondents didn’t know that driving in hilly terrain can hamper fuel consumption

Reality: A long drive on undulating mountain roads will use more fuel than driving on flat, straight roads, with more stress on the engine and heavier acceleration and braking.


Only around one-quarter of respondents knew cold weather (24%) and hot weather (27%) affect a vehicle’s fuel efficiency

Reality: When you put your vehicle through extreme environments, it’s going to need more fuel to run. If you need an easy comparison, just think of yourself in extreme conditions.


Less than half (47%) of those surveyed knew that removing heavy items or clutter from the car to help save fuel

Reality: Excess weight in the vehicle can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s fuel consumption. Every gram costs you fuel, which in turn costs you money and will have you filling up sooner.


One in three Australian drivers was unaware that regular maintenance and keeping tyres inflated helps save fuel

Reality: Regular maintenance maximises your car’s efficiency, while keeping your vehicle’s tyres at the recommended pressures not only reduces fuel economy, but reduce tyre wear.

Disclaimer: Jason’s travel and accommodation to the EcoBoost event was paid by Ford Australia.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.