It seems like every time we pull up to the pump, the price of fuel is a few cents higher per litre. Prices fluctuate more than the daily temperature in Melbourne and are affected by a myriad of economic and political factors outside the control of the consumer. The average Australian home spends around $60/week on fuel for vehicles and that amount is rising steadily. No wonder fuel economy, fuel consumption and sustainable driving practices are a hot topic. But, what is fuel economy, exactly?
Fuel economy indicates the distance a vehicle can travel on one tank of fuel. Fuel economy is measured in kilometres per litre in Australia (and miles per gallon in non-metric countries).
The more fuel you need to put into your car, the more your vehicle is going to cost you to run. There are many design factors that impact a vehicle’s fuel economy like size, shape, engine type, fuel size, intended purpose and colour. Think carefully about fuel economy when choosing to purchase a car; some cars are more efficient than others. For example, a small hatchback will usually have better fuel economy than a four-wheel drive. Always consider your driving requirements and lifestyle and choose the most efficient vehicle to suit your needs.
When comparing cars with different fuel economies, it’s important understand that the car with the better fuel economy will use less fuel to cover the same distance which will therefore have a lower impact on your wallet and the environment. This is why cars with good fuel economy are often referred to as ‘green’ vehicles or environmentally friendly models. Not only will you be saving money at the petrol pump each week, you’ll also be reducing your greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Smaller vehicles and hybrid vehicles (most commonly hybrid electric vehicles like the Toyota Prius) have better fuel economy, so consider these options when purchasing a vehicle. You can check the fuel economy of most post-2004 vehicles in Australia at the Green Vehicle Guide.
Apart from choosing a car with good fuel economy from the outset, there are few things you can do to reduce your car’s fuel consumption, increase fuel economy and reduce environmental impact.
The obvious way to reduce your fuel consumption is to use your car less. You could walk, ride or take public transport to work a few times a week. Arrange a car pool. Negotiate teleworking (if your job allows it). Combine errands so that you’re only running your car once; vehicles run more efficiently after the engine has warmed up, which usually takes a few minutes, depending on the weather conditions. Do not sit your car in your driveway in idle to ‘let it warm up’, this actually wastes fuel and pumps more pollution into the atmosphere. Focus on changing your driving habits. There are small things you can do to, in some instances, drastically reduce your fuel consumption:
There are few ways you can save money at the petrol pump each week. First, choose the right fuel, even if it’s a little bit more expensive at the outset. As mentioned above, your vehicle is designed to operate on a minimum standard of fuel, as indicated in your manufacturer’s instructions; use the standard indicated. This also means that, unless your manufacturer specifically indicates premium, you don’t need to use it. Premium petrol is often significantly more expensive and is a waste of money if not actually required by your vehicle. Most cars operate efficiently on ‘mid-range’ fuel (95 octane).
Fill up during the cooler parts of the day. Gasoline expands with heat, so get your money’s worth and fill up early in the morning or later in the evening when the weather’s not as hot. It might only make a small difference each fill up but the savings will add up over time.
Shop around. Not every service station is created equal and their prices vary. Make sure you compare fuel prices in your local and surrounding areas to get the best deal available.
We can’t stop the price of fuel climbing but we can decrease the impact the price rises have on our wallets. Careful car choice, moderate driving, regular maintenance and proper fuel type will all set you on the right track to live a more ‘fuel efficient’ lifestyle. Happy driving.