Tax, tax, tax… and how to save money on motoring

But what’s the answer??

Lately, it seems we’ve had the most indeterminate budget in years, and after the Transport Secretary confirmed August would see the planned 3p/litre rise in fuel duty go ahead, George/Gideon/Whatever he’s really called – Osborne, decided to do yet another U-turn and drop the increase.

OK, fair enough, but when over 60% of the price of fuel is tax, I should think so.

Part of the problem is that although the price of fuel continually goes up, (with the occasional, but extremely rare drop from time to time), car manufacturers are making their vehicles more and more efficient, so in a bid to reclaim the same amount of tax back, the duty continually goes up. But then everyone goes out and buys a more efficient car because fuel’s so bleedin’ expensive…

I mean, even I’m at it. We got rid of the thirsty V6 and bought a diesel. I now get double the mpg. Or even more, when I use cooking oil, (see my previous posts). I’ve also fitted michelin energy savers all round, and that’s made a couple of mpg difference too. All in all, with the extra mileage I’m getting, I’m probably paying less tax these days…

It’s funny really, because back in the 80’s 55+mpg seemed like cloud cuckoo land.

It would help if we didn’t need to do all this travelling, but local and national governments have spent so long  centralising everything that this is where we’ve ended up.

I live in a little village in the Peak District and a significant portion of the village’s residents commute to London for highly paid jobs. That’s a round trip, daily commute of 400 miles. Manchester is much nearer, but first thing in the morning it still takes 2 hours to get there. My day job is exactly the same distance away from my house in the other direction, and it takes me only 20 minutes – by bus.

The thing is, I still have to travel a significant distance to my work. There really isn’t much, apart from agriculture, within a 10 mile radius of my house, although there are many villages and a couple of towns, so there is a sizeable workforce round and about here, just nothing local for them to do.

As for an answer, I don’t really have a straight forward one, and I’m not going to get into politics here. Instead, I’ll share the tips I’ve come across that have helped me save money over the years.

First off, an email from Martin Lewis dropped into my inbox (while writing this funnily enough), that was packed with tips – 40 tricks to save on motoring

He does miss a trick or 2 though. For example, fuel saving tyres like I mentioned earlier, and in a my previous post. Why michelin energy savers? They’re pretty pricey aren’t they? Are they really worth the money?

Yes, I’ve tried a couple of brands of energy saving tyres now, and I’ll talk more about how to get good tyres for less in another post soon, (promise).

Your driving style, and your car’s fuel management.

Now, I’m sure you’ve read a bit on the internet, or heard it on the News or Breakfast or somewhere – tips for saving fuel, but all of them talk about your driving style, and completely miss the other rather important part of the equation. Your engine.

Through ownership of several cars jointly, it’s been interesting to note how my fuel consumption, (when I’m behaving myself) compares with my Wife’s. She potters about, driving in what anyone would call a good, economic style, and with the majority of the cars we’ve had, has usually achieved better mpg than me, except for the V6 strangely, so why should this be?

Your average modern car, i.e. with fuel injection, has a mathematical map in it’s electronic brain that after reading a variety of sensors, determines how much fuel to use, so here’s a handy quick tip – many modern cars know when you take your foot off the gas and get this, if the engine is doing more than 1,000 rpm, will completely cut the fueling to the engine.

This means when you are coasting down a hill, if it’s steep enough, don’t put your car in neutral, leave it in top gear. The engine will still turn, because it’s connected to the wheels, but no fuel at all will be used, until either you re-apply the accelerator or the revs drop too low.

If you have a fuel economy read out, you can check if your car does this. Simply zero your economy meter at the top of a long hill and wait for the read out. You may end up using less than if you coasted down in neutral. I got 999mpg on the V6 doing this!!

Another tip is use the engines torque curve. Many “experts” say, use the highest gear possible without labouring the engine. Well with modern fuel injection technology, engines can generate as much as 80% of their maximum torque (pulling power), at just 2000 rpm. The capacity and kind of engine is important here too.

For example:  Engines with 6 cylinders or more, are inherently better balanced and therefore smoother than 4 cylinders, plus bigger capacity engines, of course will have much more torque than smaller ones. This meant that I could drive our V6 round town in top gear, occasionally dropping to speeds as low as 23 mph whilst still not having to change down a gear to speed up again, all without labouring the engine. Try that in your 1.0 litre hatchback and it’s not going to happen.

For smaller engines, you are better remembering what I said about torque at 2,000 rpm. Although torque is related to pulling power, it is also related to fuel economy as well.

For example: Let’s say a car is travelling up a steep hill, and the driver has his foot ALL the way down. If the car is doing 2,000 rpm, we’re getting about 80% of max. torque. If the driver changes down a gear or 2 so the engine is doing 4,000 rpm then the engine is turning twice as fast, and therefore able to burn up to twice as much fuel. (This is why cars accelerate faster in lower gears).

However, 4,000 rpm is roughly where a lot of cars generate their maximum (100%) torque. So at 4,000 rpm you might actually be using twice as much, PLUS 20% more fuel- i.e a heck of a LOT more fuel, if you put your foot down.

So with that mind, if you are using a small engined car, changing up when you hit 2,000 rpm can make you significant fuel savings, (except if the hill’s too steep of course).

Then there’s acceleration.

When you accelerate hard, (or even moderately from low revs), the engine’s brain dumps a load of fuel into the intake to prevent the engine bogging down and to make the engine work more smoothly. When you need to speed up, sometimes it’s more fuel efficient to change down a gear and feather the throttle, rather than continuing to use top gear.

So you can see, knowing how your engine’s brain is “set up”, also significantly contributes to fuel saving. Through a little experimentation, you can learn how yours works, and modify your driving style around it and get more mileage for your money.

This entry was published on June 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm. It’s filed under Fuel Efficiency, Tyres and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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