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How to save fuel on every trip you take

Here are five techniques you can adopt to drive more fuel-efficiently

Published: June 4, 2013, 4:00 PM
Updated: March 23, 2015, 5:24 PM

Traffic Congestion

Want to save fuel without having to change your vehicle? Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has outlined five driving tips to follow that, when combined, can help you save 25% or more in fuel costs.

They are:

1. Accelerate gently

- In city driving, as much as half the fuel you consume is used for accelerating.

- Squeeze the accelerator pedal as if you have an egg between it and your foot, rather than stomping on it aggressively, and you can avoid a significant amount of that consumption.

- NRCan says taking about five seconds to accelerate from 0-to-20 km/h is a fuel-efficient way to drive.

2. Maintain a steady speed

- Constantly accelerating and decelerating can use up to half as much more fuel than maintaining a constant speed.

- Try to keep your speed as steady as you can, including the use of cruise control at highway speeds and it will pay dividends in fuel economy.

- The exception to maintaining a constant speed would be on hilly roads where it may be more efficient to slow down a little going uphill and let the vehicle's momentum regain speed going downhill, if traffic permits.

3. Anticipate traffic

- Maintaining your vehicle's momentum saves energy and thus fuel, so anticipating traffic slowdowns or stops ahead, slowing down early without hard braking and minimizing the number of full stops saves fuel.

- If you don't have to come to a full stop, you don't have to accelerate as much to regain speed.

- Maintaining a good distance behind the vehicle ahead gives you room to adjust your speed more smoothly.

- Paying attention to traffic lights far ahead can help you adjust your speed to minimize the number of red lights and full stops you encounter.

4. Coast to decelerate

- In most recent-model light cars and trucks, fuel flow shuts off completely when you take your foot fully off the accelerator pedal.

- For that reason, lifting your foot early and letting the vehicle coast when you know you have to slow down or stop ahead can provide significant fuel savings.

- Maintaining speed further and braking harder continues using fuel longer, with little if any significant saving in time.

5. Avoid high speeds

- Every vehicle has a "sweet spot" where it runs most efficiently, typically in the range of 50-to-80 km/h.

- The faster you go above 80 km/h, the more fuel you use – typically at 120 km/h you'll use 20% more fuel than at 100 km/h.

- In an average vehicle with a fuel consumption rate of 10 L/100km, that 20% increase will cost an additional $2.50 for every 100 km, with fuel costing $1.25 per litre.

- Going slower also reduces wear and tear on your tires and your vehicle.

The journalist drivers taking part in the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's (AJAC's) second annual Eco-Run, which goes from Ottawa to Montreal beginning June 4, will be applying all these driving techniques to minimize their fuel/energy consumption.

By adopting them, you can save yourself significant money in fuel costs, whether your fuel is gasoline, diesel or electricity. And you'll do the planet some good besides.