WATCH | How can I make my car more efficient?

Image: iStock
Image: iStock

• Carmakers are working at a furious pace to build cleaner cars as many governments clamp down on the internal combustion engine (ICE). 

• Due to electric vehicle technology being too expensive to produce affordable vehicles, we'll be driving petrol or diesel cars for a long time to come. 

• So if you own a car already, how can you make it more more efficient?


The car, unfortunately, is being used a whipping boy for politicians and lawmakers across the world to blame for the much of the increased levels of pollution. 

Like planes, cars produce greenhouse gases (CO2) from burning fuel.

However, is it really the most harmful form of transportation to the planet? In a BBC report from August 2019, data showed that a domestic flight emitted 133 grams of CO2  per passenger per kilometre traveled.

The amount of emissions increases when secondary effects are added due to the plane traveling at a high altitude. An extra 121g of secondary effects gases are emitted, although these do not contain CO2.

In comparison, one person traveling in a car emits 171g of CO2 per kilometre. So, traveling alone in a car to a destination is more harmful to the environment, and that's why many cities around the world have established car-pooling initiatives to discourage motorists from commuting alone. 

The car's reputation is taking a battering and manufacturers are on a quest to reduce its emissions output considerably. In fact, Europe adopted a more stringent process to test vehicles' claimed fuel consumption and emissions. 

Called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure or WLTP its conditions for testing include: more realistic driving behaviour, higher maximum speed, different driving scenarios: urban, rural, motorway among others. 

Manufacturers are striving to make their new cars as clean and efficient as possible, to not only aid the environment but meet stringent new emissions targets too.

But what if you already own a car, are there ways of making your car more efficient? The answer is yes, and it's a lot simpler than you might think. 

1. Excess weight

Where you should you start? Well, simply remove any unnecessary items from your car. These include boxes, shoes and sports equipment. These items add weight to the car and requires more energy for it to power itself. 

2. Underinflated tyres 

Tyres have been tested to perform best when pumped to the recommended pressure. An underinflated tyre can have an effect on fuel economy and it's best to consult your car's handbook or look in the fuel cap filler for the recommended pressure. 

3. Maintenance 

The simplest way to make sure your car's engine is running smoothly is to have it serviced at the prescribed period communicated by the manufacturer.

If your car doesn't have a service plan, a regular visit to the mechanic once a year for a check-up will make sure the engine is well maintained and that's performing optimally.

An efficient engine results in lower fuel bills and less emissions.

4. Auxiliary systems

It's common knowledge that using the air conditioning requires the engine to work harder and results in more energy being used to power auxiliary systems. This will have an effect on your fuel consumption.

Instead, open the window for fresh cool air at low speeds. At higher speeds, the open window creates more drag and in that situation it's advisable to use the air conditioning. 

5. Driving style 

This is perhaps the best way to make your car more efficient: changing your driving style. Simple changes like shifting gears earlier will put less strain on the engine and require it to use less fuel. Other examples include braking more gently or rather coasting instead of braking hard when coming to a halt. 

Driving efficiently

Personally, I make a concerted effort to drive more efficiently by avoiding hills and inclines on the route to my destination. 

Another easy to way to safe fuel is by reducing my speed when driving in urban areas. By driving slower and coasting to a stop street or traffic lights, I am able to gear down instead of using the brake pedal. 

In many modern cars the onboard computer prompts the driver to when the most opportune time to change gears is, this is another fuel-saving technique that can be adopted. 

For car without the technology, I'd encourage drivers to not over rev the engine before changing gears as this results in higher fuel consumption. 

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