Buying the most efficient vehicle for your lifestyle can make all the difference to your fuel bill. Fuel consumption can differ hugely - even between similar sized vehicles - so it’s wise to compare models and features.
Buy a vehicle that’s fit for purpose. Buying a car that’s bigger than you need may cost you more to run. For even greater fuel efficiency, consider whether one of the many electric or hybrid vehicle options is right for you.
An electric vehicle, or EV, has a different engine to a petrol or diesel fuelled car – it is an electrical motor that is fuelled by a battery which is charged by plugging it into an electric power point (a bit like charging your cellphone battery). The engine (motor) of an EV is very quiet and extremely responsive. Driving an EV produces 80% fewer CO2 emissions than a petrol car – making an EV much better for the environment.
BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEVS) are a purely electric vehicle, fuelled only by the battery which is charged by plugging into an electric power point, for example the Nissan Leaf, and Tesla S.
PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES (PHEVS) are considered an electric vehicle as the batteries in a PHEV can be charged from external electricity supplies (as well as by their onboard internal combustion engine), for example Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Audi e-tron.
Hybrid vehicles (hybrids) have been available for many years and are widely used. They use a combination of a petrol or diesel engine, a battery or an onboard electric motor. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid are examples of these kinds of hybrids.
- When pulling away from a stop - hybrid vehicles are powered by their electric motor, drawing on the battery for power.
- During normal cruising - only the petrol or diesel engine is used (this is when it is most efficient). At the same time, it powers the generator - producing electricity and storing it in the batteries for later use.
- During heavy acceleration - both the petrol or diesel engine and the electric motor work together to increase power to the wheels. This reduces fuel consumption considerably.
Hybrids don’t plug into an electricity supply to recharge, their only source of energy is the fuel used by the engine. The battery is charged by the combustion engine, and energy is captured when the vehicle brakes (regenerative braking).
If your tyres are under-inflated, their rolling resistance increases. This means they need more energy or fuel to make them turn. Tyres that are under-inflated can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 4%.
- Different vehicles need different levels of tyre pressure. You can find the correct pressure for your vehicle on a plate inside the driver's door, the fuel flap or in your vehicle handbook. You can also use our tyre pressure tool.
- Tyres lose air pressure naturally - about 1 to 2 psi per month (3 to 6%). Check your tyre pressure at least once a month and before long journeys.
- Use the free pressure gauges available at most service stations, or there are a variety of affordable pocket gauges.
- Check the pressure in all four tyres and the spare.
- Improving how you drive and maintain your car can help you save on fuel and running costs. A few simple things can make all the difference.
- DRIVE SMOOTHLY - stay at a steady speed, use the highest gear possible without straining the engine. Speed up, slow down and brake gently and smoothly.
- ADJUST YOUR SPEED EARLY - check ahead, slow down early and keep a safe distance from the car in front.
- SHIFT TO HIGHER GEARS EARLY - change gear at around 2,000 to 2,500 rpm. If you drive an automatic, allow the transmission to change up early by accelerating gently.
- TURN CORNERS SMOOTHLY - don't brake hard for corners or accelerate out of them. Slow down gently, negotiate and exit corners with light acceleration.
- MAKE HILLS WORK FOR YOU - build up speed before a hill and go up in the highest possible gear with almost full pressure on the accelerator. Lift the throttle as you crest the hill and use your vehicle’s momentum to get you over the top.
- AVOID SPEEDING – travelling at 80 km/h instead of 60 km/h can cost you an extra 10% of fuel.
- REDUCE YOUR IDLING TIME - switch off your vehicle if you're going to be stationary for more than 30 seconds and avoid driving at peak traffic times when you can.
- KEEP YOUR LOAD DOWN AND VEHICLE STREAMLINED - take unnecessary items out of the car, remove roof racks/boxes and cycle racks if you’re not using them.
- MINIMISE AIR CONDITIONING AND OPEN WINDOWS - which can add up to 10% to your fuel bill. Use air-conditioning only when you’re on the highway, and open windows when you’re driving at lower speeds.
- PLAN YOUR JOURNEY - you’ll get you to your destination in the quickest, safest and easiest way, which means you’ll waste less time and fuel.
- GET YOUR VEHICLE SERVICED REGULARLY - get oil and air filters changed when they’re due and keep your engine tuned, use the right tyres for the conditions, and have your wheels properly aligned.
- CHECK YOUR TYRE PRESSURE MONTHLY - low tyre pressure can make your vehicle work harder to overcome road resistance, and impact on handling and braking. It can also speed up wear and tear on your tyres.
- USE FUEL EFFICIENT TYRES - if they’re available for your car.