Top it up or just half full?

Top it up or just half full?

We often see or 4×4 or SUV as an “enabler” it allows us to get out and do things. It allows us to take pictures, canoe or kayak or even do mountain bike routes. It gets us outdoors and fulfils our adventure lifestyle. Yet we have a problem.

The fuel price has risen exponentially, we battle to understand the reasons as fuel which we supply is often cheaper in the neighbouring countries. But let’s take a step back and understand that things may continue to get worse until they improve. So what can we do? A good friend told me how he coasts downhill with the engine switched off to save fuel. A bad move, this affects your power steering and brake assist. Another friend advised that he over-inflates his tyres, yes it reduces the contact footprint of the tyre and rolling resistance but also increases the braking distance, not a good idea.

One’s natural reaction might be to sell the “Bakkie or SUV” but that could cost you more than the increased fuel price in the long term.

Global and local factors affect oil prices and they are here to stay albeit for a while. Vehicle production has been hindered by a shortage of semiconductors ( chips) which in itself affects new and used vehicle pricing.

Our reliance on coal-fired power does not bode well for electric vehicles but hybrids may be a good solution.

Yet there are a few ideas that you can adopt that will lessen the sting, use less fuel and drive less if possible.

Firstly one thinks of public transport, not going to work unless you are on a  Gautrain route if you live in Johannesburg. But for short trips, you could walk or even cycle, just fix the flat tyres on the bicycle.

Then you need to plan, one trip to the shops, grocer and butcher is better than three. Perhaps use a whiteboard to detail what needs to be done, it will save a trip or two every week.

Every car trip that you can cut out counts, even bulk up on grocery shopping and go out less. It helps. Reducing the numbers saves fuel.

Look to your routes, Google Maps offers eco-friendly route sourcing and may save a few rand or litres. It may not get you from A to B in the blink of an eye but it will save you a few rands as well as detail potential savings.

This is not easy in highway traffic but use your cruise control when you can it negates the erratic use of the right foot. Engines are more efficient when cruising in the highest gear with minimal effort. Don’t exceed the speed limit, that burns fuel.

Wheelspin and fast takeoff seem like fun but resist the ‘boy-racer” style of driving, it costs in the long term. Racing at excessive speed on the highway also empties your tank rapidly, as well as your bank balance.

Don’t be idle, turn the car off if a partner or friend runs into a supermarket or cafe, idling just uses fuel in a wasteful fashion.

You don’t want to hear this, especially in Africa, but a balance between running an air-conditioner and opening windows is critical. At higher speeds, open windows cause drag which is not fuel-efficient, at lower speeds it’s less of a problem. The air-conditioner does increase fuel usage. However less so than the drag co-efficient increase when you alter the aerodynamics of your vehicle by opening windows.

Then put stuff away after a trip, and remove roof-top tents extra kit and roof -racks. They hinder drag and fuel economy.

In addition, they add weight, I even pack a simple tool kit for urban use and keep the big over-landing kit for long trips. Any weight that is not useful for daily trips is removed to save on fuel. Miscellaneous items that stay in the car add weight and cost you more fuel.

Planning is also important, if you can avoid peak hour travel you will save fuel, lighter traffic means less time stopping, starting and idling. It will also allow you to use the eco-friendly Google option.

Lastly on advice from my father drive as if you have an egg between your right foot and the accelerator, you do not want to break the egg! With that mindset, you will save litres and money.

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