Increasing number of drivers are ‘greening up’

Mike O'Neill explains the principles of greener driving to Ilona Amos. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Mike O'Neill explains the principles of greener driving to Ilona Amos. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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An increasing number of motorists are “greening up” their travel in an attempt to save the planet – and money.

Recent figures show electric cars, hybrids and other AFVs (alternatively fuelled vehicles) are gaining market share from petrol and diesel models as drivers join the battle to cut climate-warming emissions from fossil fuels.

AA research also shows more than half of drivers worry about the impact on their wallets, with most putting lower running costs top of the list when replacing their vehicle.

“More than 50 per cent of people say they are very concerned about the financial cost of motoring,” said Paul Watter, AA head of roads policy.

“Even though petrol prices have been coming down, anything over £1.20 per litre is considered expensive. Drivers tell us they want their next car to be more economical.”

Mike O’Neill, a driving instructor who specialises in green driving techniques, said: “It’s high on people’s agendas these days. With fuel prices being where they are and the environmental impact of driving itself, more people are actively thinking about greener techniques. The idea of eco-driving is really taking off.”

The latest UK figures show transport is responsible for 27 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Road users make up two thirds of that, with cars and taxis the main culprits.

Most new vehicles come with green innovations as standard, but experts say drivers can take a few simple steps to cut emissions and fuel costs by an average of £300-£400 .

They include fitting tyres with low rolling resistance, removing unnecessary weight and switching off the engine when stopping. Adopting fuel-saving driving techniques could slash the bill by a further 40 per cent, O’Neill claimed.

He said: “The most common faults which cause the most fuel to be used include a lack of anticipation or planning ahead. If you see a traffic light turn red, don’t keep accelerating – ease off, not using any fuel as you near. And plan your approach to junctions in an effort to keep the car moving.

“Staying in low gears too long also wastes energy, so drivers should shift up as swiftly as possible – skipping gears when appropriate.”

The importance of tyres should not be overlooked. New government regulations mean tyres now come with an efficiency rating similar to that found on washing machines and dishwashers.

Inflation pressure is also crucial, as soft tyres apart from being unsafe will increase fuel usage.

Mark Griffiths, of Continental Tyres, said: “We may not be able to influence fuel prices but simple changes to our driving habits can save around £300 a year.

“Until viable alternatives to fossil fuels are commonplace, a few simple checks on your tyres will save you money and are also essential for your safety on the road.

“Tyres are a car’s only contact with the road and therefore deserve a bit of extra attention.”

But the AA warned drivers to be sensible. Watters said going too slowly or coasting had real risks, holding up other drivers or giving a driver less control of their vehicle. He added: “It’s not good to constantly watch the fuel gauge either. If you focus on something that’s not through the windscreen, you’re going to crash.”