Joe in our office bought a little city runabout a year ago with the sole purpose of saving a bit of money on his daily 80km round-trip commute between the office and home. In July 2017 it cost him R411,52 per week to fill up. This month, doing the same is costing him R512,64, a difference of R101,12 per week or R404,48 per month. Accumulated over a year (ignoring future fuel increases), Joe needs to find an extra R4,853.76 just to come to work.
It’s enough to make you choke in your beer. At the time of writing this, the fuel price in South Africa stood at an all-time high of R16,02 per litre (95 octane) with absolutely no indication that it will ever come down again significantly.
Every time there is a fuel price hike, printed and internet publications are full of “How to save fuel” articles. It seems, however, that South Africans rarely pay much attention to it. We bitch like outannies at a crochet club about the government for a few weeks and then just carry on.
Here are 3 easy fuel (and thus big money) saving tips:
The simplest, most logical way of looking at this (yet, we’re so used to our own cars that we struggle to get our heads around it). Try this:
- Avoid unnecessary trips. Do the bread and milk run as part of another unavoidable trip. Plan ahead when needing to go somewhere. Don’t do a 10km detour to visit 3 different supermarkets to save R5.00 on a bag of Omo. It makes no sense.
- Car-pool. Let me type this again slower: C A R – P O O L ! It’s not that difficult. Most commuters can actually do this with a little planning. Our highways and suburban byways are congested to the brink with cars with only one occupant. Let’s use Joe again as an example. If Joe and colleague Sarah (who lives only 4km from Joe) take turns to travel to the office together and split the cost, Joe’s annual fuel bill will halve from R26,657.28 to R13,328.64! Compared to his 2017 expense, this represents an annual saving of R8,070.40 as opposed to the R4,853.76 it would cost him extra if continuing to travel alone. Do the same with daily school runs and other trips like the kids’ extramural activities. This calculation also excludes other travelling costs like toll fees and wear and tear, so the saving is significantly higher in real terms. Lastly, theoretically 2-up car-pooling can HALVE the number of cars on the road during peak times. Imagine that. Need any more motivation?
I know you think your 1400 Polo Vivo is the fastest thing on four wheels in your neighbourhood, but leave the racing limited to your Playstation or Xbox, Mika. Really. Do this:
- Accelerate and brake slowly and smoothly. Few things waste fuel as much as robot racing. Your fuel consumption is directly related to how deep you push in the accelerator and how high your engine revolutions are. Hard braking just bleeds off the energy your engine put in to accelerate to a certain speed and all that fuel has gone to waste. And guess what, in traffic you won’t get anywhere quicker anyway.
- Don’t speed. The average car is at its most fuel-efficient at a constant 60-80 km/h. Higher speeds require more energy (i.e. more fuel) to maintain and at lower speeds most cars will be out of their optimum torque range. Do I need to mention that speeding is dangerous too?
- Take note of drag. I’m not talking about cross-dressing. If that’s your thing, I won’t judge. I’m talking about aerodynamics and air resistance. Your car’s body was designed by very smart people with thick glasses and white coats to efficiently cut through air. Roof racks and bicycle racks mess up the aerodynamics and your engine needs to work harder (i.e. use more fuel) to push you forward. Remove when not in use. Ditto with driving at speed with windows open. Another reason why elbow-and-forearm-out-the-window-driving is just daft.
- Check your tyre pressure. Under-inflated tyres are not only dangerous, but also significantly increases your car’s rolling resistance (the friction between the tyres and the road), again using more fuel than necessary to move forward.
Do you even know that there are many modern cars that can do 20km on a litre of fuel? Without them being annoyingly slow or impractically small? Compare that to the mileage you’re getting from your current muscle car, double-cab truck or 7-seater SUV (in which you travel alone 90% of the time) and make the calculation on how much money you’ll save in a year.