Drive Smarter to get a Smarter Car

So you want an EV but you’re put off by the stupidly expensive price tag. You’re caught in a lease or finance plan with your current car and don’t have the money to get out. But you really want that new plug in. Or perhaps you’re one of the tens of thousands who have signed up for the Volt, the iMiev or maybe even one of those Smart EDs. Point is, although those vehicles aren’t available to the general public yet it’s a good time to save some cash up so you can afford to buy that greener, cleaner car sooner.

Car made from Money!
Car made from Money!

Photo by Michael Tyas

It’s probably easy for me to say. After all, I have been driving electric vehicles and hybrids now for nearly one-third of my driving life. But stick with me, because some of the techniques I use to maximize my range (and thus minimize the amount of money I spend on travel) come from my days driving classic cars and cycling.

So, even if you don’t have an electric or PHEV, you can use smart driving to help save money now. Not only that, but these techniques are essential following when for when you do have that smarter EV or PHEV. No matter what your fuel type, these will help you greatly. Below is part one of my two part guide to driving smarter to get a smarter car.

Tips and tricks after the jump!

Keep your ride fit.

No, I don’t mean the Honda Fit. I mean keep your car serviced. Regular maintenance is a key to a trouble-free life for your car. Just like an athlete who trains regularly and eats sensibly, a regularly serviced car will reward you with better fuel efficiency and reduced wear. It may look like more money outlay initially, but a regular service helps minimize unexpected repair bills and engine wear and also helps your car to retain a high resale value.

Try to follow the manufacturer’s recommended service interval. Wherever possible, plan your servicing before, rather than after important milestones are reached. Make sure that the garage you’re taking the car to is trustworthy and won’t cut corners. Take a peek online at owners clubs and forums dedicated to your car’s marque. You may find useful tips on finding reasonably priced specialists who can service your pride and joy at a much reduced cost to the main dealer, but still retain a high quality of work.

Where possible, buy the best quality parts you can. Even if it’s more expensive, you may find that higher quality parts last longer and keep your car fitter. Think about the difference between eating out at Taco Bell or the little family-run mexican bistro down the street. Taco Bell will probably be cheaper, but not necessarily as good.

Loose weight.

A bit like our prize athlete your car needs to have as little unwanted flab as possible holding it down. Make sure you’re not carrying around non-essential items. Don’t keep that snow shovel in the trunk in the middle of a summer’s heat wave. It’s unnecessary! Make sure any personal items you keep in your car are there because you always use them. Get into the habit of clearing out your car once a fortnight to clear out those old coffee cups and candy wrappers. Apart from making your car look better it also reduces weight. (Sure, candy wrappers and coffee cups aren’t going to make that much difference, but the larger items you keep in your car probably will. Your car is not a closet, people!

Check those tires. REGULARLY!

Keeping your ride’s tires correctly inflated will not only help them have a long life but it actually reduces the wear on your vehicle and improves fuel efficiency. An under-inflated tire can make your car as much as 0.4% less efficient for every 1psi under inflation , not to mention wear out the tires sooner. Keep an eye out for tell-tail signs that your wheels are out of alignment, such as uneven wear on the tread. And make sure you rotate the tires regularly to keep wear even.

Plan ahead.

Examine the trips you make regularly. It may not feel like it, but traveling from A to B via C and D may save you money, especially if your trip from A to B goes through the centre of a congested zone, or through a city centre.

Stop/Start traffic really kills your fuel efficiency. So does excessive gear changing and hard acceleration. Trips which enable you to keep a consistent but lower speed and travel a few miles further may in fact save you money.

As a rule, the more steadily you can keep moving the better it is for your fuel gauge. Looking for routes which avoid known commuting areas and minimize the stop/start mayhem of a city centre will pay dividends at the pump.

Anticipate the road ahead.

When you are driving, keep all changes in speed as smooth as possible. If you’re in a city centre and moving between lights don’t accelerate needlessly between them. Anticipate turns early and keep your eyes peeled for trends in the traffic ahead. It’s possible to drive through a busy area while barely using your brake pedal. Reading the traffic ahead is a key element to driving smart. If a few cars in front are breaking and slowing down then simply easing off the accelerator can be enough to slow down without braking hard. Not only does it save gas, but it also saves you wear and tear on your brake pads. To achieve this, wherever possible, leave enough space between you and the car in front, so that you can slow down smoothly and gently when the need arises. The drivers behind may thank you too, as leaving enough space in front will ensure you don’t have to risk an emergency stop – something which in many cases leads to a rear-end shunt because the car behind is following too closely.

Keep tuned for more top tips in part two, and see just how many more miles you can squeeze out of your car’s fuel, whatever that may be.