Driving a car and being environmentally friendly aren’t necessarily two actions you might associate with each other.
Nobody really likes being told to ditch the comfort and safety of their vehicle and replace it with a trip on public transport.
With that in mind, The Blue Lamp Trust’s guidance to help motorists save fuel and at the same time reducing carbon emissions without driving fewer miles seems too good to be true.
So there I was, sat behind the wheel of a Mercedes B Class, wondering how this was going to work.
As soon as I met instructor Dave Watkins, he was convinced he could help cut my fuel bills and make my driving more efficient.
‘It is effectively a smarter way of driving to save on both fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions as well as improving safety,’ he told me.
‘By following these steps, it can reduce your fuel consumption by £300 to £350 per annum, per person. We say it typically reduces consumption by five to 15 per cent, but it can be up to 25 per cent. It is achievable, and I think that it is quite a simple thing to do.’
And so off we set. Me, behind the wheel of a rather impressive vehicle; Dave, with his seat belt tightly fastened.
Negotiating my way around the three-mile circuit in a much larger car than I’ve ever driven before, I wasn’t feeling too bad when I pulled up at the finishing point, car still intact.
Dave wasn’t giving much away as he started the number crunching, recording the fuel consumption, average speed, time the drive took and eco-friendliness from the car’s on-board computer.
And after a few pointers and a reset of the computer, I was off again, driving exactly the same route, but this time with instruction.
Dave told me which gear to use and how fast I should be travelling. Entering the A27 at Farlington, he told me passing up through the gears quickly as I got up to speed would help reduce my fuel consumption. He also said sticking to 60mph would help me save on fuel. I was really starting to wonder if this course was for me.
But the sums really changed my mind. After comparing how many miles per gallon I used on my first circuit to my second, as well as the speed I did the drive in, I have taken Dave’s advice on board.
Comparing the numbers, and considering how much I spend on fuel every year, Dave estimates I could save £600 a year by following his golden rules.
‘The important thing is to check your vehicle more regularly,’ Dave says.
‘I think when people own a modern vehicle, they think because it is new, they make the assumption that things look after themselves and cars will tell them when their pressures are low. But technology is not totally reliable, and low tyre pressures lead to cars using more fuel.’
But apart from that, how else can I manage to save £600 a year, I asked. Surely it isn’t that simple?
‘Switch off the engine when you can,’ he says. ‘If you have it operating at a warmed-up temperature, it won’t damage your car to turn the engine off if you are stuck in traffic. If you are at a junction where you know you will be stopping for a while then switch it off.
‘Portsmouth is a small city. There will be lots of short trips but there are good bus services and you could even think about cycling.’
That part doesn’t sound so fun, I thought.
In the days following my drive with Dave, I try and put some of his tips into practice.
I tried a bit harder to anticipate a change in red traffic lights so I don’t come to a standstill, keeping my revs low and even leaving home a little earlier to give me more time to get to work in the morning.
So far my bank balance sadly looks the same. But I am hopeful that over a year, there might be a few more pounds in my pocket and I’ll have done something positive to reduce my contribution to polluting the planet.
ABOUT THE BLUE LAMP TRUST
· To take part in one of the Blue Lamp Trust’s free classroom courses or to have a go on the road course yourself, you must live in the PO1 - PO6 postcode area and have a full driver’s licence.
To book a place or to find out more, call 0300 777 0157, which is open from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.
· How the Blue Lamp Trust works:
The trust was set up by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary to promote safety in the community. In particular, it helps the over 60s and vulnerable people to secure their homes. Last year, 2,500 homes were secured by the trust. All profit from its driver training programmes is invested into running the Bobby Scheme.
DAVE’S GOLDEN RULES OF ECO DRIVING
· Anticipate traffic flow and try not to brake - think ahead
· Maintain a steady speed at low revs per minute (rpm)
· Shift up gears early at low revs - no more than 2,000rpm
· Skip gears, for instance fourth to second
· Keep wheels rolling
· Check tyre pressures regularly
· Use air conditioning sparingly
· Avoid short trips
First attempt: Three-mile drive
· Fuel consumption: 49.5mpg
· Time it took: 14 minutes
· Average speed: 16mph
· 14 per cent eco-friendly
Second attempt: Three-mile drive
· Fuel consumption: 65.6mpg
· Time it took: 12 minutes
· Average speed: 17mph
· 62 per cent eco-friendly