Reducing fuel consumption through eco-driving
Video car racing games conventionally run on a high-octane need for speed but a new PC simulator has a different goal – teaching users how to drive in a more environmentally benign way that saves on increasingly costly fuel. The simulator is one of the tools of the pan-European ECODRIVEN campaign.
The convenience of the personal mobility that cars offer has to be weighed against their environmental impact.
While increasingly tight regulation has made individual cars progressively cleaner, the 216 million cars on Europe's roads today are collectively a major source of the air pollution that kills some 370,000 people a year.
Cars are also responsible for 12% of Europe's emissions of greenhouse gases. Though the EU's overall greenhouse gas emissions are falling, emissions from domestic transport in the 15 older EU Member States have increased 26% since 1990 - and more than 90% of these emissions are due to road transport.
This challenge is being addressed in several different ways.
For example, an EU strategy in place since 1995 aims to reduce average CO2 emissions from new cars to 120 grams/km by 2012, around 25% below current levels. Improving public transport has been another priority in order to encourage people to leave their cars at home. Numerous initiatives and campaigns exist that encourage people to cycle and walk, such as the annual European Mobility Week, as well as to telework.
Drive to reduce emissions
And when using the car is a must, there are ways to drive that have less of an impact on the planet. With partners in nine EU Member States, the pan-European ECODRIVEN campaign was launched in September 2007 to raise awareness of such environment-friendly driving practices, which are known as ‘eco-driving’.
The campaign’s organisers estimate eco-driving can reduce fuel consumption – and consequently greenhouse gas emissions – by as much as 10%. The Netherlands has made eco-driving an obligatory part of the driving test since the start of this year.
“Eco-driving is actually technology driven,” explains Peter Wilbers, the coordinator of ECODRIVEN. “Modern cars, from about 1990 on, can be driven much more efficiently by applying the eco-driving approach.”
Eco-driving is based on five golden rules:
- Change gears between 2 000 and 2 500 rpm and stay in as high a gear as possible.
- Drive at a steady speed. This reduces fuel consumption since unnecessary acceleration uses a lot of fuel. Driving fast also uses much more energy: going at 120 kph increases fuel consumption for each kilometre driven by 30% compared with driving at 80 kph.
- Anticipating traffic flow helps to avoid braking and accelerating excessively, and enables you to maintain a more steady speed.
- Check tyre pressure frequently. If your tyres are under-inflated by 25%, resistance increases by 10% and fuel consumption by 2%.
- Decelerate gradually by releasing the accelerator and staying in the same gear. This engages the engine's fuel cut-off mechanism, with the result that the car consumes practically no energy.
Safe and sound
Eco-driving also improves road safety. "Anecdotal evidence from companies practising eco-driving suggests that it can reduce accident rates by up to 40%,” Wilbers says.
ECODRIVEN is targeted both at drivers and driving schools. As well as simulators the campaign deploys on-road courses to teach people how to drive more ecologically.
The campaign, which is supported by the European Commission’s ‘Intelligent Energy Europe’ programme and car makers, aims to educate at least 2.5 million drivers directly by the end of 2008. This should lead to a 500,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010.