With the mid-year school holidays around the corner, many South African families are looking forward to spending some time off-road, enjoying the great outdoors. But many are also finding that their fuel budgets are getting tighter and tighter, and a cross-country trip can end up costing a small fortune.
With careful driving and new innovations like hi-tech fuels and cash-back schemes, motorists can end up saving money, says Mbulelo Mthi, BP’s Technical Fuels Manager. He spends his days looking at the nitty-gritty of fuel consumption, and has come up with several easy ways for drivers to make their tanks go even further.
Enrol in a cash-back fuel scheme
One such scheme is VitalityDrive, which offers Discovery Insure clients up to 40% of the fuel purchases they make at BP service stations back in cash.
The programme is also designed to promote improved driving, by offering clients a sophisticated ‘Driver Quotient’ tracking methodology that continually measures how you drive. Careful driving dramatically improves fuel efficiency.
Maintain your vehicle
Problems such as partially blocked filters, poor oil performance and under-performing emissions control systems will prevent your engine from performing as the manufacturer intended, upping fuel consumption.
Ensure the correct tyre pressure
Under-inflated tyres increase the rolling resistance between the vehicle’s tyres and the road. To overcome the extra drag, the engine has to work harder, consuming more fuel.
Use air-con sparingly
The compressor pump used to power the air-conditioning unit uses a lot power from the engine, upping fuel usage.
Reduce excessive idling
If you’re going to be stationary for several minutes or more, switch off your engine completely. Unnecessary idling uses fuel.
Choose the correct fuel
High-quality fuels will allow the vehicle to run more efficiently, enabling improved combustion quality, which reduces fuel consumption and lowers emissions. Independent tests show that the fuel economy benefits of BP Ultimate Unleaded can be 25 km more per tank, and of BP Ultimate diesel up to an extra 36 km per tank. Besides BP, no other petroleum company has been able to back up its economy claim with a specific number of kilometres. The BP Ultimate range of fuels has been specifically formulated to deliver a unique combination of enhanced engine performance, while providing greater fuel economy with reduced exhaust emissions through its powerful engine-cleaning action. For the typical motorist doing an average of 24 000 km per year, using BP Ultimate Unleaded could mean up to 960 km extra, which equates to a return trip to the Kruger National Park from Joburg, or to Durban, with mileage to spare to explore the coast. Owners of diesel vehicles who fill up with BP Ultimate Diesel could drive an average of 720 km more a year, which is roughly a return trip from Cape Town to George to experience the Garden Route or from Joburg to Kimberley and back again.
Remove roof box rails
External fixings like roof boxes, rails and bike racks should be removed when not in use to cut down on aerodynamic drag. The higher drag, the harder the engine has to work.
Avoid accelerating hard.
For petrol engines, experts recommend changing gear at 2 500rpm, while diesel drivers should change at 2 000rpm. Steady rather than dramatic acceleration will save fuel.
Avoid short journeys
The catalytic converter in the exhaust system of modern engines is much less efficient when it is cold. Try and plan your journey to include as many errands as possible, rather than making multiple different trips with a cold engine every time.
Reduce stop-start driving
On the journey out and home, try to avoid high-traffic situations where you are constantly braking and accelerating. The engine loses energy and heat every time you apply the brakes, which speeds up fuel use. Try to observe and predict the traffic patterns ahead of you, and accelerate and brake as gently as possible.
Keep engine speeds higher when ascending When climbing a steep gradient, do not labour the engine at low engine speeds. It is better to use a lower gear and keep the engine speed higher.
Remove unnecessary weight
Take only what you need on a long trip and unload your 4x4 the minute you get home. Extra weight makes the engine work harder.
Keep your windows and sunroof closed as much as possible
Once again, this will reduce drag. The higher the air drag over the surface of the vehicle, the more fuel is consumed.