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Last year I wrote about the steps my daughter had to take in order to get a driver’s license in Geneva (Learning to Drive in Switzerland). Now she has her provisional license. During this three year period she was required to take the class how to drive ecologically. The techniques worked. Using the same automatic transmission BMW, each kid improved between 0.5 and 1 liter per 100 kms just by anticipation and relatively slow acceleration. At home we tried the gear shifting techniques she learned and improved our consumption by 2 liters per 100 km. Assuming 15,000 km/year, we will use 300 liters less fuel thus saving nearly CHF 500.

So what are these techniques and factors that change your car’s consumption? Based on EcoDrive’s website and brochure, these are the practical ways you can reduce your fuel consumption. I will warn you now that some of these recommendations are counter to how you may have learned to drive.

When to change gears.

The biggest reduction of fuel can come from when you shift gears. As soon as your engine hits 2,000 RPMs (gasoline), or 1,500 RPMs (diesel), you shift. This means that you would already be in 5th or 6th gear at 50 km/h rather than the 3rd gear many of us learned. If you drive like my husband in his zippy mini, you can reduce your fuel consumption by 45%. Based on the graph below, the point is to get out of 1st and 2nd gear as quickly as possible.

City Driving.

If your car doesn’t have the Stop and Start technology, it is worth the effort to turn off your car if you will be stopping over 5-10 seconds.

Keep a nice distance from the car in front of you and try to anticipate traffic changes, lights and roundabouts. Unless you have a hybrid, you lose energy when you break. Try gliding in (with your high gear still engaged) and then gently accelerate when needed. A side benefit of this type of driving is that your passengers will appreciate the smooth ride.

If you’ve got speed control, use it even in the city. A constant speed always saves fuel.

Mountain Driving.

This goes back to what gear to use. According to EcoDrive, you should be in the highest possible gear with your foot peddle nearly touching the floor of the car while going up a mountain.

En montée, on économise près de 30 % de carburant en roulant presque pleins gaz en 5ᵉ plutôt qu’avec 3/4 de gaz en 3ᵉ.

And when descending, glide down in the highest gear with a few corrections using your breaks.

Changes to your Car.

Remove unneeded accessories from your roof. When driving 120 km/h, the resistance caused by racks on your roof increases your consumption by the following percentages:

Les barres de toit entraînent une surconsommation importante à cause de la résistance à l’air.

Avoid unneeded weight in your car. You use 1% more gas for every additional 20 kg.

Keep your tires at the correct pressure. Tires lose pressure. By maintaining a correct 2.4 bar pressure, you not only save on fuel but you extend the life of your tires. I can attest to the life-cycle of one winter tire that I ruined by not checking its pressure.

La consommation de carburant varie selon le niveau de gonflage, le type de pneus et la vitesse. En règle générale, un manque de pression de 0,2 bar provoque déjà un accroissement de la consommation de 1 %. Exemple de lecture: à 1,8 bar, la consommation de

When to use heating and cooling.

Carefully use your air conditioning. This is tricky because many cars need air conditioning to defrost our damp winter cars. The advice is “turn off your air conditioning if the temperature is below 18 C. If using airco, try to keep the temperature above 23 C.” This saves you on average 5% (gasoline) or 2.5% (diesel).

La climatisation refroidit l’air extérieur jusqu’à 3 °C. Cela nécessite 5 % de carburant. Ce n’est qu’ensuite que l’air est ramené à la température souhaitée.

All the other heating elements, such as seat and mirror warmers can use up to 7% more fuel. Think before you use them.

If you’re a fan of games, EcoDriver has a seemingly popular app in which you can practice these new skills from the comfort of your couch at Apple, Microsoft and Google Play.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/