Eco-driving remains a marginal concept but could become a real necessity in the coming years. European community, public authorities, major companies, manufacturers, car makers and territorial authorities have been won over to "responsible driving".
The European climate change programme estimated in 2001 that adopting eco-driving in all 15 EU member states could reduce total emissions from road traffic by 50 million tones of CO2 per year. For its part, France fixed itself the target of reducing its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions linked to transport by 20% by 2020. Some countries such as Germany, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands have even included it in their driving tests. Finally, companies in France like la Poste, SNCF, EDF or Thales have already trained a significant number of employees in eco-driving. This is a measure of the enthusiasm for this new behaviour.
Relearning to drive
Before the political will however, eco-driving is a real change in habits, a way of relearning to drive. Not just anyone can be an eco-driver. Although the basic concepts can be learned quickly, there are driving techniques that need to be taught.
To such an extent that several organisations are now offering eco-driving training courses throughout Europe. This is the case for Darniche Interactive who offer e-learning modules on how to drive in a more economical and ecological way. "Our method helps students to find the right behaviour to adopt", explains Arnaud Delaruelle, President of Darniche Interactive. "It is also a way of giving drivers back driving pleasure through behaviour that is more respectful of others and of the environment". This 30-minute 3D video module presents 4 cases: vehicle control, choosing the route, city driving and driving on roads and motorways, all including video tips from Bernard Darniche. This is the type of product that is appealing more and more to companies looking for savings on their fleets of vehicles, given the cost (€36 per half-hour – with discounts for quantity) and implementation (no need for employees to travel).
Companies are indeed the core target of the Observatory of the Company Car who, since 2002, have been analyzing trends in the company car market and noting changes in the habits and behavior of their users. "In terms of eco-driving, there is a growing awareness among drivers who are increasingly thinking about how they move around", comments Monique Buntic, in charge of R&D at the Observatory. "The revolution of eco-driving is underway and it concerns a large number of major French companies who have integrated it into the management of their fleet", she continues. The calculation is easy when you know that an eco-driver can save up to 20% in fuel consumption.
In other words, eco-driving is an easy and cheap way of saving up to 10% in CO2 emissions from driving. And that is not its only advantage: it reduces the costs of maintaining a vehicle, as there is less stress on vital components. It leads to a drop in the risk of accidents given the reduction in speed and greater respect of the rules of the road. It also lowers noise pollution by limiting engine speed. Finally, anticipation of road situations and practice of flexible driving reduces stress and improves driver comfort.
Eco-drivers will recognize themselves in these few gestures:
- Start your engine gently without pressing the accelerator pedal.
- Optimize gear changes. Driving in the right gear relieves the engine and allows fuel savings.
- Opt for more flexible driving by maintaining a regular speed and braking with the engine rather than the brake pedal. Avoid significant variations in speed.
- Control accelerations. Above 50kph, accelerations should be moderate.
- Manage driving up and down hills. Maintain speed downhill and slow down uphill without hindering traffic.
- Use the engine wisely, shutting it off if you are stopped for more than 30 seconds.
- Do not overuse the air conditioning which may increase fuel consumption by up to 10%.
As well as these tips for driving your vehicle, there are also some tips for maintaining it, which are just as important:
- Every month, check your tyre pressure. Under-inflation can be dangerous and raise fuel consumption. Ideally, tyre pressure should be checked cold.
- Regularly change the air filter. A worn filter reduces the flow of air arriving in the engine's combustion chamber and increases fuel consumption.
- Change the oil: a clean engine is more flexible and efficient. Synthetic oils
- are preferable to mineral oils. They last longer and offer better engine protection.
- Do not overload your car, 100kg means 5% more fuel consumption.
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