Saving the planet saves you money

Recently there have been a spate of fuel price increases and decreases in Thailand. Invariably the change in price is announced the day before and takes effect at midnight. In cases where the price is to increase, this announcement will trigger a rush to the pumps to get the tank filled before the price goes up.

Have you ever got caught up in this mentality? Often the price change is something like 40 satang (0.40 baht), and at today's prices this would represent around a 1.6% change in the price of gas. So, for example, if a liter of fuel cost 25 baht today and is going to go up to 25.40 baht by tomorrow, your rush to the pumps to top up your tank with 40 liters of fuel will potentially save you 16 baht! But if you factor in that the trip to the pumps and back home, most of that advantage will likely be lost. Even if not, is 16 baht really worth the effort?

Why save fuel?

Okay, most of us have been paying attention to what is going on in the world around us for the last few decades. Wars, the energy crises, more wars, etc. On top of this we have a little environmental concern known popularly as "climate change", or "global warming". Saving fuel, conserving energy and taking responsibility for our own personal impact will play a part in controlling some of these worrying issues.

On a more local level, pollution levels in Bangkok are bad, and reducing pollution benefits us all.

And finally, on a personal finances level, conserving energy saves the individual some money. Okay, so this is not always the case, but in most cases cutting down on energy usage will reduce your out-goings, and by more than the 16 baht you might save by stocking up on the "cheap" fuel the night before a price hike.

Okay, okay... we know all that... what do we do to save fuel

First, if you've got this far in the article you are probably getting to the point where you are thinking you've heard all this before. Maybe you are even anticipating the same old 10 points to reduce your fuel usage that you've already heard many times in many places.

Nope! No "10 steps to better economy here". You see while maintaining your car, checking your tire pressure, avoiding excess weight in the car etc., might all be good moves, and have a positive effect in reducing fuel consumption, there is one change that you can make that has a much higher potential for fuel savings than all these combined. Obviously I'm not suggesting that tire pressure and car maintenance are not needed, far from it, but sometimes we put in so much effort to save fuel only to undo all the hard work with one simple problem.

Before you start

Before you start trying to save fuel I urge you to first determine how much you are using. How will you be able to gauge your improvement if you don't know beforehand what your average usage is.

If your car doesn't tell you your km/l or l/100km then you'll need to calculate it yourself. This is simply a matter of filling your car up, clocking your km used, driving until nearly empty, and then filling the tank again and recording the liters needed to fill the tank. Now simply divide the km by the number of liters to get your km/l figure. You might want to do this several times over the course of a month to get a average which should be an accurate starting point for your experiment.

Saving fuel 1 of 1 : Drive sensibly

Yes, there it is folks, drive sensibly. How much fuel can you save by driving sensibly? How about between 5 and 33%! Don't believe me?

The most fuel is used under acceleration. The harder you accelerate the more fuel you use. Also, by being observant and planning ahead, you can sometimes avoid the need to break and then accelerate again.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of driving a friend's Volvo XC70, which has an onboard computer to calculate the gas usage. The digital display gave a real-time l/100km reading, and it was eye-opening to realise how much of an effect the weight of the right foot could have on fuel economy. Cruising at 90 km/h the Volvo is thirsty enough at about 7 l/100km (about 14km/l), but that's not bad for a big car. However, when pressing down on the accelerator from a standing start the economy would drop to between 35 and 45 l/100km (between 2.2 and 2.8 km/l). Ouch.

I started to play a little game of trying to keep the fuel usage as low as possible. By being a little lighter with my right foot I was able to accelerate away from lights with the fuel usage showing 25 l/100km or less. Flooring the accelerator and enjoying the full effect of the 190+hp of the XC90 saw the figure jump to 59 l/100km!

While every car is not as big or thirsty as a XC90, the % saving is still valid and in town driving you can gain 5%, while on the expressway as much as 33% just by being less aggressive, and by thinking ahead.

Keeping your speed constant is the best way to save fuel, but keeping below the speed limit will also help. Most cars are most efficient below 100km/h with fuel usage increasing drastically when you exceed this.

Try it

If you can decrease your fuel usage by just 5% you will save 3 times more than you would by rushing to the pumps to get the fuel before the 40 satang price hike. If you can reduce it by 33%..... you'll be laughing! This means that you'd effectively be paying around 16 baht per liter!

Last step: keep track of your fuel usage, and savings!