By CHARL BOSCH
Last month petrol broke through the unthinkable barrier of R12 per liter. Not even with the 2008 global recession, when oil was at a record $147 a barrel, did petrol reach such heights. With the rand slipping to R8,30 to the US dollar, it would seem that oil should decrease by a lot less than the, once hoped, 50c per liter even though it has dropped to $110 per barrel. Consumer pressure is high and students are not excluded.
For those studying, budgeting is not always easy. Only a few years ago, one could drive around for hours and spend a relatively large amount of cash as everything was relatively affordable. Nowadays, it seems, the majority of spendature is allocated to fuel and the days of R100 fills, lasting two days seems to be over for good. Still, there are ways to limit ones petrol consumption and, by employing a few simple changes to your driving style, a cash-strapped student can manage to save at the pumps.
Replacing cars with motorbikes in the hopes of cutting back on costs is not the answer. Do not change your wheels, change your driving style. Revving an engine highly unnecessarily is a typical and easily avoidable way of wasting fuel. It is recommended that revs should not exceed three thousand rpm when changing gears as it consumes more fuel.
Then there is the age old question of air-conditioning vs windows down. According to www.zigwheels.com, a test carried out concluded that driving with the windows up and air-con on, reduces fuel commonly by 10% but, interestingly driving at slower speeds, in this case 70 Mph (112 km/h) in town, is better with the windows down, as the car uses less power. While driving on the highway it is better to have the air-con on as there will be less drag and where the car is using full power.
If you are lucky enough to have a car fitted with cruise control, use it whenever safe as it tends to save fuel. The reason for this is due to the removal of the “human factor”. For example, constant braking and speeding up consumes greater amounts of fuel. Setting the cruise control at a speed removes that factor and saves fuel by keeping you at a constant speed.
On the subject of drag, bringing out your inner taxi driver could help. By driving close behind the car in front (not taxi close but close enough) a “hole” is “punched” through the air by the leading vehicle which eliminates much air resistance for your vehicle. By effectively slip-streaming him (much like in Formula 1) you use less fuel as there is less air pressure pushing you back. This all serves as to save you money and add kilometers to your tank.
When filling up, never let the fuel gauge go past half. Filling up in this way might seem like wasting money but the truth is, it will cost a lot less than letting the gauge drop to just above empty before filling it again. Another trick to remember is, when out running errands, do it in one shot. This method helps to cut down on distance travelled between your home and destination constantly throughout the day as going home, then driving, returning home and then going off again wastes a lot of fuel. Another nice tip is, when stuck in traffic and when your car idling, to knock it into neutral (in a manual shift) which uses no fuel at all.
Driving is something we all love even if we do not go anywhere but with the higher petrol prices and the constant lure of public transport, that love is being eroded. If you want to save fuel, drive a bit slowly and not unnecessarily.