Amid rising cost of living expenses, and petrol prices over $2 per litre, experts say eco-driving techniques could help Australians save money on fuel and reduce emissions.

According to the RACQ, eco-driving is a “smart, smooth, and safe” driving technique that can lead to fuel savings of 15 per cent, or up to $400 a year, based on an unleaded petrol price of $2 per litre.

So what exactly is eco-driving?

Eco-driving is a technique of driving that involves adjusting the way you drive — within the road rules — as well as keeping up with vehicle maintenance and planning trips carefully so you are driving more efficiently.

Ultimately all this results in using less fuel.

According to toll road operator Transurban, some simple changes all drivers can make to drive more economically include driving as smoothly as possiblereducing harsh braking and keeping a gap of around three seconds from the car in front.

The RACQ suggests watching ahead to help you drive smoothly, braking and accelerating gentlyavoiding stop-start driving, and if you’re in a manual car, using the right gear for the conditions and shift through gears quickly.

They also suggest avoiding idling and turning off the engine when parked, even if you’re only stopping for a few minutes.

Does eco-driving really reduce fuel consumption?

Transurban conducted an eco-driving trial with 400 participants over a four week period— where participants improved their fuel efficiency by more than 5 per cent, with a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on the results of the Transurban trial, if the average motorist put eco-driving behaviours into practice they could save more than $120 a year on fuel.

Transurban head of sustainability Matt Brennan said the company’s eco-driving trial showed drivers could make small changes that had a big impact on the environment and their fuel bill.

“The good news is that anyone can benefit from these findings — imagine the possibilities if these changes in driving behaviour were adopted more broadly,” he said.

Eco-driving is safe driving, because a lot of these behaviour changes can help to minimise accidents.”

What does the research say about eco-driving?

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have reviewed the research on eco-driving and conducted their own study.

UTS senior lecturer in environmental engineering Nic Surawski said, theoretically, if drivers were doing all elements of eco-driving, fuel savings could be as high as 40 per cent.

That’s the equivalent of taking a conventional petrol car and converting it to a hybrid.

“Realistically though, when you monitor fuel consumption savings in the fleet, with people under different driving conditions, I think the benefits are a lot less, but still it’s quite possible to get a 20 per cent fuel saving,” he said.

“That takes into account that if you’re on a freeway you’ve got less options available to perform eco-driving, you’re really just maintaining driving speed and that’s it.

“Combine freeway driving with all the other things you’ve got to do, you may not be able to apply all the strategies, so 20 per cent would be a realistic achievement for most drivers.”

Mr Surawski suggested maintaining a good driving speed, by not driving too slow or too fast, and paying attention to the way you accelerate.

Being organised can help you save on fuel

Planning to do all your jobs in one trip, avoiding duplicate trips and when possible using public or active transport can also reduce fuel costs, the RACQ says.

Paying attention to the routes you’re taking, and choosing shorter and less congested routes where possible, can also help.

Monitoring your fuel use by keeping a log of how much you are using — either by hand, using the in-built car fuel monitor, or an app — can also help you change habits, the RACQ says.

The cost of using air-conditioning in cars

Having windows open, and not using air conditioning under speeds of 80 kph can reduce fuel consumption, according to the RACQ.

But at speeds over 80 kph, the increased drag caused by open windows will cost you.

Removing unnecessary weight from the vehicle, and not transporting items on roof racks and spoilers, can also help reduce fuel consumption.

Extracted in full form: As petrol prices soar, eco-driving can save money on fuel and reduce emissions, experts say – ABC News