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How to save fuel

Sharan Iyyer

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Earlier this year, my family decided to take a trip to ‘God’s Own Country’ to visit our ancestral home and pay our respects to the family deity. While some booked a flight and others chose to go by train, I drew the shortest straw and had to drive down 1500 km because the dog could travel neither by air nor rail. My father volunteered to keep me company.

It was my brother-in-law’s Mahindra XUV500 that was chosen as the ‘mission transportation’. It’s a mean machine indeed! A Sunset-Orange beast with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine with enough torque to shift the axis of the earth’s rotation. It was a 6-speed manual transmission as the automatic variant hadn’t come out until later that year. Mahindra and various other automotive critics and forums have come to a more or less unanimous conclusion about the XUV500’s mileage i.e. 14 kmpl in the city and 16 kmpl on the highway. Nevertheless, from the start of our trip in Mulund, Mumbai, Maharashtra to its culmination in Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala (we took the Mumbai-Bengaluru-Hosur-Salem-Erode-Coimbatore-Palakkad route), the odometer changed 1,404 times and we used up only 73 litres of diesel. That’s a little over 19 kmpl!

This wasn’t my first cross-country road trip; neither was it my 50th. Besides this one, I’ve done a Mumbai-Jodhpur, a Mumbai-Bengaluru, several Mumbai-Mahabaleshwars, a Mumbai-Ratnagiri, another Mumbai-Palakkad, a Delhi-Corbett and a Delhi-Mussoorie, all round trips. However, running up to our day of departure, I did a minor study online on how to get the most fuel economy out of the trip. Whatever I learnt, I also passed on to my father, who seemed to be in active agreement of most of the points I covered. These points are very logically derived and many of them involve making a habit of to squeeze out the maximum juice, regardless of whether it’s a car, a motorbike or any automobile with an internal combustion engine.

Your vehicle is a lady. Be gentle with it.

The most important thing to do is to constantly focus on how much pressure you subject the accelerator pedal to. It’s as sensitive as a human nerve and as responsive as a mimosa leaf. The trick is to gently nudge it as you move up from lower gears to the higher ones and to stay on the right gear at the right speed at the right level of incline. The same applies for the brake – when it comes to brakes, less is more. The more you brake, the more kinetic energy you burn and the more fuel you’ll require to speed up again. Driving smooth can help save a lot of fuel, is safer and does a lot of good to your vehicle in the long run.

Always have one eye on the fuel gauge

Really, when it comes to monitoring your fuel economy, it’s pays to be a watchdog. To do it well, go the ‘full-to-empty’ method. When your tank is empty, fill it up completely, mark the kilometre reading on the odometer, note how many litres of fuel went in and drive until it almost runs out. Now fill it up completely again and continue the cycle. This will help you see if making changes to your driving style has any considerable effect on your fuel mileage or not. Also, if you have a display on your dashboard giving you instantaneous estimates of fuel usage like many cars these days come fitted with, use it to find the perfect driving style for optimising fuel economy.

Lose the belly fat

We’re all guilty of it. Constantly lugging around heavy stuff in the boot of our car. From old clothes that you intend to donate some day to the tennis kit bag that you get to using only once every three months, the collective weight of all these things add up and create a lot of resistance resulting in increased fuel usage. If there are things in your vehicle that you don’t need, ditch them! Do the same while packing your bags for trips; lean is the new sexy!

Keep the wind out of your hair

The wind is a greater resistance than gravity once you hit about 50 km/h on the highway. So, ensure that your vehicle is as streamlined as possible. Shut out all the windows, including the sunroof if you have one, to minimise the drag caused by the wind entering your car. Having a roof carrier box or a bike rack will also have a significant effect on the aerodynamics of your vehicle.

Slow down, you crazy child!

Watch your top speed! Your vehicle’s fuel mileage will mostly peak between 50 and 80 km/h while using the top gear. While it depends on the car’s make, gearing, engine, weight and drag, it will only decline beyond 90 km/h. Obviously, you can only go as slow as is safe on high-speed freeways, but cutting your speed just a little bit will help save a lot of liquid gold that’s in your tank. It will also make your ride much smoother.

An idling engine is wasted fuel

Modern-day engines really don’t need much warming up. Idling for longer durations will only waste fuel. If you’re waiting for someone or stationary in traffic for more than 30-40 seconds, cut the engine. Remember, little drops of fuel saved make your wallet fat!

I hope that all these things help you save a lot of fuel and, in turn, help preserve the environment too. Drive safe!


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