No Pedal to the Metal

As an admirer of all things sustainable, and someone who tries to practice a low-impact lifestyle, I found myself thoroughly humbled in Toronto during the Smarter Driver Challenge. Maybe because I try to ignore the fact that I own a car, and drive more than I would like to admit, I’ve never given a lot of attention to the concept of fuel efficient driving. I thought it was all about tune-ups and oil changes. But, thanks to John and Helen Taylor, fuel efficient driving superstars and world record holders, my driving horizons have been expanded.

So much of it is about actual driving techniques, and letting go of the ego. When I got in a car with Helen Taylor and a Shell staffer at the wheel, the first question to the driver was, “you have a bit of a fiery personality don’t you?” Evidently fiery personalities and smart driving don’t mix well.  Many of us have been behind the wheel since the age of 14, and I have to wonder if a large number of the driving populace solidified some bad habits at the height of our raging hormones and unabashed ego?

For the last week, I have been enthusiastically experimenting with being a more focused, conservative and slow moving driver. In a city like Calgary, where people are busy and typically driving in that small window about 5-10 kms/hour over the speed limit that avoids a speeding ticket, I’ve also been observing whether my gradual acceleration (keeping it under 2 rpms) and adherence to the speed limit is generating any road rage. So far so good.

My vehicle typically gets about 550 kilometers to the tank in the city, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where my new regime gets me. According to the Taylors, by doing things like avoiding idling (I’ve been turning off the engine at long lights), driving smoothly (aggressive driving can use 1/3 more fuel), and planning trips carefully (sometimes the more efficient route is less direct, but reduces the number of times you stop and start), I might save as much as 30% of what I normally use for fuel.