Slow down to save

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando

One of the best ways to curb fuel consumption is to change driving styles, or so we’re told.

The Department for Transport claims that driving within the speed limit is the key to keeping your petrol or diesel usage down. It states that driving at 70mph uses up to 9 per cent more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15 per cent more than driving at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25 per cent more fuel than at 70mph. But do these figures equate to real savings?

To find out, News asked Nicky Ralph, project manager at to see if she could cut the cost of the daily commute to Newport from her native Bristol by keeping her foot off the accelerator pedal. It’s not a particularly lengthy journey, but traffic congestion, plus the £5.70 incurred every day from crossing the Severn Bridge, means that the cost of getting to work soon adds up, so she didn’t need much persuasion.

During a normal week Nicky, owner of a 2008 Volkswagen Polo with a 1.2 litre petrol engine, drives to work at around 70-80mph on the motorway and by her own admission “is probably a bit heavy on the revs when pulling away from traffic lights.” Driving in this way over the course of a week, Nicky observed that her ‘low fuel’ light turned on after driving for 325.8 miles. She then filled up after 339 miles. The fuel consumption was around 39.14 miles per gallon, around 14.62 pence per mile. Nicky calculated that she would cover around 20,000 miles a year, which would cost around £2,924 in petrol costs, based on the prices at the pumps when she conducted her test.

The following week, Nicky’s journey to work was undertaken at no more than 60mph at any time. “I was gentle on the revs, and tried to avoid heavy breaking this time,” she says. During this week, the ‘low fuel’ light came on after 372 miles, with filling-up taking place after 385 miles. Nicky managed to squeeze out around four miles per gallon extra by adapting her driving style, averaging 43.14mpg.

The cost of fuel was reduced by about a penny a mile, to 13.27. Therefore, the cost of fuel per year dropped to £2,654, a projected saving of £270 a year compared to driving normally. But Nicky explains why this it may actually work out as more. “I filled up Thursday during the first week and on the Friday the following week. so that’s an extra day of commuting per week on the same tank, which should equate to around £50 per month over time. But it’s quite difficult to gauge though as I never have a like for like week,” she says.