Science

Road: eco-driving, poor connection with energy saving

Cars on the A7 highway near Pont de l’Isère (Drome) on July 9, 2022. (JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Archives)

Drive slower, anticipating braking, but above all not clinging to trucks on the motorway: on the road, a few rules of common sense are enough to save fuel and reduce pollution.

While oil is expensive and the planet is on fire, it’s about putting less pressure on the mushroom, for example, going from 120 km/h to 110 on the freeway or from 90 to 80 on the national.

It is also necessary to shift gears in time, turn off the engine in the parking lot, remove the roof racks or not abuse the air conditioning, emphasizes Guillaume Sabiron from the French Institute of Petroleum and New Energy (Ifpen).

Consumption up to -40%

While private cars account for 12% of transport-related pollution in the European Union, eco-driving can immediately reduce fuel consumption by 6-40% while limiting pollutant emissions and accidents.

Graph showing the behavior to be adopted in order to consume less gasoline, with expected savings in consumption Graph showing the behavior to be adopted in order to consume less gasoline, with an expected increase in consumption (/AFP)

Most of these technologies are also expanding the range of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Conversely, “aggressive driving (harsh acceleration and untimely braking) increases fuel consumption by 30-40%,” but also leads to tire and brake wear,” emphasizes Stacey Davis of the American laboratory in Oak Ridge, which tests these methods. . . .

The principles of eco-driving, formalized after the first oil shocks of the 1970s, have recently begun to spread widely.

On FuelEconomy.gov, launched in 2000, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists dozens of updated tips, just like Ademe in France or the British Department of Transportation.

In France, these principles are taught when passing a driver’s license and allow you to get a bonus score on the exam.

But that self-discipline struggles to establish itself on the road, where the goal is often to get to your destination as quickly as possible. At the height of gasoline price hikes in February 2022, less than a quarter of French motorists thought about driving slower to consume less, according to an Ifop survey for the Odopass app.

“I used to have a more sporty driving style, now I keep an eye on my tachometer,” Damien, 42, said Friday at an Auchan gas station in Avallon (Yonne). This teacher also tries to “maximize the number of trips” and “get more tires.”

“My husband is a driver, and the fact that I am not trained! But I drive slowly,” Christina explained at a nearby gas station, 48. Transport companies realized that they could save tens of thousands of liters of diesel fuel. Many drivers around the world have been trained since the 2010s.

“The government must take action!” Dominic, 59, said for his part. “You just have to drive less.”

Change car?

False good ideas pollute the debate. Pumping tires, turning off the engine downhill, hitting trucks on the highway, adding electronic accessories: these hypermiling tips are sometimes counterproductive and often dangerous.

Training is also available for individuals. But it also needs to be explored what can prevent motorists from eco-driving, stresses British psychology researcher Craig K. Ellison, who is associated with other scientists.

In a study published in early 2022, simulator tests showed that motorists are a priori demotivated by instructions to follow and driving slightly slower, but show better self-esteem at the end of the exercise.

These researchers are calling on manufacturers to encourage drivers to drive more slowly, sometimes with video game-inspired eco-driving ratings.

New cars have never been so economical, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, even as they have gotten significantly heavier in recent decades. Switching to a hybrid (gasoline or diesel) or electric also allows for less pollution, especially in the city.

But first and foremost it’s about driving a car in good condition, adapted to its use: favoring small engines and aerodynamic shapes, avoiding sports cars and SUVs in places other than roads.

And it’s better to “change mobility than a car,” says Ifpen’s Guillaume Sabiron. If possible, “working from home during the day or riding a bike would have a much bigger impact.”

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