/ Motoring

Fuel prices on the up, so shouldn’t we use less?

Sign showing high petrol prices

It looks like petrol’s set to soar up to £1.25 a litre in 2011. A high price to pay, but maybe it’s time we thought more about the amount of fuel we burn before moaning about the costs?

Currency movements, rising oil prices, the VAT increase and another fuel duty hike are all to blame for the price rise, predicted by the Petrol Retailers Association.

So, we should really start thinking about how we can use less fuel. I filled up a BMW X5 (not my own car I hasten to add) at the weekend. It cost me £85.61 – and that’s at £1.179 for a litre of (supermarket) diesel.

At £1.25, it would have been over £90. That particular car has an 85-litre tank – so a full fill-up would have been £100 at the supermarket price, or £106 at £1.25 per litre.

Is fuel free, or are motorists’ trousers on fire?

These prices should be forcing people to think twice about using their car. Yet many drivers are still behaving as if fuel were free.

Last weekend I was struck by the number of people driving dangerously fast and ignoring speed limits – including urban 30mph zones. As a friend of mine once commented, “they’re only going to sit down again once they get home”. So what’s the rush?

Why is everyone in such a hurry? Don’t they know they could offset fuel price rises with a bit of careful driving and vehicle maintenance?

Time to save more fuel

If you’re feeling brave, consider an LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) car. We tried a Proton – not the most exciting steed, but we were interested in the potential fuel cost savings. Why brave? Because there are no guarantees that duty won’t be raised on LPG – so any investment you make could be wiped out at a stroke in the next budget.

Though just one word of advice – stay away from ‘fuel additives’. They claimed so much, but when we tested them, they delivered next to nothing.

Yes, fuel prices will be higher than they’ve ever been – but shouldn’t this be the perfect excuse to not only use our cars less, but also find other ways to save fuel?


Most of the cost is in the tax and the tax is higher in rural areas because the base cost is higher — principally because of lack of competition not simply between retailers, but between the wholesale companies. Compare the cost of petrol in the Outer Hebrides with that in Inverness — both delivered by the same seagoing tankers!

If you want to see a reduction in car travel, it’s not enough to up the price of fuel — that just reduces the choice of the poorer people in the community. Make the use of public transport more feasible and more people will use it. I’ve been trying for ten years to get some sort of board put up at at least one bus stop within our village indicating the times and destinations of buses departing from the village. Zero success. Typical.

I live in Herefordshire and amny villages have no public transport (or what there is is one day a week).
The high cost of fuel is really hitting these areas, especially those on lower incomes. If the petrol increases keep on coming, only the rich will be able to live there.

Damian Wilkinson says:
13 August 2010

It’s all well and good to say we should use cars less but what about those of us who require a car to travel to and from work, this is more important for people like me who have our own business and take some stock to work with us etc. It is hardly feasible to hop on a bus and travel with stock for our shop! I think the emphasis should be on new technology like Hydrogen fuel cell rather that electric cars, it’s all very well giving grants for electric cars and the like but has no-one realised that all the electricity to power them still needs generating in a power station? A Hydrogen fuel cell system would be a natural progression as it would still involve driving until you need to fill your car up then pulling into a filling station and filling up with Hydrogen which would take no longer than filling up now. ‘Filling up’ with electricity is more of an overnight/all day job.

Geoff Rhodes says:
13 August 2010

Removing the exhaust catalyst would give us 10% more mpg I understand. Since it is only effective when warm, after about 10 miles and the average UK journey is less than 8 miles, why not simply remove this costly addition? This will save the environment by (i) saving energy and rare metals in making it (ii) again when it finally has to be disposed of safely and (iii) fuel as we do not use it!

OzTones says:
13 August 2010

Most of us can, if we choose, increase the fuel economy of our current vehicle significantly simply by driving more slowly.

I drive at the speed limit (when it’s safe to) up to 50mph, but on roads where it’s higher, and provided I can do so without significantly impeding other drivers, I stick at 50. My consumption goes down by 20% when I follow this regimen. OK, it takes a bit longer to get places, but nothing like 20% longer, and
* I arrive feeling much less stressed;
* I can appreciate the scenery and enjoy the journey, not just getting there;
* there is less wear and tear on the vehicle through acceleration and braking, as it is possible to maintain a constant speed much more of the time;
* the likelihood of my being involved in an accident is significantly reduced (I don’t have stat’s on this, but feel it must be true).

Fifty is thrifty! BUT – you have to be considerate of other drivers, and use your mirror more.

Duncan Martin says:
24 September 2010

Couldn’t agree more. I have to drive quite often from Oban to Inverness – 115 miles, almost all single carriageway. When I first bought my Panda multijet I was so astonished by its average of nearly 70mpg on this journey that I didn’t realise that by driving in the way OzTones describes, I could achieve so much better, and only take 10 minutes longer. My trip meter now shows an average of 80mpg over the last 1600 miles, and that includes much pottering around town.

You simply decide to trvel less by car and arrange things differently by adjusting your lifestile accordingly. Over the past five years my annual distance by car has fallen from 40 000Km to my current 10 000Km. Given that most people live in urban areas with public transport availability superior to my semi rural location, it is really a question of finding out what is available locally and using buses and trains as necessary (to link to these it is essential to get to know routes and times in advance – most of this information is available electronically nowadays). The critical element is the inclination to use taxis as link. You can be very sustainable and also reduce the necessity to fly as increasingly good surface and ferry links enable improved journey times especially on European inter-city routes. Frankly if you live in Truro you cannot do this but from London you will have excellent day travel by rail as far as Milan or Berlin.

Believe me the total spend on transport for work and social/ domestic calls, including getting to connect with continental journey hubs, is down by one third in real terms from what it was.

It’s not Rocket science and consideing that most people use the phone/telecoms their preferred use means you keep your precious car in the the security and peace of your garage – disturbing your banger or luxury limousine only when it is really essential.

My son has recently bought a diesel vehicle and is now considering running it on bio diesel. He reckons that chip fat is the way forward!

Scaracat says:
16 August 2010

I would strongly advise against using chip fat or any other home made ‘bio diesel’ even if clean unused cooking oil. I am an engineer for a major automotive supplier who manufactures diesel common rail fuel systems which are fitted to several major car manufacturers models. I work in warranty and see the results of poor quality fuel. Using any type of bio diesel will destroy your injectors and common rail pump. The injectors will suffer from excessive coking of the nozzles leading to poor spray pattern, the inside of the injectors and common rail pump will suffer from sticky residues from bio diesel or vegetable oil, this will cause sticking and sluggish movement of internal components such as the injector needle or metering valves on the pump. Also bio fuel has lower lubricating properties than proper EN590 diesel and the internal components will experience abrasion on their precision made surfaces again causing sluggish movement and poor fuel pressure control and poor injection. Bio fuel also contains more water than diesel, this will lead to rusting internally within the injectors and pump.
All of the above problems will cause combustion knocking, poor engine performance, poor fuel consumption and excessive exhaust smoke. Your injectors may last no longer than a couple of thousand miles and the pump not much longer. It could cost possibly £1000 to replace your injectors and maybe £800 for the pump. Even professionally made bio fuel (FAME or RME) made to EN14214 standard will cause the same above issues if used in quantities larger than 7% mixed with diesel, using 100% EN14214 bio fuel is not recommended. The only vehicle that I would say to go ahead and use chip fat or anything else in is a £200 banger with an old mechanical fuel injection system, when the injectors give up just scrap the car and buy another. If you have a modern diesel vehicle don’t use it.

Ronald Dewhirst says:
23 August 2010

Not sure if there’s any point in entering into this debate as the time may have passed for useful action, but here goes…..

According to James Hansen’s ‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ if all the fossil fuels are used up (and there’s no sign of this not happening) the Earth will lose all its atmosphere. Earth will end up like Mars. James Hansen worked on the NASA space programme as a climatologist for years.

Cutting down CO2-producing rainforest to grow bio fuels is madness and although life without oil may seem to be unthinkable, it is inevitable. No matter what Top Gear and Fifth Gear might say the car is a destructive dodo and its time ran out long ago.

There are 6.5 billion people on the Earth now. Without oil the Earth can only support 1.5 billion. So 5 billion will die. Climate change will add to that, as in Pakistan now.

Hot hatches and gas guzzlers in general should not be around and car journeys of less than 8 miles should be a criminal offence.

I gave up my car years ago and bought a bike. I haven’t looked back since and only ride around in my girlfriend’s car to keep her happy. Like other commentors she has to have a car for work.
That says something about how our lives have become locked in a death grip with the automobile.

I’ve got £50,000 in the bank and could have any car I wanted. but I wouldn’t own a car if you paid me.

It’s always worth joining a debate!

Though have to point out that rainforests are effectively C02 *absorbing” not “producing” – though certainly bio-fuels are not the answer to the growing fossil fuel shortage

I’m sorry when I go shopping once a week – I use my car for a total of 2 miles – I transport about 15 full carrier bags – exactly how do I convey my shopping??
Walk? I couldn’t lift them —– Bus? – Not only couldn’t I lift them on the bus – the driver wouldn’t let me on. —– Cycle ? Have you tried cycling with 15 carrier bags – it is possible to use a trailer – but the traffic is particularly dangerous for cyclists with trailers.

The problems are that a personal transport device are essential for many people –

Because of the position of my work place and the appalling public transport – it would take over three hours each way by public transport. I really wouldn’t want to *start off* at 0430 every day. In addition I need to carry heavy tools making carrying them by hand or by cycle impossible – not to mention the hills would make me tired before I arrived at work. I love my work BTW

Finally I could use a taxi – but they are just as polluting.

So I’m left with a personal transport device – The only one that fits the bill is an Electric Car – now these *could* be pollution free – If using fossil fuels to produce electricity was banned – There are many methods of producing it – Hydro – Solar – wind – wave – tidal – reservoir – renewable fuels and waste disposal
But the amount of electricity actually produced by these methods in the UK s actually less than 4% – It could be 100% – why isn’t it?? I’m not including nuclear power for two reason – one – incredibly polluting when used fuel is disposed of – and two it is a non renewable fuel

Ronald Dewhirst says:
27 August 2010

Ah yes, silly me. I should have said CO2 absorbing. But of course when the tree is burnt or decays it releases its CO2. Richard’s reply highlights the great difficulty most people would have in having up their car/s. Getting the shopping works for me just using panniers but I haven’t got children and don’t buy soft drinks etc. Drivers do in fact usually give bikes with trailers more room so that’s a possibility.
Unfortunately the car is very convenient for many things. It’s just expensive, parking can be a problem and one gets stuck in jams. By changing over to a bike you have to change a lot about your lifestyle.
Living closer to work would help, at 2 miles distance your shops are fairly convenient. Cycling 2 miles to the shops would take about 12 minutes. Cycling 7 miles to work takes about 40 minutes and you become super-fit so save on gym fees. Hills aren’t a problem after a few weeks.
But even if one does cycle to work and the shops the world is still on course to disaster as everyone else is unlikely to follow suit. So the savings and the increase in fitness are my main motivators.
In the 50’s and 60’s most people didn’t have cars and used buses, bikes or walked. Cars were something of a rarity as photographs from the period demonstrate. Shops were more convenient, workplaces tended to be nearby and people’s expectations were different. I don’t know how you would carry heavy tools. The most shopping I’ve carried in my panniers (front and rear) was 93 lbs or about 200 Kilos but one would need a fairly strong bike to carry heavy loads often. It’s a challenge going over to cycling but for me the rewards far outweighed the drawbacks. Good Luck!

Malcolm Murray says:
3 September 2010

Because oil is a limited resource it is obvious that we should use less. However the best way of doing this would be to use Public Transport and this, when it is compared to a car is inconvenient, unreliable, expensive, time consuming and impractical. It is not a viable alternative. If Public Transport was cheaper, faster, arranged so that the bus and train used the same terminus and also coordinated so that the bus arrives before the train departs, people would be more likely to use it. If I want to go by bus anywhere other than the town centre, I have to go in to the centre and back out again. How is that an alternative? Whilst a car may be expensive with a single occupant, when it has four occupants and luggage it is still the cheapest way to travel. The Government seem to think that making fuel more expensive will force us to use Public Transport, but until this is convenient, reliable, cheaper, coordinated and practical, this will not happen.