Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Eco driving simulator (Mar10)

I crashed.

The Energy Savings Trust brought their eco driving simulator to the M&S Plan A suppliers conference, where I was speaking. It looked great fun, so I thought I’d have a go.

I discovered that the optimum eco-efficiency score was seven – seven of what I’m not sure. And the best score of previous drivers, on the board, was 6.9. The chap demonstrating the machine explained that you could get more than 7 if you were a super-efficient driver.

First, I wanted to get an idea of what you were supposed to do, so I watched someone else. He was clearly a cautious driver and went slowly, whilst he was working out the system. And his final score was 6.8 – not far behind the leader.

I’m quite competitive, so I thought I’d try and beat that! But I couldn’t even stay on the road. The pavements, lamp posts and other cars leapt out at me as I swerved wildly trying to avoid them. It wasn’t long before I crashed. The good thing about this was that the machine stopped and my eco-rating score started again from scratch.

There was no clutch – only the accelerator and brake pedals and a rather odd set of gears. The optimum driving speed was between 4o and 6o kph. And there were lots of traffic lights. They were a real hazard. The trick was to use your speed to coast as much as possible, rather than constantly braking and accelerating.

I understood the idea but putting it into practice was another matter. My score was 4.6, which is not so great. However, although I think my normal driving is rather better than that. Although I do have an unfortunate habit of scraping the side of my car or reversing into gates, my eco-efficiency seems to be pretty good. In my Audi, I often get around 5ompg, whereas official figures suggest it should lower than that.

You may think that this is all a pointless exercise but how you drive makes a big difference to the fuel efficiency of your car – by as much as 20%. So take your foot off the pedal, coast a bit more – and try not to crash!

Addendum I’m rather pleased to see that it has been proposed to fine drivers for leaving engines running when the car is stationery. I found out that if you’re going to stop for more than 9 seconds it makes sense to turn your engine off. The Energy Savings Trust, suggest that a minute is a good guideline. The point is the same – you’re causing pollution and going nowhere. That doesn’t make sense. They also explain that modern engines don’t need warming up, even in cold weather. Just get in a drive.

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