While the future of sustainable transport doesn’t ultimately lie with private motoring, cars will be with us for a while yet. And as I’ve described before, how we drive them can make a big difference. Eco-driving techniques can lower fuel use, which saves money, and reduces carbon emissions, air pollution and traffic accidents all at once. That’s good news, since you can start today in the car that you already have.
Eco-driving is not difficult, but it is a learned skill and it has to be consistently applied. It can be easy to forget the principles when in a hurry, and good habits can be lost over time. Modern cars make this easier, and I try and keep an eye on the live MPG display in our Prius, moderating my acceleration and braking to keep it low. There are also a growing number of apps and other technologies that can help drivers to drive well.
One of them is Lightfoot, a device which plugs into the car’s on-board computer and monitors driving performance. This is then displayed on the dashboard with a series of little lights. The challenge is to stay within the green lights as much as possible. Drivers can also use an app to see how they compare to other users, and view data by trip.
It turns driving into a bit of a game, and that’s particularly powerful when used in a fleet, where drivers can compete against each other and earn prizes. Employers can create leagues for their drivers, with the savings in fuel and insurance claims easily covering any rewards they might want to offer. Virgin Media, for example, used Lightfoot in their vans. After a year, they had saved a million litres of fuel across the fleet and reduced at-fault accidents by 20%.
As of this week, there’s an added incentive in the form of the Driver’s Lottery. Any customer who scores over 85% efficiency on their driving – making them an ‘elite driver’ in Lightfoot’s estimation – is automatically entered into a weekly draw.
In the long term, efficiency is only really a starting point. If we are to aim for net zero carbon, incremental improvements won’t be good enough and there will have to be a transition away from petrol and diesel cars. If you’re about to replace a vehicle, you’re well placed to be a part of that transition by choosing electric or at least a hybrid car – or best of all, consider if you can do without one in the first place.
However, most drivers aren’t about to replace a car, and so Lightfoot founder Mark Roberts is right when he says that “the quickest and most impactful way to reduce vehicle emissions is to drive better.” That’s a useful message for those who want to do something about their vehicle emissions today.