In recent economic times, filling up the car with petrol has become a painful experience, eating into our monthly budgets at an alarming rate. Even diesel is no longer a cheaper option as prices start to climb, but there are alternatives which can help you reduce your fuel spend, and increase your overall fuel efficiency.
With a little care and attention about your driving, even a petrol car can become more fuel efficient without any major mechanical changes. For example, making sure your tyres are correctly inflated, keeping a steady speed without sudden acceleration and braking, and cutting the engine in delayed traffic jams and tailbacks can all make a difference to improve your overall fuel economy. For short journeys, walking instead of driving is an obvious saving, and there is no parking hassle either. (An added cost which drivers often forget until the point of parking).
If you are thinking of trading in your petrol car, there are now plenty of viable electric and hybrid alternatives which can seriously reduce your fuel costs. Owners of Electric and Hybrid cars also benefit from tax discounts and exemptions.
Hybrid cars (a combination of electric and combustion) have a large battery as well as a fuel tank, and the two systems work efficiently in tandem.
Hybrid cars use electric power, recharged as you drive along, for pulling away and driving around town. The petrol or diesel combustion engine kicks in when you need acceleration and more speed. Honda and Toyota are currently the biggest producers of hybrid cars, but most manufacturers also have models in production.
Fully electric vehicles are perfect for city driving and short journeys, but they usually need daily recharging and are not very practical for long journeys or motorway driving. They often have a maximum radius of travel before a recharge is neccesary, so those holiday trips abroad would not be advised in an electric car. However, as an added benefit, in London, there is free parking for electric cars.
Another alternative is to buy either an LPG car, or one which has been converted to LPG. A significant number of vans and taxis now use this fuel and it is around 45% cheaper than petrol or diesel. The level of harmful emissions is much lower, attracting tax breaks, and exemption from London's congestion charge. The main potential drawback is the availability of LPG pumps at your average petrol station or service station, but this is improving all the time.
It is a little-known fact that ordinary diesel engines can be run on bio-fuels without any need for conversion. Typical bio-fuels are recycled cooking oil, or vegetable and plant extracts. For people with ready access to bio-fuels, it makes perfect sense. Conversion kits can be purchased for home preparation, or can be bought from a local supplier ready made. One of the drawbacks of bio-fuels is the associated smell.
Many different ideas are being tried and tested in an effort to find a replacement for the world's limited supply of fossil fuels. Experiments with hydrogen and with compressed air engines may give us viable alternatives in the future.