As fuel costs rocket, the RSPCA is warning motorists that the magic button believed to save fuel is not always the best answer. If you do not know how to use it correctly, you could wind up wasting fuel depending on the type of road you are driving on.
The magic button in question is, of course, cruise control. It can indeed save fuel, but many drivers are not aware that if it is used incorrectly, you will end up wasting fuel which, given the spiralling cost, is not a good thing. We are all aware that petrol and diesel prices have soared and most people are now spending a lot more than they used to just to go about everyday life. Prices are slowly beginning to return to something that we recognise as normal; however, it has definitely made us more aware of fuel consumption, and we want to be careful that we don't inadvertently become fuel wasters. If you're driving at a constant speed, cruise control is there to help you in many ways, including reducing your fuel consumption.
Know Your Roads
To get the best assistance from cruise control, you need to be on a flat surface with a consistent speed, ideally a motorway. If you do not stick to the guidelines, then gradient changes will see you burning more fuel. For example, those without cruise control will take their foot off the accelerator when they hit the brow of a hill because this helps to maintain a safe and consistent speed on the descent. If your car is using cruise control when you reach a hill, it doesn't sense the gradient change as quickly and keeps the power engaged for longer, which will negatively impact your consumption. It is a common misconception that 20 mph city streets or extra-urban dual carriageways a fuel efficient; actually, the motorway is.
Spiralling Fuel Costs
Although they are beginning to trend downwards again, recently fuel prices of 165p per litre for unleaded petrol and 181p per litre for diesel were not uncommon. Just 30 years ago, in 1992, fuel prices were closer to 40p per litre, a whopping difference between what we are having to pay today. This means that just three decades ago, £100 of fuel would enable you to travel over 1275 miles more than you can today, which is pretty depressing news. In real terms, this means a driver could have driven from Glasgow to Rome without filling up. Today the same amount of fuel will only enable you to drive from Bristol to Dublin.
So when it comes to monitoring your fuel consumption, the advice is to be careful with your cruise control. If you know your journey will take place on fairly level roads at a consistent speed, you can improve your fuel consumption by hitting the button. However, if you are in unfamiliar territory or on roads that change gradient and speed regularly, it is best to leave the switch alone.