Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Something to save me fuel? Yes please!

So, as you read this, I'm on a bit of a road trip. On Tuesday, I drove from Lancashire to my mum's in Buckinghamshire with the children in the back. At the end of the week, I'll drive to Devon. A week later, I'll drive back to Bucks for a christening and then home to Lancashire in time for the start of the new term.


I don't do this often anymore. Why? Cos I can't afford it. Petrol costs are astronomical these days. I can actually remember when petrol was 39p a litre. The thought of it being nearly a whole pound more 25 years later is horrific. And yes, I really am that old.

So when I heard about an event being staged by Shell to talk about ways to save fuel, I was there at the front of the queue.The fact it was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester made it all the more appealing - Monkey had recently been there on a school trip. It was a good day out for us, especially as I had the children to amuse all weekend by myself.

Whilst the children entertained themselves with colouring and games, the grown ups got a bit of a chat from Quentin Wilson, he of the raised eyebrow and the slightly sardonic but pithy one-liners who used to be on Top Gear before it was three blokes messing around. He's been travelling round the country showing people how to drive economically and sharing tips. I was intrigued to meet him and I can honestly say he is EXACTLY the same in real life as he comes across on screen.

One of Shell's fuel scientists was also there, and she gave a talk about why Shell's Fuelsave fuel is different and can save you up to 1 litre of fuel per tank. FuelSave is now their standard fuel sold at filling stations. I've never really noticed before - we have a Shell near us and it's normally as cheap or a tiny bit more than the local supermarkets and I guess I take a view held by many that petrol is petrol is petrol. Easily done when you can't see the stuff you're buying.

Quentin also ran a bit of a quiz about fuel saving tips and I did know most of them - I just wasn't as fast at answering at some of the answers, tho I did win a fetching neck pillow. Fuel saving really is about common sense and at the bottom, I'll include some of the tips that Shell give out.

After lunch came the really scary bit. A lesson in economical driving with the man himself. It was a different car and I'm never totally comfortable with that. Still, I did OK on my little trip round Manchester city centre tho I found that Quentin wanted me to change gear earlier than I would do and also he mentioned that I sometimes pressed the accelerator when approaching junctions which I didn't need to do. My defence was I live on a hill and all the junctions going home are uphill - he called that facile, I was proud of that. The lesson made me think, and it makes you think when driving. Some of the habits were taught to me when I learnt to drive but it never does anyone any harm to be reminded of them.

After the formal presentations, Shell kindly paid for us to visit the 4D Cinema to see Fly Me To The Moon and we wandered around some of the other exhibits which both the children adored. As most of MOSI is free, it's highly recommended for a day out - and it's in a good location for public transport if you don't want to drive!

I've filled up twice since our visit and although I didn't see much difference the first time in miles travelled on a tank, I'm hoping to see more of a difference with this giant roadtrip I'm on as the first tank was used up mostly on short trips. I just have to find a Shell garage as often as I can - not an easy task in new areas. Currently, our local garage is 1.2p more than the supermarkets which eats into the cost savings I will make but there should still be some benefit.

So, here are the Shell FuelSave tips; follow them as often as you can and you should find that you're filling up less often and if you do go to Shell, that might help too. Their first tip is basically "buy FuelSave" which goes without saying really.

  • Use the recommended grade of oil in your car.
  • Tune and service your engine, and follow the guidance in your vehicle's handbook.
  • Keep your tyres at the right pressure - a tyre underinflated by just 10% can reduce your fuel economy.
  • Drive smoothly - avoid accelerating or braking too hard. Lewis Hamilton will not be best pleased.
  • Use higher gears and avoid over-revving. 
  • Use cruise control (if you have it!).
  • Avoid excess idling- the rule of thumb is if you stop for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. 
  • Avoid high speeds. 
  • Use air conditioning sparingly.
  • Keep the windows closed (would someone like to tell my children this fact? They are OBSESSED with opening windows!).
  • Plan trips carefully and avoid the rush hour. Try to combine short journeys into one. And make sure your children really have the library books they're returning before you drive all the way there. Oops, sorry - that was just from bitter experience! 
  • Avoid carrying excess weight. Quentin even recommended not filling right up because extra fuel means extra weight.
  • Take roof racks or roof boxes off.
Thanks to Shell for a great day out. 

(Shell invited us to this day at the Museum of Science and Industry. They provided lunch and free tickets to the 4D Cinema as well as a short driving lesson with Quentin Wilson.They also gave us a small goody bag to take away. I have not received any further payment and have not been told what to write.)
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