GM Eco driving day

By: Ian Adcock

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GM Eco driving day

Is MPG the new MPH? Or, in your case l/100Kms the new Km/h?

I ask this because I recently attended a GM Eco driving day organised by Vauxhall and held at its impressive 303ha Millbrook Proving Ground with its 72Kms of test routes.

I was driving a 1.7TDi Astra and my instructor was a typically dressed lad in his mid-Twenties complete with trendily scruffy jeans and spikey haircut but, instead of extolling the acceleration and performance of his Golf he was enthusing about how he’d recently beaten his best fuel consumption performance to work, averaging some 4l/100Kms.

The fact that it took "only a few minutes longer" was his proud boast.

It would seem that the zeitgeist amongst many of today’s younger drivers is changing, whilst there will always be, hopefully, hardcore enthusiasts that yearn for and will buy the latest RS or GTi there appears to be a rising number of other motorists for whom economy and low emissions, no bad thing in either case I hasten to add, are the priorities.

How else would you explain the emergence of various eco labels that manufacturers are hastily developing? Are they jumping on a bandwagon or covering their own embarrassments with an ecological fig-leaf?

VW is typical of this: I recently drove a new Polo BlueMotion that returns 3.3l/100Kms and just 87 g/Km. It was civilised, comfortable, roomy but I doubt if I, or many drivers, could achieve those figures in real-world conditions.

To put this into perspective comparable figures for the latest Toyota Prius are 3.9l/100Kms and 89 g/Km and this is where it gets particularly crass in London; the Prius is exempt of the capital’s congestion charge whereas the Polo isn’t. Work that one out if you can.

All very laudable, VW will even sell you a BlueMotion version of its Touareg SUV which might salve a few consciences but still means, for instance, that if you live in the London Borough of Richmond your parking fees have increased by 50 per cent.

There is huge confusion over the emissions/economy debate at a political level, as there are most things, but maybe there is a groundswell of opinion towards greener motoring. If that is the case, then shouldn’t ‘economy’ motoring be part of the curriculum when it comes to learning how to drive?

I have been driving for many a decade, having first started on my uncle’s farm when I could just reach the pedals of his baby Fordson tractor, and over the years your driving style evolves.

When fuel prices in the UK reached the ridiculous height of $3.07 a litre last summer, I found myself consciously trying to drive more economically by not accelerating as hard, short shifting and knocking a few Km/h off my motorway cruising speed.

Fuel prices have come down, but I have kept those habits. But they still didn’t prove that efficient over the 16Kms route GM had prepared for us.

Using sophisticated data streaming technology I managed 7.6l/100Kms, the second time round under tutorage from my instructor that improved to 6l/100Kms, a useful 27 per cent gain.

But a closed test track with no other traffic on the road and the ability to cut apexes and sweep out of junctions unhindered by other road users wasn’t a real world situation. Everyday commuting just isn’t like that.

You need to balance safety, consideration for fellow road users with speed and acceleration. Hindering other road users by going too slow might eke out a few more l/Kms for you, but at what expense to other drivers frustration?

Driving too slowly could be just as dangerous as driving too recklessly.

As with everything in life it’s a balancing act and since I average some 6.5l/100Kms from my diesel X-Type estate whilst cruising at 128-ish Km/h on the motorway, I reckon that’s a pretty good compromise.



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