Tag Archive | "fuel prices"

The Petrol Pump Blues

In these days of economic gloom many drivers dread filling up at the pump. With petrol prices as high as they are right now, saving money whilst sustaining vehicle performance with the fuel we choose are about the only things that matter. We need to get the most out of our vehicles for the longest possible time, which essentially means maintaining properly rather than spending huge sums on costly repairs or a new vehicle.

In order to get the most out of their trusty wheels, some people tend to spend more by choosing a higher octane fuel rating because they assume that their car will perform better and they will as a consequence get better mileage. This is a falsehood. By understanding what fuel octane is and how it affects your engine, you can see that this is not necessarily the case and you can instantly save money at the pump by using cheaper petrol.

Octane ratings measure a fuel’s ability to resist engine knock. The numbers relate to the fuel’s octane rating. Most garages offer two octane grades: regular is usually 95RON in the UK and premium is usually 97, although some can be as high as 99RON. The higher the number, the slower the fuel burns. An internal combustion engine uses pistons to squeeze fuel until it explodes in the cylinder through spark ignition. With high octane fuel, the pistons need to put more pressure on the fuel to get it to ignite.

With the exception of a few high performance luxury vehicles and specially-designed engines, the majority of vehicles on the market are designed to use regular octane. High-compression engines in sports or luxury motors need premium grade to prevent knocking (also known as pre-ignition or ‘knock’). Your car’s manual will provide the answers.

So what exactly is engine knock? Well, it is defined as a rattling or pinging sound that results from premature ignition of the compressed fuel-air mixture in one or more cylinders. This means that the fuel is igniting too soon and may create too much pressure that the engine simply cannot sustain. When vehicles that are designed to use premium are filled with regular, problems like the latter can occur.

Some people believe that buying a higher-octane rated fuel will benefit their engine and that is simply not the case. Choosing a higher octane rating will not affect performance at all.

In most cases, using a higher-octane petrol than your vehicle manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit. It won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner. The answer to saving money on fuel is to drive smoothly and even more slowly and to ensure regular car maintenance.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Tesla Take A Trip

Although sales of electric cars continue to tick over, they are not exactly setting the world on fire. This is largely because of the well-known range issue. Clearly, the motor manufacturers don’t give up that easily and research and development presumably continues unabated as they seek solutions.

This hasn’t stopped Tesla from making sure its customer base in the USA is well catered for. As time has gone on the company has been quietly establishing a network of Supercharger points. Supercharging enables Tesla Model S drivers to travel long distances, for free and indefinitely. Right now the network covers California and Nevada in the West and the Washington DC to the Boston area in the East.

Since going live in October last year Tesla reckon that an estimated one million miles of happy eco-friendly travel have been driven by Tesla owners. The Superchargers effectively enable city to city travel. The driver can motor for about three hours then stop at the dedicated points, take a half hour break from driving and enjoy coffee and a snack whilst his car is rapid-charged. Then it’s back on the road and best of all – it’s completely free and will be for the life of his or her ownership of the car. That’s customer service.

Now there is to be an accelerated roll-out of stations and Tesla owners can expect there to be a tripling of halts by the end of June, including many more in California and at other destinations around the whole of the Northern Continent. The scale is ambitious. It is expected that within six months the Tesla Supercharger Network will connect most of the metro areas in the USA and Canada. They say that it will ultimately be possible to travel from LA to NYC stopping only at Tesla points without spending any money at all on fuel.

Improving the network is one thing but the Tesla Company are not stopping there. They are also working to improve the technology behind the charging system to dramatically reduce charging times for the Model-S. Early trials have achieved a fifty percent cut from the early original times. The new technology is testing right now and should be available to customers this Summer meaning a twenty minute charge equating to up to three hours of driving.

They say that what happens in America eventually makes its way over here in due course. Well, there isn’t much sign of a workable charging network appearing any time soon so just remember what they’ve achieved over there when you next fill up with liquid gold at an immense cost.

Posted in Auto Blog, Auto NewsComments (0)

Better Fuel Consumption? Go Somewhere Warm!

The winter weather in the UK has been relentless. At the time of writing it is April and the weather has only just stopped freezing us. It’s like living in Winterfell, the northern capital of the Seven Kingdoms only without the massive fur coats and swords and with George Osborne starring as the evil Tywin Lannister.

What’s worse in this times of financial misery is that our cars are not as fuel efficient as they should be because the arctic conditions affect fuel use in a number of ways. For starters, engines need to be thoroughly warmed up before they reach peak efficiency. When cold, oil is sluggish and thick and, initially at least, some petrol is in contact with cold metal and condenses.

Fortunately, modern engines warm up quickly but it still takes longer in very cold weather. Unfortunately, they also get colder quicker which means on short trips the motor essentially has to warm up again if left for a while.

Conditions on the road will also have an adverse effect. With everyone taking to the heated interiors of their cars in cold weather your journey is likely to require a lot more accelerating and slowing down which consumes far more fuel than a constant speed. This is made worse by using heaters, heated windows and lights all of which contribute to a greater use of energy.

The pain doesn’t end there because tyres in cold weather tend to be stiffer and that increases rolling resistance; thus the car has to work harder to keep up performance and so on.

The combination of these various negative factors has a small but significant effect on fuel consumption to the tune of about three miles per gallon. On the face of it that isn’t much – true enough – but over the course of a year it all adds up.

The answer clearly is to go and live somewhere warm. Move to a place that all year round the only clothes you’ll need are shorts and a T-shirt. Right now, dealers are stocking up on convertibles in anticipation of that distant time when the sun shines and all’s right with the world. They need to clear that stock.

Imagine yourself driving along the Amalfi coast or parking outside a sophisticated bar in St Tropez. That’s the life you really want. As you sit shivering around the meagre fire in your hearth cheer yourself up by browsing for deals on a rag-top. For most of us a Ferrari is out of the question but if it’s at least warm most of us will probably settle for a used Mazda MX5.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

The Daily Drive

Imagine this scene. It’s 7am on a cold Monday morning. Ice is going to be a hazard on the roads and you have a touch of bronchitis but you must still get the car out and drive to work. With a sinking heart you just know you’re in for forty five minutes of hell. Welcome to the world of the daily drive to work.

The nature of our climate and the tragic standard of our roads stand between you and your job; but that’s not all. The philosopher Jean-Paul Satre is quoted as saying ‘hell is other people’ and he worked from home. That might be a little unkind to our fellow man but a fifth of drivers wish their fellow road users would be a little more considerate and take a bit more care.

Car commuting will obviously vary depending on where you live. For some it may be a pleasant country drive when the sun always shines but for most it is a daily grind we could do without. Research has shown that stress levels amongst regular drivers is rising and a third of motorists admit to this. When you consider that most work drivers travel pretty much the same route for over two hundred days of the year, it is hardly surprising. Arriving at work completely stressed out is no way to start the day and driving home tired is just plain dangerous.

There is also the worry of cost. Petrol is expensive and sales of it are dropping as motorists find ways around it. Because they lose revenue accordingly, governments think the best plan is to raise taxes on fuel still further. If a product is selling poorly it is a good idea to lower the price rather than raise it. Cheaper fuel would help drivers, boost the economy and increase revenues. It would also relieve one of the worries of car use.

So what’s to be done to make this part of your working day a bit less of a stressful chore? Here’s some tips that may help, bearing in mind that things are always easier said than done.

Give yourself more time. It may be a wrench getting out of a warm bed but why not leave earlier? Possibly much earlier. If your journey takes an hour, allow an hour and a half. You may get to your employment early but at least you’ll have time for a coffee and a chance to rest and relax a bit.

Try to stay calm when all about you are getting fraught. Play relaxing music (note: AC/DC are not relaxing but you should draw the line at Enya). Keep your interior environment clean and at a comfortable ambient temperature. Carry a favourite snack and have a refreshing drink to hand, especially if you are one to skip breakfast. A hungry driver is a grumpy driver. Depending on finances, try to ensure your new or used car is up to the job and will be comfortable for the duration.

It might be an idea if possible to plan alternative routes to vary the boredom and if your employer will allow it, try to commute outside of peak times. In short, do everything you can to make this part of your life more bearable. Never forget the immortal words of Master Po: ‘Each journey begins and also ends’. Never a truer word.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Save Petrol By Changing Your Driving Style

There are many ways to be economical and save petrol. Most manufacturers will tell you to purchase their latest model that has clever technology to improve the fuel consumption but what else can you do?

Other advice may come in the form of expensive modification for your existing vehicle that will only improve the consumption by 1 or 2 miles per gallon. The best way to improve your fuel consumption is very simple and will not require you to modify your car or force you to buy a new model that has greener credentials. It simply requires you to change your driving style. If you are a commercial driver, why not sign up to CPC driver training courses and start saving your company money at the pumps?

Bad habits

The majority of drivers tend to keep their foot on the accelerator right up until it is time to brake. Then straight back on the throttle once the manoeuvre that required braking is complete. Both acceleration and braking use fuel and the more aggressively you use the pedals the less fuel efficient the vehicle will be.

The best way to be more environmentally friendly is to adopt a more relaxed driving style. By slowing down gradually, for example at traffic lights, instead of remaining on the throttle until it is time to brake. Simply release the throttle and allow the vehicle to stop gradually until you finally have to brake to come to a complete stop.

The same applies for driving down steep hills. Instead of using the accelerator at all, simply pick up speed naturally on the banked road and use the brakes sparingly to avoid your velocity from becoming unsafe.

Constant speed

Maintaining a constant speed on the highways and motorways is also a good way to reduce the amount of petrol being used. In high gear, the accelerator should only need to be pressed approximately half to three quarters of the way to the floor to achieve the national speed limit depending on the vehicle you drive.

Some drivers will use their brakes when they are exceeding the limit and then accelerate again to build back up to the desired speed. However by releasing the accelerator and gradually losing speed when it looks likely that you will overrun the limit, your driving will be more environmentally friendly.

By constantly applying small adjustments to the throttle, your speed will maintained where you want it and there will be no need to use the brakes and burn more fuel than necessary. Combine these practices with the skills learnt on training courses and you’ll soon reap the benefits.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (1)

Real Life MPG

Every seasoned new car buyer knows very well that the official miles per gallon figure quoted by all car makers is likely to be, putting it kindly, a tad over-optimistic. We are mostly all aware that these figures are achieved in artificial conditions on indoor rolling roads. They are supposed to simulate real life circumstances but take no account of wind or weather, for example.

Now though there has been some very thorough consumer research conducted to establish exactly how different the official figure is from those achieved by us, the poor, downtrodden drivers. The researchers actually took the trouble to ask motorists and have to date had over 30,000 responses that cover most vehicles. The results of the survey are very enlightening and could possibly even affect car sales as buyers look more closely at running costs in these days of high fuel prices.

The average mpg has been calculated to an overall 88% of the official figures. Looked at in monetary terms, this shortfall is equivalent to 2p for every litre purchased at the pumps. This in turn suggests a figure close to £4.45 billion annual overspend by drivers if the official figures are to be believed.

Of course, some drivers are more gung-ho than others. Those frugal folk who drive with economy in mind may well achieve close to the official figure. Most drivers unfortunately won’t, but that’s the purpose of averages. Car owners submitted their personal mpg to the site and the variations have been averaged down for each vehicle so it is probably a pretty fair representation.

Some cars actually achieved average figures in excess of the official amount which is impressive although it is impossible to tell from the brands whether or not it is that certain cars attract certain types of drivers. The trouble is that some of these successful cars come from the same manufacturers as some of the worst. The very worst achiever scored a disgraceful 71.2% of the official figure. That’s a lot of petrol.

If we buy a product that doesn’t live up to its promotion we take it back to the shop yet we seem prepared to shrug our shoulders at the official figures and buy the car anyway. The answer is pretty simple. All brands have access to test tracks or routes where mpg could more accurately established. They could pull a new car out of the line, test it over a period of time in a variety of conditions and then offer us a realistic figure. We’d all be happy with that. Don’t hold your breath though.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

New Year, New War On Motorists

The French have an expression for it. No, not that one; this one – plus ça change. Effectively, the more things change the more they stay the same. Just because the Chancellor has bowed to pressure and not enforced the January 3p rise in petrol prices doesn’t mean that the heat is off motorists. Well, you didn’t seriously think that they wouldn’t find another way to rake in the cash, did you?

The Department For Transport will shortly consult ministers on the proposals to give English councils powers to fine drivers for an additional – wait for it – twenty six offences, previously the reserve of the boys in blue. 26! Right now they are limited to parking fines and bus lane encroachments but councils want so much more.

They want the millions that would come from many new fines to the order of roughly seventy quid a pop. If anybody thinks that this may not come to pass then remember that London councils have had these powers for years. The Shires want their piece of the action.

Inevitably, the usual specious arguments are put forward. The police have ‘insufficient resources’ to effectively govern the roads. It will ‘ease congestion’ and ‘keep traffic moving’, and so on. Of course, to introduce a bit of balance here, these aren’t new laws. It pertains to existing signage and regulation which would be much more rigorously enforced. As one council apparatchik points out – presumably in an holier-than-thou tone of voice – ‘…if nobody broke the law, the income would be zero’. The irritating thing is that he is right.

However, when the police stop and punish an errant driver they are upholding the law, which is what we pay them for. What is planned is the notion that civilian will police civilian and that’s a whole new ballgame. Neighbour versus neighbour.  The slightest transgression for which most ordinary coppers will let go with a stern warning will be zealously jumped on by council employees. There will be no excuses. Cameras will rule. Disobey any road sign – whether by accident or design – and that will be your lot. Accidentally shunt forward and end up stopped in a box junction – that’s £70 to you, chief: and so on. The big unanswerable question is where will it all end?

We all know the rules of the road and that’s already a done deal; but what new offences will be created? How about if a child in the back seat flicks something disgusting from his nose out of the window? Will you still be able to argue with your partner whilst in control of a motor vehicle? No doubt you could all come up with suggestions of your own. Just be careful who you suggest them to. Walls have ears. That’s all we’re saying.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

The Road To The Future

When it comes to cars, everybody has a story to tell. Some people will tell you that they remember a time when petrol cost under one pound per gallon and how, during the ‘three day week’ of historical fame, they had to queue for four weeks to get a cup-full of fuel. Or something like that.

They will speak of early road-side café’s where you could get a decent full English breakfast or sumptuous lunch for less than five old pence and nobody had heard of speed cameras.

Sadly, times move on. Now, when a customer orders a full English at motorway services they not only know precisely what they will get but where each ingredient will be on the plate. When they stop for fuel they will have to help themselves and then stand in line whilst someone at the till buys groceries, batteries and a bargain copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’; and that’s just the blokes.

We all hope for a better future; that one day an enlightened politician, like a solicitous nanny, will tell us that everything is going to be all right. This is what makes it all a bit sad – ain’t never going to happen. Instead, like road transport, we will be over regulated across the entire gamut of our lives.

It is not a bad idea to use a motoring analogy. On the roads we are spied on relentlessly. Somewhere in the UK there is a computer with your face on it, possibly as an amusing screensaver. Your car can be tracked wherever it goes. Just like life the road ahead is littered with potholes. At every turn in the process of buying and running a car there is tax to pay. This is modern life.

So what to do? There is little a motorist can do regarding the surveillance society but it is possible to fight back in a small way. Governments take a short-term view of taxation to meet their needs at any given time over say, a five year period. They tax fuel but over time, as a consequence of this, we buy less of it. We look at alternatives like smaller and much more economical cars, bicycles, even walking in an effort to save money. There has to come a breaking point and unless there is some radical new thinking as to how we balance the books the long term effect will be the end of both the car industry and car ownership as we know it; and that will have a major knock-on effect to how we lead our lives.

At some point in the future, people will reminisce, not about pleasant road side eateries or leisurely drives through verdant countryside, but about the fact that they once saw a thing called a motorcar. Apparently, it’s called progress.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Are We Paying Too Much For Fuel?

Is, you might equally ask, David Cameron a Conservative?

With the news that the Office of Fair Trading is having a look at pump prices and all the attendant ho-ha that goes with them it is not unreasonable to ask, ‘What took you so long?’

This august body will investigate by how much the price we pay is reflected in the price of crude oil and will also be checking up on suspected devious industry practices which allegedly are designed to favour oil companies and supermarkets against the small independent retailer. So far so good.

But, does anyone still really believe that the actions of the greedy financial markets in their oil trading trickery can have so much effect on the price we pay for a litre? The fact remains – as has recently been demonstrated – that even if the price of oil drops significantly the price at the pump changes hardly at all. This clearly shows that the oil companies know full well that if they keep the retail price high, they will make more money. It really is that cynical.

Nobody at the top of this industry or indeed at the top of government cares less about what the customer pays or thinks. Sure, they occasionally spout their weasel words about fair pricing and the like whilst at the same time giggling to themselves over another bottle of Bolly.

The Office of Fair Trading plans to consult with the industry, the various motoring bodies and consumer organisations to get at the facts, which should be blindingly obvious. Let’s hope the message gets through to the government – for starters – that might help prevent the additional 3p tax being added in January 2013. At this point the sensible advice would be to not hold your breath in hope.

In the same way that retail utility customers do not believe that our gas and electric bills are affected by short term fluctuations in the wholesale cost of power sources then the same applies to motor fuels. We are, quite simply, being taken for a ride.

Across the UK more and more people struggle to make ends meet. Big cars are losing ground and small economical new cars are picking up sales as motorists try to keep on the road. Those not in a position to get another car are keeping their old vehicles on the road for longer. Older used cars are in demand. Young drivers can’t afford to run a car at all.

The government thinks that the way to stimulate the economy is to build more houses as if their predecessors haven’t tried it before without achieving long-lasting success. Surely the way to stimulate growth would be to free up small businesses, enabling them to compete and lower taxation – including the astronomic cost of petrol – to allow the public to spend. Instead they pander to greed.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

Are Motorists Losing That Driving Habit?

The price of the fuel we buy can be affected by many things: The quantity the oil producing nations decide to release depending on how they are feeling; the volatile nature of some of these same countries and, of course, the avaricious behaviour of speculators who care not one jot for the people whose lives are so radically affected by their greed. Oh, and the government, who are so bereft of economic ideas that they continually fall back on the old ploy of caning the motorist. August 2012 wolud have seen another 3p of tax added to our woes, but they’ve bottled out of that one.

At the time of writing this however, petrol prices have dropped a bit which is good news for drivers – on the face of it – but it’s not going to last. If someone coughs somewhere in the Middle East the cost of fuel will go up faster than a Saturn rocket as speculators panic and rush to pass on the costs to you and me, thus increasing the government’s revenue. Again.

Up until recently, people seem to have had a major cognitive disconnect between their personal consumption habits and the price of petrol. It’s something of an irony that those with the thirstiest cars may well contribute to the higher prices. It’s supply and demand. Simply put, higher demand for fuel leads to higher prices at the pump.

The choices that people make regarding the fuel efficiency of their motors have a direct impact on the total demand for juice. Now, there’s a growing realisation that if a person’s lifestyle is severely curtailed by rising fuel prices then they really shouldn’t be driving gas-guzzlers. There are enough fuel-efficient cars on the market to allow people to make better decisions about how they get around.

Although public transport would seem to be one answer, the reality is that it is just the domain of the commuter and the urban shuttle bus user and can prove to be very expensive. To go about our lives in the random way that we do means changing the very lifestyle structure we are used to.

In short, we’re cutting back on travel. For example, as little as one hundred years ago people moved about a lot less. The only journey of any distance was, perhaps, the annual holiday – if you could afford one. A bit like now, as it happens. In a recent survey by a well known retail company, some 41% of those polled stated that they are walking and cycling more. It also showed that many people in the UK are seeing their driving state-of-mind change and instead of visiting relatives or a stately home in their leisure time are staying at home and doing the chores and shopping online instead of driving to the soulless shopping malls.

By buying very efficient, smaller cars or EV’s and using them less – alternatively choosing to walk or cycle – the supply and demand chain is broken. If a seller can’t shift product he reduces the price. Could this really be the start of a less petrol dependent society? We’ll have to tell the Chancellor! He could raise the tax on bikes!

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)